Raising our Voices to End Violence against Women


Remarks by Michelle Bachelet Executive Director of UN Women a l' occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women High Level Panel. New York, New York, 23 November 2011.

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Dear friends,

Mr. Secretary-General,

It gives me great pleasure to join you today to raise our voices to end violence against women.

In January of this year, UN Women began operations to galvanize greater progress for women and girls — to bring together the UN system and partners worldwide to advance women's empowerment and gender equality.

We will not rest until women and girls enjoy equal opportunity and the rights and dignity to which they are entitled, and can live free of discrimination and violence. UN Women was created to deliver on the promise of the UN Charter of the equal rights of men and women. Ending violence against women is a priority, and I am proud to be the founding Executive Director of UN Women.

The statistics point to the urgent need for stronger action. Up to six out of ten women will experience physical or sexual violence in her lifetime. Today more than 100 million girls are “missing due to prenatal sex selection. Worldwide up to 50 percent of sexual assaults are committed against girls under the age of 16. Women and girls constitute 80 percent of the estimated 800,000 people trafficked across national borders each year, with the majority trafficked for sexual exploitation. And femicide claims far too many women's lives — the global phenomenon which results in murders of women because they are women.

What's equally shocking is that women and girls are often blamed and made to feel shame for the very violence that has been committed against them. And those who perpetrate these crimes too often walk in freedom.

While these facts can have a numbing effect and cause a sense of helplessness and complacency, there is another indisputable and compelling fact that I want everyone to remember and carry forward. Violence against women is not inevitable and it can be prevented. We have the power to change the course of this global pandemic.

Analysis done by UN Women shows that where there are laws in place on domestic violence, prevalence is lower and fewer people think that violence against women is justifiable.

Today violence against women is increasingly recognized for what it is: a threat to democracy, peace and security, a burden to national economies and an appalling human rights violation.

The United Nations Security Council recognizes sexual violence as a deliberate tactic of war. Significant advances in international law have, for the first time, made it possible to prosecute sexual violence during and after conflict as a crime against humanity.

Today 125 countries have specific laws that penalize domestic violence, a remarkable gain from just a decade ago. And we have a body of evidence and best practice to guide and shape effective laws, to ensure governments, their agencies and public services deliver protection and services to survivors.

So there is no more time for complacency or excuses. The time to act is now. We have a lot of good data and analysis. There is growing momentum. We know what works and now we need to take stronger actions. Let us muster the political will and social mobilization to end violence against women.

Today and every day, and especially during the 16 days of activism against gender violence, I strongly urge countries to take concrete steps forward, centered on three essential areas — prevention, protection and the provision of services.

We have put forward 16 policy steps that are proven and effective. Now is the time to ratify treaties and revise laws, and provide universal access to essential services to women and girls. Every woman survivor of conflict should have access to legal aid, health care, shelter and counseling. It is time to engage men and boys as partners in equality. We need to work together. We need to fully embrace young people as partners, advance women's empowerment and we need to bring perpetrators to justice.

UN Women is proud to host the Secretary-General's campaign UNiTE to End Violence against Women, and to coordinate the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence against Women. Today the UN Trust Fund launched its new global Call for Proposals to support innovative country-level programmes. The fifteen years of the UN Trust Fund, and the activism of women and partners in countries around the world, have shown us what works. Change is possible. We are at a unique moment in history to put an end to violence against women. We can do so by coming together and taking stronger action.

I thank you.