United Nations
5 November 1999

UN Designates Day for 

Eliminating Violence Against Women

The General Assembly passed a resolution last Wednesday that officially designates November 25 International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Introduced by the Dominican Republic with the support of more than 60 governments, the resolution stems from a growing global movement to end a tragic epidemic that devastates the lives of women and girls, fractures communities and is a barrier to development in every nation. Backers of the resolution hope that the day, like similar events, will build momentum for action by governments and the general public to stop violence against women.

Worldwide, a quarter of all women are raped during their lifetime. Depending on the country, 25 to 75 percent of women are regularly beaten at home. Over 120 million women have undergone female genital mutilation. Rape has devastated women, girls and families in recent conflicts in Rwanda, Cambodia, Liberia, Peru, Somalia, Uganda and the former Yugoslavia.

"We need to say, "No more and never again," states Noeleen Heyzer, the Executive Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). "If we commit ourselves to creating a world free from violence against women and girls, our children will say we stopped the most universal and unpunished crime of all time against half the people of the earth."

Heyzer proposed designating November 25 as an international day to eliminate violence against women last March at a global videoconference on the subject in the General Assembly.  Ending violence is an essential part of UNIFEM's activities, and the fund supports initiatives on it around the world. In partnership with other UN agencies, governments and thousands of media and nongovernmental groups, UNIFEM has also led a series of campaigns to eliminate violence against women in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean.

Launched on the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1998, these have stimulated public discussion about an often hidden issue, involved men in ending violence, brought about changes in legislation and provided new forms of protection and justice for victims.

In Brazil, for example, 1,200 nongovernmental groups and local governments have signed a community pact against violence, and the federal government has earmarked $10 million to create shelters. Women and local imams in Senegal have successfully lobbied their government to pass a law against female genital mutilation. And in Jordan, the government plans this month to discuss revising a traditional law that still permits men to kill women suspected of adultery.

Women's activists have marked November 25 as a day against violence since 1981, and for the last decade have held 16 days of activism against gender violence between it and International Human Rights Day on December 10. The November date came from the brutal 1961 assassination of the three Mirabal sisters in the Dominican Republic.

CIS 16 Days

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