UN: More Countries Confronting Violence Against Women
is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Some 89
states -- more than ever -- have to date addressed the issue of domestic
violence within a legal framework. Only 45 had done so three years ago. The
funding to fight violence against women within a broad United Nations initiative
has increased four times since 2004, to almost $4 million. United Nations Development Fund for Women
(UNIFEM) has distributed this money to 28 non-profit organizations
in 20 countries that run programs aimed at ending violence against women. RFE/RL
correspondent Nikola Krastev reports.
UNITED NATIONS, November 25, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Among the
recipients of UNIFEM grants this year are the International Humanitarian Center
(Rozrada), and Kyiv School of Equal Opportunities, both from Ukraine.
The Rozrada project will work in one rural area to create a pilot model for
upholding the law, including training police, youth and local authorities on the
urgent need to stop violence against women, which remains high in some parts of
The Kyiv School project will create national and
regional mechanisms to prevent violence against women and support full
implementation of the law for prevention of domestic violence.
A History Of Violence
Noleen Heyzer is the executive director of UNIFEM. She said many
UNIFEM activities are targeted at countries in Central Asia, where violence
against women is fed by tradition and the difficult social conditions following
the collapse of the Soviet Union 15 years ago.
"In Kyrgyzstan, in
Kazakhstan, in Uzbekistan, in Azerbaijan, Georgia, and so on, this is precisely
the issue, especially in the work place because many women are facing sexual
harassment in work places, and also within the family because many men are
losing their jobs and going into alcoholism,” Heyzer
“And therefore it is something which is on the rise. But we've
had campaigns, we have strategies and there is actually a trust fund that
focuses mainly on Central Asia."
UNIFEM considers the practice of
early marriage -- where girls are forced as minors into sexual relationships,
jeopardizing their physical and psychological health -- a violation of women's
rights. The practice is widespread in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to a lesser
extent in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.
According to a
UN report this year, an estimated 57 percent of girls in Afghanistan are married
before the age of 16. Economic reasons are thought to play a significant role in
such arrangements. Due to the common practice of "bride money," the child-wife
becomes an asset exchangeable for money or goods.
In Pakistan, a
measure was recently passed that weakened Sharia law on women's rights. Islamic
fundamentalists in the country have rejected it but UNIFME’s Heyzer says just
its passage through Pakistan's legal system is an important step toward
improving women's rights.
"[It is] extremely important that we
support the human rights of women because violence against women is a violation
of women's human rights,” she said. “And we are very supportive that this issue
is not judged in religious courts, but is judged in criminal courts and the
Fighting Traditional Practices
Domestic violence is the most common form of violence against
women; it involves physical and sexual attacks against women at home, within the
family, or within an intimate relationship.
Heyzer says UNIFEM,
which has offices in Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan,
Russia, and Tajikistan, is developing a comprehensive strategy to fight violence
against women in Central Asia, including Pakistan and Afghanistan.
"It has to be a holistic strategy, it cannot be at a
one-off, neither can it be ad-hoc, it has to be at a multiplicity of levels, and
it has to take into account the issue of economic security and rights, as well,”
she says. “And therefore the need to look at property rights, and inheritance
rights, and rights to land, as well as rights to decent employment is extremely
important to increase the options of women."
Other prevalent forms
of violence against women include violent traditional practices, such as female
genital mutilation; dowry murder, when a woman is being killed by her husband
because her family is unable to pay the dowry; and “honor killings” of women who
have been raped or are suspected of adultery. To fight these brutal practices,
Heyzer says, laws, where they exist, should be enforced.
you have laws, the best laws and policies, the need to enforce them and to
monitor them, to have accountability systems, to have the right level of
resourcing is so extremely important to make these laws work, especially at a
local level,” she says. “But it also shows that ending violence against women is
an issue that is very deeply rooted and therefore you have to deal with the
structured discrimination in women's lives."
Trafficking in women
and girls is another prevalent form of violence against women in Eastern Europe
and CIS. Exact data is hard to come by, but estimates vary between 500,000 to 2
million trafficked women each year.
UNIFEM supported the
publication of a report on the links between women's lack of economic
opportunities and their vulnerability to trafficking in Albania.
Copyright (c) 2006 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
... Payvand News - 11/25/06 ... --