“At least one out of every three women is likely to be beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Through the practice of prenatal sex selection, countless others are denied the right even to exist,” Mr. Ban said in his adress at the opening in New York of the latest session of the Commission on the Status of Women.
Violence against women impedes economic and social growth, and thus the new campaign will run until 2015, the same target year as the internationally agreed aims known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Noting that weapons of armed conflict today include rape, sexual violence and abduction of children to be conscripted as soldiers or sex slaves, the Secretary-General recounted his visits to war-torn areas and his conversations with survivors of violence.
“This is a campaign for them. It is a campaign for the women and girls who have the right to live free of violence, today and in the future,” he said. “It is a campaign to stop the untold cost that violence against women inflicts on all humankind.”
Mr. Ban called on the cooperation of the world’s youth, women’s groups, men around the world, the private sector and Member States to help the new initiative succeed.
He acknowledged that there is no “blanket approach” to tackling the scourge, noting that each country must formulate its own measures to address violence against women.
“But there is one universal truth, applicable to all countries, cultures and communities: violence against women is never acceptable, never excusable, never tolerable,” the Secretary-General stated, adding that he hopes to hold a high-level event in 2010 to review progress.
As part of today’s campaign launch, Rachel N. Mayanja, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, held a press conference together with a number of other activists, both male and female, working to end violence against women and are slated to participate in other discussions on the subject at UN Headquarters.
“While everybody professes that women hold up the sky and women’s contributions are critical to development – to everything – it hasn’t been demonstrated concretely.” Ms Mayanja said. “And here we are, halfway through the Millennium Development Goals projected period, and we are still lagging behind.”
Many women have been left out of development efforts because of the violence that is continually being inflicted on them, she said. The Secretary-General’s campaign, she added, would bring a new sense of urgency to bear on this tragic issue.