By: Michelle Bachelet, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UN Women; Originally posted on Huffington Post
I am often asked whether ending violence against women is possible given the pervasiveness and persistence of these crimes. My answer is yes. It is possible. But we can only do it together. We are all responsible and it is time for leaders to fulfill the promises made to women.
Today, looking towards Sunday's International Day to End Violence against Women, I call on all leaders: Take a stand to end violence against women and girls.
Last year I launched the 16-step policy agenda. Today, I urge all Heads of State and Government to end the scourge of violence that affects every society by participating in an exciting global initiative to showcase national commitments to end violence against women and girls.
The first step has been taken: the silence has been broken. Today at least 125 countries outlaw domestic violence and there is a large body of legislation on violence against women and girls. There is international agreement on the way forward as articulated in the Beijing Platform for Action. One hundred and eighty-seven countries have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Knowledge on the root causes of violence has increased, and women, men and young people continue to mobilize in huge numbers against violence. There are countless organizations whose members work tirelessly to support survivors and, in many countries, policy-makers have taken decisive action. But it is not enough.
We all must do better to protect women and prevent this pervasive human rights violation. Governments and leaders must lead by example. Now is the time for governments to translate international promises into concrete national action.
We hope to see new and improved laws and national action plans that provide for safe houses, free hotline services and free health and legal aid to survivors. We count on education programmes that teach human rights, equality and mutual respect, and inspire young people to take leadership on ending violence against women and girls. We need increasing numbers of women in politics, law enforcement, and peacekeeping forces. We need equal economic opportunities and decent jobs for women.
All of these actions require decisive and courageous leaders. Next March, leaders from governments and civil society will come together at the UN Commission on the Status of Women to agree on action to prevent and respond effectively to violence against women. Expectations are high, and they should be. In some countries, up to 7 in 10 women will be beaten, raped, abused, or mutilated in their lifetimes. A crisis of such proportions deserves nothing less than the highest attention of world leaders. There can be no peace, no progress, when women live under the fear of violence.
Today violence against women is increasingly recognized for what it is: a threat to democracy, a barrier to lasting peace, a burden on national economies, and an appalling human rights violation. As more and more people believe that violence against women is neither acceptable nor inevitable, as more and more perpetrators are punished, the change to end violence against women grows deeper and stronger.
This is not just a women's issue, this is a responsibility for all of us. This violence is an outrage and it must be stopped. Time has run out for complacency or excuses. Let us show the will, the determination and let us mobilise greater resources to end what is a scourge of humanity, violence against women.
Yes, it is possible.
Flickr photograph via Robbie Veldwijk.