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Empowerment of Women

Side Events to the 57th Commission on the Status of Women

United Nations, New York - “Violence against women is a heinous human rights violation, global menace, a public health threat and a moral outrage”, affirmed United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in his supporting statement for the 57th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, held at the United Nations Headquarters from March 4-15, 2013 on the theme: “Elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls.” He continued: “No matter where she lives, no matter what her culture, no matter what her society, every woman and girl is entitled to live free of fear. She has the universal human right to be free from all forms of violence, so as to fulfill her full potential and dreams for the future." He underlined that the UN System is fully committed to leading this global effort.

This year, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched the campaign “UNite to End Violence Against Women” by having a march on March 8 at the UN HQ, led by Mrs. Ban Soon-Taek, wife of the Secretary-General, and Mrs. Muna Rihani, Chairperson of UN Women for Peace and wife of the UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, former General Assembly President Nassir Al-Nasser. Taj Hamad and UN Office staff joined the March that began in the front of the General Assembly building.

In some countries, as many as 7 out of 10 women are beaten, raped, abused, or mutilated. Around 60 percent of people trafficked across national borders are women and children. Of the 2.5 million people trafficked annually into situations including prostitution, forced labor, slavery, or servitude, 80 percent are women and girls. Up to 1 in 5 young women under the age of 15 experience sexual abuse, more often by their family members. The annual worldwide number of so-called “honor killing” victims may be as high as 5,000 women.

For a long time, violence against women – and especially domestic violence against women – was treated as a “private matter" and was a hidden reality of women’s lives. This approach has gradually changed to the currently predominant view that violence against women is a matter of “public concern.” But, unfortunately, it is still the most common and widespread violation of women’s human rights.

This change of attitudes and the international legal response was happening gradually at the global and regional levels over the last three decades. It is now clear that violence against women, including domestic violence, should be treated as a human rights violation.

During the week-long proceedings of the Commission on the Status of Women, top UN officials welcomed an agreement by more than 130 Member States on the prevention and elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls, and urged governments to translate the outcome of the ‘historic’ gathering into concrete actions to protect and promote women’s human rights and fundamental freedoms. It was concluded that neither the walls of private homes, nor the walls of social attitudes and cultural patterns, may stand in the way of protection from violence against women, recognizing that such violence is a form of discrimination against women and constitutes a violation of their human rights.

On March 8, UPF co-sponsored a meeting with the UN NGO Committee on the Family, on the theme: “When Will the Violence Against Women and Girls Stop – Global Solutions?” Dr. Martha Kichorowksa Kebalo spoke about the outrage at the public and private violence of women in the Ukraine, and Dr. Rehman Azhar, LLM, of Pakistan spoke about convincing men in the developing countries to stop violence against women. Mrs. Lynn Walsh, Director of UPF's Marriage and Family Initiative, is an officer of the UN NGO Committee on the Family.

The African Women’s Working Group, led by Dr. Ida Okika, Executive Director and UN Representative of FEACOBA, invited Genie Kagawa, Deputy Director of UPF's Office of UN Relations, to speak at a gathering of African women on “Global African Perspectives on Violence against Women and Girls: Commonalities and Solutions.” Mrs. Kagawa emphasized the universality of the UPF vision on the equality of men and women and the lasting solution which is found in a stable and loving family. H.E. Dr. Kema Chike, former Ambassador, Hon. Barry A. Biekman, former Member of Parliament, and other NGO representatives, affirmed the importance of the family, and the necessity to return to values and spirituality as a solution to violence against women. It was also emphasized that women must be encouraged to assume leadership roles in the resolution of conflict, peace-building, and sustainable development outside of the home as well.

Another event, “Promoting Sexual Health through Education,” was organized by the Mission of Indonesia and Family Watch International. A slide show of recent research showed the many benefits for women, children, and men when healthy sexual choices are practiced and when living in a stable, traditional family unit. Statics repeatedly show that marriage is the safest living situation for women and children.

Family Watch president, Sharon Slater, also chaired a UN Family Rights Caucus panel discussion. Dr. Miriam Grossman, a psychiatrist, medical doctor and expert on the harms of comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) programs promoted by the UN, gave a wealth of medical and psychological evidence for the great damage caused by the gross misinformation and promotion of sexual experimentation present in CSE. A second speaker, Floyd Godfrey, a licensed professional counselor has worked successfully with over 900 men and boys with unwanted same-sex attraction. Caleb, a bright young man, shared his experience overcoming same-sex attraction, finding opposite sex attraction normal for him now.

