Next month, government and civil-society leaders will gather in New York for a meeting of the UN Commission on the Status of Women to agree on a plan to eliminate violence against women. Global leaders should take this opportunity to pledge to adopt the policies and devote the resources needed to end pervasive violations of women’s human rights.
However, without the political will to enact legislation and enforce it effectively, promises are meaningless. Although 187 countries have signed the 1979 UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Violence Against Women, statistics show little progress.
Consider Afghanistan, which ratified the convention in 2009. An Action Aid survey last year found that violence against women has never been more prevalent, with 87 percent of women suffering domestic abuse. In the same year, Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government upheld a husband’s legal right to beat his wife. If an Afghan man murders his wife, he can expect to pay a fine.
Change is possible, but it requires collective action by the international community to challenge the attitudes that lead to violence, oppression, and inequality. Five steps are particularly important:
■ Ratify and enforce all relevant regional and international treaties, and implement laws that prohibit violence against women and ensure effective punishment of offenses.
■ Enhance women’s economic and political empowerment, including by directing international aid toward their health, education and welfare.
■ Increase public awareness of the problem through traditional media, as well as through social media and other electronic channels.
■ Mobilize men and boys against violence through educational programs.
■ Improve support for survivors of violence and their families, including legal assistance, psychological counseling and health care.
Many international movements and organizations — such as Women Under Siege, V-Day and Stop Violence Against Women — are already working to deliver justice and security to women. Governments and political parties should support such initiatives.
All people deserve justice, equality and freedom from violence. On Feb. 14, women and men worldwide should support One Billion Rising, a global call for people to show their support for the 1 billion women who have survived violence and abuse. Whether you choose to strike, dance, speak out, or simply stand up, your involvement will bring the world closer to ending this deadly war against women.
George Papandreou is president of the Socialist International. Ouafa Hajji is president of Socialist International Women.
Copyright: Project Syndicate