Future global agenda must address violence against women and girls

Date: Wednesday, September 25, 2013

New York

Gender inequality is the root cause of violence against women and should be addressed as a stand-alone goal as well as one that cuts across all themes of development. This point was emphasized by several representatives at a special High-Level Ministerial event organized by UN Women and the Governments of Finland and Liberia at the 68th session of the General Assembly. The event focused on “Freedom from violence for every woman and girl: a priority for the post-2015 development agenda.

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka speaks at the
UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka speaks at the "Freedom from Violence for Every Woman and Girl: A Priority for the Post-2015 Agenda" high-level event at UN headquarters in New York City on 25 September 2013. Photo: UN Women/Catianne Tijerina

The discussion highlighted the need for a new UN development framework that includes freedom from violence as one of its main goals to safeguard basic human rights. Focusing on violence against women and girls in particular, Member States reiterated that gender inequality was its root cause and must be addressed as a stand-alone goal for beyond 2015. 

Addressing the panel , UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngucka said “ending violence against women is the missing MDG” even though it is the “most pervasive human rights violation and crime.” However, she added that she was heartened by what seemed to be a consensus in the room calling for a stand-alone goal for gender equality. She also called for integrating women’s issues in all other development goals and emphasized the significance of statistics to narrate the horrors that women face, sharing some of the findings of a recent UN study on why men commit violence against women.  

Liberia’s Minister of Gender and Development, Julia Duncan Cassell, said legal and medical costs are a challenge in bringing justice to survivors of violence. She added that a limited number of police officers in rural areas also increases the risk of violence against women. 

Renate Bähr, Executive Director of the German Foundation for World Population and Member of the High-Level Task Force for the International Conference on Population and Development, commended the achievements of the 57th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW57) for its emphasis on preventing and addressing violence. She also called for more to be done on the prevention side, such as working with men and youth and ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health rights. 

Finland’s Minister for International Development, Heidi Hautala, said there were strong forces opposing women’s rights that have nothing to do with religion or culture but were “the most severe form of human rights violations.” 

Director General of UN Office of Drugs and Crime Yury Fedotov added that violence is not committed only in conflict zones, but also inside homes. “In 2008, more than one-third of all murders were committed by spouses and parents in Europe.” He said there was a need to better-understand violence by collecting more data on incidents, as well as laws and conviction rates. 

Reaffirming her country’s commitment to women empowerment and gender equality, Norwegian Minister of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion, Inga Marte said, “Violence against women is never excusable, never acceptable, never tolerable.” 

Member States also emphasized the need to urgently confront practices such as child marriage, which, according to Lakshmi Sundaram, Global Coordinator of Girls Not Brides, is a form of slavery. 

Watch an archived webcast of the event: