Joint remarks from panel on “New evidence on men’s use of violence against women and girls and its uses for enhanced prevention”


Joint remarks from UN Women, UNDP, UNFPA and UNV during the CSW57 side event “Why do men use violence and how do we stop it? New evidence on men’s use of violence against women and girls and its uses for enhanced prevention”, 8 March 2013


John Hendra, Deputy Executive Director, UN Women

On behalf of all of the co-sponsors of this event, the Governments of Australia and Sweden, UNDP, UNFPA, UN Women, UNV and the WHO, I wish you a warm welcome. Thank you for coming to participate in this CSW Side Event focused on new research with men for preventing violence against women and girls.

Today we will hear about the drivers of and potential responses to violence in Asia and the Pacific. The diverse Asia-Pacific region has some of the highest recorded levels of violence against women in the world, and also some of the lowest. However, despite the many decades of work and millions of dollars spent we have not seen an overall decrease in the prevalence of violence nationally, regionally or globally. We have to do more and we have to do better.

Until now, efforts to address violence against women and girls have, for the most part, rightly focused on improving services and responses to violence – strengthening legislation and the criminal justice system overall – and improving access and quality of health, legal and social services. But such interventions alone cannot stop new occurrences from taking place. Prevention requires addressing the root causes that enable men to assert power and control over women – namely gender inequality and discrimination.

In addition to empowering women and girls, improving their overall status (through completion of secondary school, delayed age of marriage and childbearing, improved economic and political participation and decision-making), prevention work must address traditionally held attitudes and beliefs and the risk factors that perpetuate inequitable social norms and those that condone violence against women.

The starting point for sound prevention strategies and interventions is having reliable context-specific data. While there are increasing efforts to implement population-based surveys, with findings on women’s experience of physical and sexual violence available from at least 99 countries, there is less data collected from men and boys. Such data is imperative for informing interventions related to social norms and behavior change, and addressing the underlying causes of gender-based violence.

Partners for Prevention (P4P) is an example of the UN’s collective contribution to fill this knowledge gap in Asia and the Pacific. Through Partners for Prevention, UNDP, UNFPA, UN Women and UNV are working together, combining their unique areas of expertise and technical skills. As a part of the UN’s collaboration in the region and an inter-agency contribution to the Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women Campaign, P4P is a model for how joint programming can add value from the regional level. It provides technical support to countries on evidence-based approaches for preventing violence against women and girls and gives support to interventions that engage boys and men in the solution.

Guided by long-standing international commitments to women’s human rights, peace and security, UN Women, UNFPA, UNV, UNDP and the rest of the UN family stand united in our common goal of ending violence against women. This concerted regional effort complements the many ongoing efforts in this area and adds to a global body of knowledge around men’s use and experiences of violence as a crucial entry point for prevention.

The Problem

Kate Gilmore, Deputy Executive Director, UNFPA

Stories of violence against women and girls have been filling the news cycle much of late, most notably the December gang rape in New Delhi. Although we have evidence that these cases happen many times every day around the world, the global spotlight is now focused more on Asia. Incidents like the gang rape in Delhi bring to mind deeper questions about how and why these things can happen, who is to blame and how we can stop such things from happening in the future.

According to the World Health Organization, between 15 and 76 per cent of women worldwide report having experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. But we still do not have sufficient evidence on why do men use violence against women and girls and how do we stop it?

A soon-to-be-released UN survey of more than 10,000 men from nine sites in selected countries of Asia and the Pacific will help to answer this question. Findings from this regional study – the UN Multi-country Study on Men and Violence – will be released in July. The UN regional study will provide new insights directly from men themselves on their use and experiences of violence to inform evidence-based prevention strategies.

Our four UN agencies believe that understanding men’s own diverse experiences, within the deep-rooted patriarchal systems and structures and gender inequitable norms and practices, will help us target the underlying drivers of violence against women and girls to stop it before it starts.

We know violence against women and girls is a gross human rights violation that disrupts the health and survival, safety, and freedom of billions of women and their families and communities across the world. We also know about the enormous costs of this violence against women and girls. The billions of dollars in direct and indirect costs to them and communities and governments, and the unquantifiable costs to countless families with inter- generational consequences.

We know that ending violence against women and girls is at the core of achieving gender equality, and advancing human development and human rights. The preliminary findings to be presented today will offer more evidence that violence against women and girls is intimately linked with these UN goals and that it is only by addressing gender inequality that human development, human security and human rights can be realized for all. We know that to end violence we must ensure the full empowerment of women and girls and remove the discrimination that they face in all aspects of their lives.

