5 March 2009 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today reiterated his urgent call to bring an end to violence against women, a scourge whose impact is devastating and immeasurable, as the United Nations began a series of events to mark International Women’s Day.
“It is sometimes said that women are weavers and men are too often warriors,” Mr. Ban said in an address to the commemoration of the Day, observed annually on 8 March, in New York.
In the address, which also appears as opinion piece on the International Herald Tribune’s website today, as well as its print edition tomorrow, he stressed that: “Women bear and care for our children. In much of the world they plant the crops that feed us. They weave the fabric of our societies.”
“Violence against women is thus an attack on all of us, on the foundation of our civilization.”
He added that violence against women is an “abomination” and stands against everything in the UN Charter.
The Secretary-General, who last year launched a global campaign called “Unite to End Violence Against Women,” cited statistics of one in five women worldwide suffering from rape or attempted rape, while in some nations, up to one in three women are beaten or abused.
He recently visited the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where at a hospital in Goma in the vast country’s far east, he met an 18-year-old woman who had been brutally and violently abused by four soldiers at gunpoint.
Not only is she bearing physical injuries, “she also bears the curse of stigma,” having been shunned by her family and village “from a false sense of shame,” Mr. Ban said, expressing his outrage and sadness.
“The consequences of violence go beyond the visible and immediate,” he stressed, adding that death, injury, medical costs and lost employment are only a small facet of the larger problem.
The Secretary-General also underscored the importance of men speaking out against the scourge, teaching each other that “‘real men don’t hit women,’ let alone rape them.”
He appealed for greater cooperation to end violence against women, emphasizing that “the time to change is now.”
A new database on the extent and consequences of all forms of violence against women and means to combat it was launched today by Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro.
“This is the first global ‘one-stop-shop’ for information on measures undertaken by Member States to address violence against women in terms of legal, policy and institutional frameworks,” she said.
Recalling her own experience as Tanzania’s Minister for Gender Equality, she said that this tool will come in handy for decision-makers seeking out examples of action plans and strategies undertaken by other countries.
Panel discussions on the topic of violence against women were held today to mark the International Day, with the Secretary-General’s top adviser on children and armed conflict speaking on the situation of the girl child in conflicts.
Special Representative Radhika Coomaraswamy said that not only are girl children victims of direct violence, but are also often the heads of households and must provide care to their siblings.
“The international community, at least with respect to the issue of impunity, has begun to do something,” she said, pointing to the International Criminal Court as well as UN tribunals in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia which have started dealing with sexual violence and the recruitment of children by armed groups.
The commemoration of the Day in New York will wrap up with a theatre performance inspired by the “Unite” campaign. It will also be celebrated worldwide, from Botswana to Kazakhstan and Peru, among other countries.