Ending violence against women
By Dee Aker, Emiko Noma and Laura Taylor
San Diego Union-Tribune
March 14, 2008
Men must stand up and be equal partners to end violence against women.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon proclaimed recently as he launched UNITE, the new U.N. campaign to end this scourge on society:
“I call on men around the world to lead by example: to make clear that violence against women is an act perpetrated by a coward, and that speaking up against it is a badge of honor. No country, no culture, no woman, young or old, is immune,” he said.
Around the world, one in three women is physically, sexually or otherwise abused in her lifetime, with rates reaching 70 percent in some countries. Most often, the perpetrator is someone she knows. She is not safe in her home, nor in the public sphere.
The last 15 years have witnessed the increase of statistical research on the subject, and while new protection laws and public awareness campaigns are also on the rise, “there is no statistical evidence that violence is decreasing. In fact, the data show that rape is increasing,” reported Uppsala University professor Gun Heimer at the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations.
Women's vulnerability to abuse is exacerbated in times of conflict and war. In these moments, however, women have also found new forms of support and stepped in to demand human rights. Through advocacy and lobbying they have changed legal codes and social norms. As the secretary-general reiterated in his address, “The progress over the past century happened thanks to [women's groups worldwide], and they will be our chief standard bearers in the future, too.”
Several women representing these standard-bearing and norm-transforming organizations have resided at the University of San Diego's Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice in their Women PeaceMakers Program each fall, and often attend the CSW every winter. Svetlana Kijevcanin of Serbia and Palwasha Kakar of Afghanistan, Women PeaceMakers from 2006, joined a Kroc Institute delegation for a parallel event to the CSW, in a presentation titled “Women Ending Cycles of Violent Cycle: Strategies and Best Practices.”
While Serbia, in the region of the former Yugoslavia, continues to make headlines for violent outbreaks of nationalist sentiment, and Afghanistan seemingly spirals further away from a semblance of stability, small steps toward the eradication of violence against women are being made beyond the headlines. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, together with a similar war crimes tribunal in Rwanda, set historic precedent in tying perpetrators of rape with crimes against humanity. In Afghanistan, the Ministry of Women's Affairs created shelters for women who have been widowed during the violence. Without a male “protector,” these women are especially vulnerable to sexual exploitation and abuse.
To achieve each of these successes, however, women forged strategic partnerships with gender-sensitive men. They have done so in the face of mass atrocity, as demonstrated above, but also in developed, politically stable democracies.
The male-dominated U.S. Senate (84 percent men) has also taken up the cause. Introduced in October 2007, the International Violence Against Women Act, sponsored by Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., and Richard Lugar, R-Ind., is a historic and unprecedented initiative to support international programs that prevent and respond to violence. This legislation specifically recognizes the role of men: “ . . . [F]unds could be used to . . . work with male leaders to help other men become more supportive of respectful and nonviolent relationships.”
Reiterated Heimer: “Men's violence against women remains the greatest threat to human communities.” To address this threat “we need a global view of violence that it is not acceptable. We must work to train and educate men about their responsibility,” recommended Stefan Wallin, minister of Social Affairs and Health in Finland, at the CSW.
The UNITE campaign, built on the foundation of the global women's movement to eradicate violence against women, can flourish only if men take on the struggle. Toward this collaborative end, Ban promised to “form a global network of male leaders to assist [him] in mobilizing men and boys – men in government, men in the arts and sports, men in business, men in the religious sphere, men in every walk of life, who know what leadership truly means.”
Adding to this list are media, which can take this message “far and wide,” as well as allies in the U.S. military and global security forces, leveraging the power and resources necessary to support this campaign.
© Copyright 2008 The San Diego Union-Tribune