The Doha Institute for Family Research and Development presented an event entitled, “The Arab Spring and the Changing Role of Women.” Despite the need for much more progress, the presentations gave encouraging news about the plight of women in the Middle East as they gain in education, social voice and freedoms in society and the home.

One of the most packed side events “A Religious Response to the Causes and Consequences of Violence against Women and Girls,” was organized by the Holy See. Law Prof. Helen Alvare of George Mason CUniversity stated that we must change our culture “so as to eradicate the notion of women's inferiority and move to empower women by increasing understanding of their essential contributions to every sphere.” She noted that the church condemns those who misuse Scripture to justify violence against women. She added that religion has to be involved in solving critical social problems such as violence against women because religion forces us to ask the essential questions such as: what is the human being and why were males and females made. Alvare added in fact religious insights to the equal value and yet different abilities of genders. Another speaker, Erika Bachiochi, a lawyer and author, commented that "Religion, and in particular Christianity, can play an essential role in helping men to transform both their attitudes and their lives to embrace women as their respected equals." Numerous examples were cited of religious persons, especially religious sisters, who operated medical and other facilities around the world to prevent abuse and assist women victims of violence, disease or debilitating effects of poverty. "Women are on the front lines of Catholic peacebuilding, both as victims of violence and as practitioners in building peace," said Maryann Cusimano Love, associate professor at The Catholic University of America in Washington.

Read the UPF Statement on the Elimination of Violence against Men and Women.

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks on violence against women and girls, at a high-level side event of the fifty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women, in New York, March 5:

Thank you, Mme. Michelle Bachelet, for your introduction and for your dynamic leadership of UN-Women. You have been a tireless — and fearless — advocate for women’s equality and advancement throughout your life. That is why we asked you to guide this important new United Nations body.
You have embraced this great responsibility and devoted all your considerable energy and skill to ensuring that women’s empowerment is at the core of all we do. I am pleased to join you as we recommit to ending the global disgrace of violence against women and girls.

I have been asked to speak to you this afternoon because I am the Secretary-General of the United Nations. But I am here as a man. A proud husband, father and grandfather. Violence against women and girls pains me deeply. That is why I launched the UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign in 2008. And it is why I am committed to seeing a growing network of men leaders who are prepared to speak out against violence and abuse.

Women need to live free of fear; girls need to safely enjoy their right to education. These are basic rights. The United Nations must do all it can to make them facts of life.

Today, the reality is different. Too many women and girls face intimidation and physical and sexual abuse — often from those who should care for and respect them most — fathers, husbands, brothers, teachers, colleagues and supervisors. We need to change attitudes and behaviour. We need to change laws and ensure that they are implemented. Perpetrators should be punished. The shame of violence should lie with the abuser, not the victim. This is what the UNiTE campaign is working for.

UN-Women is working with Governments and civil society, businesses and celebrities, communities, young people and men to raise awareness, increase political commitment and raise resources. There has been some movement in the right direction — but not nearly enough. Multiple General Assembly resolutions need to be reinforced by strong action by Member States. Today some 99 countries have national statistics showing the prevalence of violence against women and girls. More than 125 countries have legislation on domestic violence. But the laws have to be enforced.
The United Nations system can and must support Member States to make progress in protecting and empowering females.

The United Nations System-wide Action Plan is ensuring that gender equality informs all we do. United Nations country team joint initiatives have increased from 24 countries in 2004 to well over 100 — often supported by the UNiTE campaign and the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence against Women. More than 40 States have joined the COMMIT initiative, launched last November. The United Nations is helping countries to implement Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security. We are helping to develop national action plans and increase access to justice and the rule of law. Peacekeepers are being trained to end sexual violence and promote women’s rights. Women are being trained as mediators to engage in peace negotiations. Together, the United Nations system is helping to improve the lives of women worldwide.

I thank all of you who have committed to the UNiTE campaign — and for the joint statement on ending violence against women and girls that I fully endorse. But I must also call for more effort and resources, for this is a central issue for us all. When women and girls enjoy all their rights and freedoms, we will be closer to realizing all our goals for sustainable development and an equitable, prosperous society.

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