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A photo of UN Secretary General António Guterres. — AFP/File

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary General António Guterres urged governments on Thursday to redouble their efforts for ending violence against women by 2030 as the world began 16 days of activism to highlight the issue.

“Violence against women is not inevitable,” the UN chief said in a message. “Change is possible, and now is the time to redouble our efforts so that together, we can eliminate violence against women and girls by 2030.”

For thirty years, the United Nations observes the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and this year it also kick-started 15 days of activism to highlight the issue across the globe.

In Washington, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken described gender-based violence as the ‘shadow pandemic’ and emphasised the need to combat it as an emergency.

“We recommit to preventing and responding to gender-based violence as a moral and strategic imperative, as a fairness and equity issue, and as a driver of our collective prosperity and security,” he said.

In New York, UN Women chief Sima Bahous said gender-based violence (GBV) was a global crisis. “In all of our own neighbourhoods, there are women and girls living in danger.

Around the world, conflict, climate-related natural disasters, food insecurity and human rights violations are exacerbating violence against women,” she said.

The United Nations also issued a report, pointing out that more than 70 percent women have experienced violence in some crisis settings.

The report shows that in both rich and poor countries alike, gender prejudice has fuelled acts of violence towards women and girls. And this violence “often goes unreported, silenced by stigma, shame, fear of the perpetrators and fear of a justice system that does not work for women,” Ms Bahous said.

According to this report: Nearly 1 in 3 women experience violence at some stage and during crises, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, the violence increases.

Data from 13 countries since the pandemic, shows that 2 in 3 women reported living in fear of violence and food insecurity during the pandemic. Only 1 in 10 women said that victims would go to the police for help.

Stopping this violence starts with believing survivors, adopting comprehensive and inclusive approaches that tackle the root causes, transform harmful social norms, and empower women and girls. With survivor-centred essential services across policing, justice, health, and social sectors, and sufficient financing for the women’s rights agenda, “we can end gender-based violence,” the UN report adds.

The UN also suggests long-term strategies that tackle the root causes of violence, protecting the rights of women and girls, and promoting strong and autonomous women’s rights movements.

UN partner countries last year witnessed a 22 per cent increase in prosecution of perpetrators; 84 laws and policies were passed or strengthened; and more than 650,000 women and girls were able to access help – despite pandemic-related restrictions.

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