UN: 'Society’s attitudes must change worldwide to stop gender-based violence'

New York, US (PANA) - Participants taking part at a event on the fringes of the 59th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women on Wednesday underlined the importance of making cultural changes in societies to eradicate the scourge of gender-based violence, with particular focus on engaging men and boys in national efforts to tackle the problem.

The Executive Director of UN Women and chair of the event, Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, described the wide array of abuses perpetrated against women and acknowledged global progress in passing laws to address gender-based violence.

She also stressed that the most important focus of anti-violence efforts was on changing norms in societies in order to truly effect change.

She said boys exposed to violence were three times more likely to use violence against their partner, noting that the effects of violence against women were felt from generation to generation.

"We cannot change social behaviour in societies where overall attitudes and culture don’t change," Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka said, adding that a comprehensive, multi-sectoral approach was needed, involving parliaments, civil societies and men and boys, among others, in order to ensure the effort covered all bases.

The UN official said currently, legislation existed but implementation remained "very weak", as  many women still lacked access to justice, even if laws were in place.

She also underscored the importance of zero tolerance in dealing with those who broke the law and committed violence against women, as such an approach was essential to preventing its continuation.

"Failure to address societal norms meant legal changes were unable to have their desired impact and the stasis continued to erode the progress that passing of such laws was supposed to bring about.

"When we talk about culture and norms, we are not just talking about traditional cultures as we understand them in rural areas and traditional societies, it is also as in online culture, as in the entertainment business. Wherever culture is, it always seems to support violence against women," she stressed.

Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka also said: "Men are vital to changing the culture. Given their currently enhanced status in societies around the world, they were often 'penholders', holding the majority of positions as Heads of State, CEOs, religious leaders and other prominent positions.

"A man must say – 'I will not marry a child. I will not beat up a woman, I will not accept a pay cheque higher than my female counterpart. Then we are talking. That’s what we are calling for in 'HeForShe' – extraordinary activities at all levels," she said.

The UN official also disclosed that UN Women was partnering with the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), to develop robust and accessible services for women and girls, in order to enhance their well-being.

Also speaking, Professor Babatunde Osotimehin, the UNFPA Executive Director, called for a holistic approach to eradicating violence against women, and stressed the importance of working with men and boys.

"The issue is about men as much as about women, and education is the basis. If you bring up boys in the context of gender neutrality and parity, what you will get is a young man who will respect not just fellow boys but girls," he said.

On her part, UN Special Representative on sexual violence in conflict, Ms. Zainab Bangura, described the link between her work against sexual violence in conflict and broader efforts to tackle gender-based violence in societies.

"A country that does not respect its women in peacetime will not prevent them in conflict," she said, noting that, sexual violence did not occur accidentally in conflict situations.

According to her, it was planned and deliberate, and nations' soldiers and police forces were often part of it.

"The lower the status of women in society – the less education, the lower the economic opportunities – the more vulnerable they are to sexual violence when conflict breaks out," she added.

Ms. Bangura also called for a change to the system to ensure better protection of women and prosecution of violators, pointing out that very little money was put aside to deal with the victims of sexual violence.
-0- PANA AA/MA 11March2015

11 march 2015 22:28:56

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