Press Release

Violence Against Women: Stories You Rarely Hear About

23 November 2006

UNITED NATIONS, New York—Every day, women all over the world are abducted into forced marriage; subjected to harmful traditional practices; married, while still children, to far older men; and injured through gang rape and rape with foreign objects—usually during conflict. In Guatemala, the death toll of murdered and mutilated women has already reached more than 500 for this year alone and has climbed steadily during the last five years. In 2005, 665 women were found murdered, compared to 494 in 2004. For a small country of 12 millions, these numbers are alarming and by far surpass those of the better-known homicides of young women in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

Every year, the plight of these women is too often ignored, consigned to the back pages of newspapers or relegated to no more than a passing mention in mainstream broadcast media—if at all.

To kick off the annual 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is highlighting five under-reported stories relating to gender-based violence for 2006.

These stories are as hidden as they are diverse. They include:

The rising tide of ‘bridenapping’—the abduction, rape and forced marriage of young women throughout Central Asia;

Breast-ironing, a traditional practice in a number of West African countries that involves crushing the breasts of young girls in order to deter male attention;

The epidemic of traumatic fistula in Africa, which is caused by gang rape and often the forced insertion of foreign objects into the rape victim. This results in the tearing of the delicate tissues separating the birth canal from the bowel and/or the bladder. Seriously injured and psychologically traumatized, the victim is left incontinent, leaking faeces, urine, or both. Too often, her family and community rejects her, to live out the remainder of her life as a pariah—doubly stigmatized—both by the rape itself and its terrible consequences.

The ongoing femicide  of women in the Central American country of Guatemala. Unlike the killings of young women in Ciudad Juarez, on the El Paso/Mexico border, the wholesale murder and mutilation of Guatemala’s women continues to be enacted under a cloak of media silence and official neglect.

Child marriage—the forced marriage of girl children—most often against their will, to (usually) older men. Most of these marriages take place in the world’s poorest nations and mean girls are unable to complete their education; are at greater risk of being exploited, of contracting sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, and of dying or being injured in childbirth owing to the fact that their bodies are too immature to withstand the rigours of birth.

To learn more about five under reported stories on gender-based violence, please visit


The United Nations Population Fund is an international development agency that promotes the right of every woman, man and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity. UNFPA supports countries in using population data for policies and programmes to reduce poverty and to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV/AIDS, and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect.

Contact Information:

Patricia Leidl
Tel.: +1 (212) 297-5031
Cell Phone:

William A. Ryan
Tel.: +66 2 288 2446
Cell Phone: +66 89 897 6984

Siri Tellier
Tel.: +41-22-917-8571
Cell Phone:

Trygve Olfarnes
Tel.: +52 55 5250-7977
Cell Phone: + 52 1 55 1353-8451

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