Ending violence against women and girls key to tackling global crises and achieving prosperity

GENEVA Increased and relentless attacks on the bodily autonomy of women and girls on the basis of religion, culture and politics are among the most pervasive manifestations of violence against them, UN experts* said today. Ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the experts issued the following statement:

“We remain deeply concerned about the intensification of the well-organised global pushback against gender equality and increasing threats preventing women and girls from living a life in dignity, security and freedom from violence. Women and girls all over the world continue to experience multiple manifestations of gender-based violence.

Among the most pervasive and worrisome manifestations of violence against women and girls are the increased and relentless attacks on their bodily autonomy and access to sexual and reproductive health rights under social, cultural, religious, or political arguments, putting their lives, health, and well-being at risk.

Violence against women and girls continues to be amplified in digital spaces, particularly targeting those who are active in political and public life, exercising their freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association. Women human rights defenders, women lawyers, women politicians and journalists and women and girls belonging to minority groups are often targets. While several State and non-State actors have taken important initiatives to strengthen normative frameworks for the prevention of online violence against women and girls and to improve protection, much remains to be done. Technology providers and intermediaries need to strengthen cooperation with human rights mechanisms and develop coordinated strategies in partnership with States, tech companies and other relevant stakeholders.

These realities are concerning, given the multiple large scale and compounded crises that the world is facing today. In recent years, all States and societies have been confronted with the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the food crisis, and the climate crisis – all of which have proven to be gendered crises that have affected the lives of women of all ages differently and disproportionately. Extreme poverty as well as socioeconomic inequality is expected to increase drastically for women in comparison to men.

While violence against women of all ages and girls is rampant both in times of peace and conflict, sexual violence continues to be regularly and systematically weaponised in conflict settings. Access by victims and survivors of sexual violence in conflict to justice, assistance, protection, and reparations often continues to be inexistent. The intensification of gender-based persecution in several countries marred by conflict is particularly alarming.

We remain concerned by the continued appalling treatment of women and girls across various jurisdictions, which prevents women and girls from participating fully in all public spheres of life and deprives them of their human rights by virtue of being women and girls.

Despite the spate of violence against women and girls specifically, few countries have criminalised femicide or gender-related killings of women and girls as a separate crime, while the collection of sufficient and relevant data is severely lacking. Investing in the collection of comprehensive reliable data, disaggregated by sex, age and gender, is an essential and minimum first step that would allow countries to meaningfully tackle this reality.

It is also time that States recognise the nexus that exists between violence against women and violence against children, particularly in the management of custody cases. Several international and regional human rights mechanisms already voiced their concern over patterns across various jurisdictions of the world that ignore intimate partner violence against women in determining child custody cases. We therefore remind States of their due diligence obligation under international law to take all measures necessary to prevent gender-based violence against women and children, including harmful practices.

Despite the monumental collective challenges confronting women and girls worldwide, established normative frameworks that ensure the enjoyment of human rights by women and girls and their protection are being systematically undermined by a range of State and non-State actors attempting to reverse the gains made in achieving gender equality. States must demonstrate active commitment to their responsibilities by countering false narratives that seek to discredit these crucial legal frameworks and to ensuring their relevance and viability.

To address the ongoing complex crises of our times, as well as other issues that affect the lives of women and girls, all stakeholders must apply a robust and transformative gender lens and human rights-based approach to all their undertakings and initiatives.”

Source: UN Human Rights Council