Globally, one out of three women will experience physical or sexual violence in her lifetime. This increases to double the global average – two out of three women – in the Pacific.
Violence against women is gender inequality at its most extreme. Its repercussions directly undermine the capacity of each and every Pacific Island nation and its people to strive for sustainable development.
Gender-based violence comes in many different forms. It includes domestic violence, violence against people who are lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI), as well as sexual violence and physical abuse.
Whether at home, on the streets, on the internet or at work, it is a human rights violation of vast proportions that takes place in public and private spaces.
This violence must stop, and we must all work together to end violence against women and girls.
November 25 marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. It is the first day of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence – an annual international campaign that starts today and ends on 10 December, Human Rights Day.
The 16 Days is a key time to galvanise action to end violence against women and girls as a human rights issue at the local, national, regional and international level.
Right now, women and girls in the Pacific face uneven and unsafe access to education, healthcare, land, financial resources and economic opportunities. The Pacific region has some of the highest rates of violence against women recorded in the world. Up to 68 per cent of women have reported experiencing physical or sexual violence by a partner in their lifetime in Pacific islands where prevalence studies have been undertaken.
Everyone has the right to live their life without the threat of violence.
This holds for all people, no matter what their gender, age, race, religion or ethnicity and irrespective of their income level, sexual orientation, HIV status, citizenship, where they live, or any other characteristic of their identity.
Violence against women and girls is not inevitable. There are many ways to prevent violence before it occurs, and to stop cycles of violence from repeating.
As a society, we can support the passing and implementation of laws to protect girls and women from domestic violence, sexual assault and harassment, and we can push for proper implementation.
Community based approaches that address social norms have also demonstrated positive impacts changing people’s beliefs and attitudes about violence.
Changing social norms that condone violence is at the heart of UN Women’s approaches in the Pacific, as we work with partners in government, civil society, the donor and development partners, and other stakeholders.
Engaging men and boys in stopping violence against women and girls is also critical to bringing about change.
Challenging sexism, male dominance and male privilege as society’s norm starts with modelling positive masculinities. Parents can instil principles of equality, rights and respect as they raise their sons; and men can call out their peers for unacceptable violent behaviour.
As a Pacific community, we can act now to end violence against women and girls, to change attitudes and actions, and work together to end discrimination, restore human rights and dignity, and leave no one behind.
That means each and every one of us has a role in reducing violence against women and girls – every man, woman and child.
By working together can we improve gender inequality and end violence – for the benefit of every Pacific woman, man, girl and boy.
*Message by Aleta Miller, Representative of the UN Women Multi-Country Office (MCO) in Fiji, for the International Day to End Violence Against Women on 25 November 2017