It is in this context that our agencies came together to form a regional joint programme and to try to understand the root causes of violence by talking to men as a starting point for enhancing prevention. Our research shows that different forms of violence have different drivers. For example, there are different factors that are strongly related to intimate partner violence and rape of non-partners. However, we do know that most gender-based violence is rooted in a complex combination of individual experiences – such as childhood abuse and neglect – harmful social norms that sanction impunity against women and girls within the larger structures of gender inequality, conflict and vulnerability.

There is an urgent need for us then to move forward with this new evidence, and to jointly make every effort to work on violence prevention by addressing the root causes of violence against women and girls in Asia and the Pacific.

The Solution

Olav Kjorven, Assistant Secretary-General and Director, Bureau for Development Policy, UNDP

As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In the case of violence against women and girls, successful prevention will not only reduce the number of violent incidences in the future, but will also help us achieve the fundamental goals of development that the UN and its Member States share, and save the innumerable costs to individuals, families, communities and governments.

Not all men in Asia and the Pacific use violence – and many oppose it – but to prevent violence against women in the future, our research points to specific issues that can be addressed to help reduce different kinds of violence in different settings. Along with ensuring that support and quality services are accessible for violence survivors and their children and ending impunity, preventing violence is also crucial.

Firstly, we need to transform harmful social norms that perpetuate male sexual entitlement or the belief of some men that they have the right to control women and their bodies. We can do this through working with arbiters of culture in the media, the private sector, civil society and religious leaders. We also need to work with young people to nurture healthy attitudes, practices and relationships for a future without violence and discrimination.

Secondly, we need to change the idea that manhood is defined by being tough. Alternative versions of manhood that are non-violent, gender equitable and encourage empathy and respect can become the norm.

Thirdly, we need to protect children from violence and nurture healthy childhoods by working with parents and caretakers. We see a future where all children grow up in healthy, positive and violence-free environments.

To ensure the right environment is set for these changes, we need to work with governments on policies that address these drivers of violence and promote peace, equality and rights. This includes National Action Plans for Ending Violence against Women, like the one being developed in Cambodia that we will hear about today. In addition, we need laws that uphold the rights of all, and policies that promote equality and non-violence through sectors such as labour, justice, health and education.

Along with laws and policies, we need to address gendered biases in institutions and make them more responsive to ending violence and promoting peace. More institutional and human capacity needs to be devoted to both prevention and response at the local and institutional levels.

Next Steps

Ghulam Isaczai, Chief of Development Division, UNV

It is overwhelming when we think of the number of women and girls who suffer some form of violence in their lifetime. But violence is preventable; it is not inevitable.

This research offers us great hope. Through Partners for Prevention, we have a better understanding of what things need to change in different contexts. We now need to adapt and apply more effective programmes and policies based on the evidence of what works. And we need to do better to coordinate all of the work on response to and prevention of violence. The UNiTE Campaign provides a framework for such coordination, from global to local levels.

We can create change if together we make a long-term commitment and act now. To quote from the SG’s report on prevention:

“Prevention strategies should be integrated into broader policies and programmes related to public health, including sexual and reproductive health, gender equality, education, employment, eradication of poverty, development and security. Prevention interventions should be adapted to the socioeconomic context of different countries and to different forms of violence, including intimate partner violence, sexual violence, harmful practices and trafficking.”

Creating this kind of integration and scale seems like a daunting task. However, when the UN and its partners pool their efforts and resources together under joint initiatives, the sum is greater than the individual parts. Violence prevention must include strong collaboration across sectors, to plan and work cohesively across agencies and institutions. For prevention efforts to reverse the tide of violence in the future, we must move toward formal coordination – planning and strategizing together – now.

We must start with our own strengths and from our own sphere of influence, commit to working closely with others and coordinating our efforts. Whether we are heads of state, service providers or simply concerned citizens, we all have a role to play. For those of us who can help run prevention projects or response programmes, let’s make sure they are coordinated and sustained. For those of us who can influence public policies for ending violence against women and girls, let’s make sure they are comprehensive and resourced for the long term.

Violence against women and girls remains an all too pervasive reality worldwide, but change is happening. Around the world, millions of men and women are rejecting the harmful norms that lead to violence and replacing them with those based on peace, justice and equality. Let us seize this historic moment – each of us must consider how we can contribute – in whatever way – to create a violence-free world once and for all.