Millions of women and girls around the world are assaulted, beaten, raped, mutilated or even murdered in what constitutes appalling violations of their human rights. From battlefield to home, on the streets, at school, in the workplace or in their community, up to 70 per cent of women experience physical or sexual violence at some point in their lifetime. As many as a quarter of all pregnant women are affected.
All too often, perpetrators go unpunished. Women and girls are afraid to speak out because of a culture of impunity. We must fight the sense of fear and shame that punishes victims who have already endured crime and now face stigma. It is the perpetrators who should feel disgraced, not their victims.
My UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign is engaging governments, international organizations, civil society groups, the media and ordinary citizens. Last year, when UNiTE asked young people around the world how they intended to help advance this critical cause, I was very encouraged by the responses. Many youth called for an end to ignorance. They said we should not condone negative attitudes. They demanded that we raise our voices to promote human rights, and join forces to help victims. One young man said simply that boys could fight violence against women “by growing up to be responsible and respectful fathers and husbands.”
The United Nations is working on all of these fronts. We are raising awareness through public outreach programmes. Our UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women just this month announced plans to disburse $8 million to local initiatives in 18 countries. Members of my expanding Network of Men Leaders are addressing violence by raising public awareness, advocating for better laws and holding governments accountable.
As we build on these efforts, we must fundamentally challenge the culture of discrimination that allows violence to continue. On this International Day, I call on all governments to make good on their pledges to end all forms of violence against women and girls in all parts of the world, and I urge all people to support this important goal.
* *** *