Press Release

UNFPA Head Asks World Leaders, Security Council To Act Against Gender Violence, Degrading Treatment Of Women

28 October 2004
Author: UNFPA

UNITED NATIONS, New York — The Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, has urged world leaders and the United Nations Security Council to condemn and act against systematic rape and all forms of degrading treatment of women during conflicts and to help rehabilitate victims physically and mentally. Ms. Obaid made the appeal today at a Council debate on the fourth anniversary of resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security, which it adopted on 31 October 2000.

“Increased political will is needed to ensure that women and girls receive real protection from sexual violence and abuse in their homes and communities, as well as in refugee and displaced persons’ camps,” said Ms Obaid. She added that police, security, peacekeeping and humanitarian personnel must be trained to recognize and deal with gender-based violence.

“We must provide effective training programmes for health personnel on how to care for victims of sexual violence, and we must ensure that local organizations and women’s groups are actively involved each step of the way,” said Ms. Obaid. “We do not need a few good women here and there; we need gender parity so women in positions of power can stop abuses of power.”

“It is urgent,” she emphasized, “that survivors of sexual violence receive quality legal, psychosocial and reproductive health services to address the horrifying violence they have endured. We must take action to implement programmes aimed at the public and community leaders on the importance of not stigmatizing victims of sexual violence and take action to empower women and girls and enable them to seek help and adequate support.”

Urgent actions are necessary, Ms. Obaid continued, because violence against women in conflicts is generally ignored or marginalized even though its consequences for millions of victims are far from marginal, cutting to the core of their very existence. Effective response to sexual violence is vital, not just to the lives of its immediate victims, but also to the future of their nations and to international peace and security, she stressed.

“The fact that we are discussing this issue in the Security Council today reflects the recognition that greater progress must be made” in combating violence against women, said Ms. Obaid. “This has been made painfully clear to us in UNFPA as we strive to promote reproductive health and rights in conflict-affected populations. It is truly sad, and terribly angering, to see the tremendous needs. But it is even more shocking to witness the response so far, which remains inadequate.”

The transmission of HIV/AIDS is one of most devastating consequences of sexual violence, said Ms. Obaid. The pandemic, she stressed, threatens “stability and prospects for security – damaging social systems that become overwhelmed, undermining public confidence in the future.”

The Executive Director warned: “If we do not address the issue of gender-based violence in an effective manner, our failures in the critical areas of security and humanitarian protection will only increase in the years to come.”

Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) urges Member States to ensure increased representation of women at all decision-making levels in national, regional and international institutions and mechanisms for preventing, managing and resolving conflicts. It also calls on parties of armed conflict to take special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence, particularly rape and other forms of sexual abuse, and all other forms of violence in situations of armed conflict.


UNFPA is the world’s largest multilateral source of population assistance. Since it became operational in 1969, the Fund has provided substantial assistance to developing countries, at their request, to address their population and development needs. Making motherhood safer for all women is at the heart of UNFPA’s mandate.

Contact Information:

Abubakar Dungus
Tel.: +1 (212) 297-5031

Omar Gharzeddine
Tel.: +1 (212) 297-5028

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