We all suffer when human rights are abused

Statement by the United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, Sima Bahous, on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women:

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Here at the UN, and across the world, we celebrate those who work to protect women and girls and defend their human rights. And we invite new partners – governments, organizations, institutions, community groups, people everywhere – to join us, make your voice heard and work together to transform lives, not only during the 16 Days of Activism, but every day.

Violence against women is a global crisis. In all of our neighborhoods, there are women and girls who live in danger. Around the world, conflict, climate-related natural disasters, food insecurity and human rights violations exacerbate violence against women. Over 70 percent of women have experienced gender-based violence in some crisis settings. And in countries, rich and poor alike, gender biases have fueled acts of violence against women and girls.

Violence against women often goes unreported, silenced by stigma, shame, fear of abusers and fear of a justice system that does not work for women. The COVID-19 pandemic, with all of its isolation and distancing, has allowed invisible violence: a second phantom pandemic of violence against women and girls, where they have often found themselves locked up with their attackers. All over the world, violence against women helplines have seen an increase in reports.

Women’s human rights, including the right to safety, dignity, equality and justice, are fundamental principles of international law. And we know that the leadership and safety of women, in all their diversity, play a vital role in economic advancement, community well-being, children’s health and education, and more. All human lives benefit when women’s human rights are respected, and we all suffer when these rights are violated.

But there is hope. In recent years, much has been done to prevent and reduce violence against women and girls. The challenge now is to expand global efforts and make a difference in more lives. We need to ensure that essential services are available and accessible to women of all ages. We need to support environments, online and offline, in which women can safely participate in decision-making.

New opportunities are opening up. Last summer, as part of a $ 40 billion commitment to the world’s women and girls, the Generation Equality Forum launched the Coalition for Action Against Gender-Based Violence. The Coalition brings together a wide range of women’s groups and others: youth, civil society, faith-based institutions, philanthropy, the private sector, international organizations and UN member states. There will be concrete financial and political commitments, and large-scale initiatives in critical areas: support services for survivors, legal frameworks and more resources for local organizations.

Today, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence also opens up exciting hopes. This is the start of the “16 Days Against Gender-Based Violence”, a series of events aimed at creating real change. For 2021, the theme is “Orange the World: End Violence Against Women Now!”. “Orange” symbolizes a better future, free from violence. I welcome you and invite you to participate.

Everywhere, women’s groups and concerned people have played a vital role in the progress that has been made. In the future, together, we can make life better and brighter for many more girls and women around the world.

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