“Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread violations of human rights,” according to the U.N. Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM.). Several other organizations, such as Amnesty International, have the same position. The violence takes many forms; it can be physical, psychological, sexual, or economic. It can include abuse during pregnancy, honor killings and other sorts of femicide.
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination (CEDAW) signifies that countries party to the Convention have to take all necessary steps and eliminate this violence. It is easier said than done. So far, CEDAW does not seem to be taken very seriously.
Check out the statistics. Worldwide, up to six out of 10 women have experienced physical or sexual abuse in their lives, according to UNIFEM. For women and girls aged 16 to 44 years, violence is a main cause of death and disability. Regarding this same age group, a World Bank study was done in 1994 on 10 selected risk factors confronting this group. The study found that rape and domestic violence were more dangerous for these women and girls than cancer, car accidents, war and malaria. Think about it for a moment.
UNIFEM states that there are increasing links “between violence against women and HIV and AIDS.” In a survey conducted among 1,366 South African women, it was shown that women battered by their partners were 48 percent more likely to be have HIV than those who were not.
Some progress has been made. In the 2006 U.N. Secretary-General’s study called In-Depth Study on All Forms of Violence against Women, it was revealed that 89 countries had some legislation on domestic violence, and a number of others had started national plans of action. In 104 countries marital rape is a “prosecutable offense”, and 90 countries do have laws on sexual harassment. But in 102 countries there are no laws against domestic violence, and marital rape is not illegal in at least 53 countries.
UNIFEM is doing its work to end violence against women and girls. It believes that the main cause of this violence is gender inequality.