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More than a third of women worldwide experience physical or sexual violence , says UN

MORE than a third of women worldwide have experienced either physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives, according to a joint UN statement issued today to mark the International Day of Elimination of Violence against Women.

The Executive Director of the UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, said  the day should serve as one to create awareness to the importance of listening to and believing survivors in order to end the culture of silence and to put the survivors at the centre of the response.

“The focus must change from questioning the credibility of the victim to pursuing the accountability of the perpetrator,” Mlambo-Ngcuka.

This year’s theme for the event is “Orange the World: #HearMeToo”, and it aims to honour and further amplify the voices of women across the world, whether a housewife at home, a schoolgirl abused by her teacher, an office secretary, or a sportswoman, as well as bringing them together across locations and sectors in a global movement of solidarity.

She said that though there is no comprehensive data to show the true extent of violence against women, as the fear of reprisals, impact of not being believed, and the stigma borne by the survivor—not the perpetrator—have silenced the voices of millions of survivors of violence and masked the true extent of women’s continued horrific experiences.

Furthermore, research indicates that the cost of violence against women could amount annually to around two per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP), this is equivalent to  1.5 trillion dollars.

Mlambo-Ngcuka highlighted movements both local and international movement that in recent time have acted as platforms of awareness and solidarity for women in general.

“In the recent past, grassroots activists and survivors, as well as global movements such as #MeToo, #TimesUp, #BalanceTonPorc, #NiUnaMenos, #HollaBack! and #TotalShutdown has converted isolation into a global sisterhood. They are making offenders accountable, exposing the prevalence of violence from high office to the factory floor. Today’s global movements are setting collective demands for accountability and action and calling for the end of impunity, to ensure the human rights of all women and girls,” she said.

In addition, Mlambo-Ngcuka, said that the focus must change from questioning the credibility of the victim to pursuing the accountability of the perpetrator.

“Those who have spoken out have helped us understand better just how much sexual harassment has been normalized and even justified as an inevitable part of a woman’s life.  Its ubiquity, including within the United Nations system, has helped it seem a minor, everyday inconvenience that can be ignored or tolerated, with only the really horrific events being worthy of the difficulty of reporting. This is a vicious cycle that has to stop.”

She said that laws must recognize that sexual harassment is a form of discrimination against women and a human rights violation, both expressing and re-generating inequality, that occurs in many.

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