Statement by Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, 25 November 2016
This is 2016 and yet one in three women worldwide still experiences or has experienced some form of physical or sexual violence, usually perpetrated by someone she knows. Moreover, millions of women and girls have been subjected to other forms of violence and harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation, which affect an estimated 200 million women and girls, or child marriage, with one in three girls in developing countries being married off before the age of 18.
The health consequences of violence are enormous and include permanent disability, lingering psychological trauma, unwanted pregnancies and complications associated with forced or unsafe abortions. Exposure to, and fear of, violence deprive women and girls of their rights–to education, health and decent livelihoods.
Protecting women and girls from violence and harmful practices is not only a moral and human rights imperative, it is also critical to the economic and social progress of nations. Agenda 2030 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals aim for inclusive, equitable growth that leaves no one behind. But every day, millions of women and girls are being held back by the forces of violence that prevent them from realizing their full potential in life. And that diminished potential in turn threatens to hamper progress towards these goals.
Underlying the scourge of violence and harmful practices against women is gender inequality. Gender equality is a prerequisite for the full realization of women’s and girls’ human rights and for the advancement and well-being of individuals, families, communities and countries.
UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, works to eliminate gender-based violence in countries around the world, many of which are affected by conflict or natural disasters, and where the risk of violence against women and girls is high. Last year alone, the Fund invested more than $93 million in the prevention of and response to gender-based violence and harmful practices in developing countries and in humanitarian crisis situations.
Sadly, discrimination against women and girls remains pervasive in every society. It is one of our greatest obstacles to socio-economic development. The unaddressed needs are immense. That is why, on this day, we at UNFPA renew our commitment to do everything in our power to put an end to violence against women and girls, and we call on all of our partners to join us in committing to make violence against women a girls a thing of the past!