Up to 7 in 10 Women Beaten, Raped, Abused or Mutilated in Their Lifetimes

Human Wrongs Watch

Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread violations of human rights. In some countries, up to 7 in 10 women will be beaten, raped, abused or mutilated in their lifetimes, according to UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and  the Empowerment of Women.

UN Women

To raise awareness and trigger action to end this global phenomenon, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November, and the ensuing 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence are commemorated every year around the world.*

Ending violence against women is one of UN Women’s priority areas. UN Women also coordinates the UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign and supports widespread social mobilization through its Say NO – UNiTE to End Violence against Women platform.

In addition, UN Women manages the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women which commemorates its 16th anniversary in 2012.

Last year for 25 November, UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet unveiled a 16-Step Policy Agenda. This year, UN Women launches “COMMIT” – a new global initiative which calls on leaders worldwide to fulfill their promise and take a stand to end violence against women and girls.

It will showcase concrete national commitments to ending the scourge of such violence.

Countries to Report

Ending violence against women will be the main theme of the forthcoming 57th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, to take place from 4-15 March 2013 in New York.

The international gathering where countries report on their country’s progress on women’s rights and gender equality will focus on prevention and multi-sectoral responses to violence against women and girls.

 “Ending Violence against Women Is Possible”

“I am often asked whether ending violence against women is possible given the pervasiveness and persistence of these crimes. My answer is yes. It is possible. But we can only do it together. We are all responsible and it is time for leaders to fulfill the promises made to women,” said UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet in her message for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November 2012.

“I call on all leaders: Take a stand to end violence against women and girls.”, she added. “Last year I launched the 16-step policy agenda. Today, I urge all Heads of State and Government to end the scourge of violence that affects every society by participating in an exciting global initiative to showcase national commitments to end violence against women and girls.”

The first step has been taken: the silence has been broken, Bachelet said. “Today at least 125 countries outlaw domestic violence and there is a large body of legislation on violence against women and girls. There is international agreement on the way forward as articulated in the Beijing Platform for Action.”

The UN Women chief informed that one hundred and eighty-seven countries have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Not Enough

“Knowledge on the root causes of violence has increased, and women, men and young people continue to mobilize in huge numbers against violence. There are countless organizations whose members work tirelessly to support survivors and, in many countries, policy-makers have taken decisive action. But it is not enough.”

We all must do better to protect women and prevent this pervasive human rights violation. Governments and leaders must lead by example. Now is the time for governments to translate international promises into concrete national action, said Bachelet.


Bachelet said that expectations are high, and they should be. “In some countries, up to 7 in 10 women will be beaten, raped, abused, or mutilated in their lifetimes. A crisis of such proportions deserves nothing less than the highest attention of world leaders. There can be no peace, no progress, when women live under the fear of violence.”

Today violence against women is increasingly recognized for what it is: a threat to democracy, a barrier to lasting peace, a burden on national economies, and an appalling human rights violation. As more and more people believe that violence against women is neither acceptable nor inevitable, as more and more perpetrators are punished, the change to end violence against women grows deeper and stronger, according to Bachelet.

“This is not just a women’s issue, this is a responsibility for all of us. This violence is an outrage and it must be stopped. Time has run out for complacency or excuses. Let us show the will, the determination and let us mobilize greater resources to end what is a scourge of humanity, violence against women.”

“Yes, it is possible.”

Trafficking of Women

Meanwhile, as part of events aimed at commemorating the 2012 International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), together with the Delegation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to UNESCO, is organizing a conference titled”Trafficking of women: exploring effective policies and mechanisms to prevent it through education”.

It is unacceptable that one in seven women is today a victim of violence during her lifetime.   Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director General on Women’s Day 2012
80% of Human Trafficking Victims Are Women and Girls

Awareness raising and sensitization among potential victims of human trafficking, their families and communities, appear to be crucial to eliminate a practice that affects worldwide 2.4 million people annually, with 80% of these being women and girls and 75% under the age of 25, UNESCO reported**.

“Trafficking is a global phenomenon that affects almost all countries: a total of 161 countries serve as origin, transit, and/or destination for the trafficking trade, with victims being trafficked in and out of an estimated 137 countries.”

Trafficking is often not perceived as a crime by the trafficked women and their families or communities, at least as long as the opportunity of potential social and economic improvement is hoped for by the victims, who are therefore initially compliant, says UNESCO.

“Moreover, it is often believed that trafficking affects only a small portion of impoverished people, often un- or under-educated. This misconception has seriously hindered the ability of organizations and states to combat this issue, sustaining perpetrator immunity and invariably affecting the lives of millions of girls and women.”

Preventing Gender-based Violence

Statistics on the prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) are startling and impossible to ignore. Despite the establishment of international and regional legal and policy frameworks for the prevention of SGBV, the rates of violence are not decreasing, and in some places, are actually increasing, UNESCO adds.

Source: UNESCO

“Women are the primary victims of this violence, but men also suffer from various forms of sexual and gender-based violence. It is clear that what needs to be addressed is the fundamental gender inequality that exists in society in order to create new models of masculinity and femininity and thus more equal relationships.”

We need to better understand the root causes of these unequal social structures and negative attitudes and address them by developing and implementing effective prevention strategies, UNESCO stressed.

“This requires a combination of research targeted towards identifying the underlying causes and policy formulation and implementation that is responsive to the results of such research.”

“Our programmes aim to challenge the underlying gender inequalities that persist in society and are the key barriers to the elimination of sexual and gender-based violence, says UNESCO.

“We believe that this is best done by building capacity for research, training and advocacy, to enable policy makers, civil society and women themselves to better implement strategies to combat violence.  We also are committed to the idea that men and boys should be actively involved, as agents of societal change, in violence prevention plans.”

Key Messages

Violence is not just women’s problem. Men and women must all be involved in prevention.

Violence is global. It affects everyone regardless of location.

Violence results from structural gender inequalities which all societies need to address.

Violence prevents women from realizing their full socio-economic potential.

Violence takes different forms. It can be physical, psychological, economic or socio-cultural.

Everyone is responsible for taking action to prevent violence.

*Source: UN Women release.

**Source: UNESCO release.


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2012 Human Wrongs Watch

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