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ZERO TOLERANCE TO VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

By PHUMZILE MLAMBO-NGCUKA
UN Under-Secretary- General and Executive Director of UN Women

Prevention must start early, and address the root causes of violence, such as gender stereotypes and social norms
that foster unequal power relations between women and men.

The issue of violence against women and girls has topped headlines and discussions for decades, yet it persists in every country in the world, with one in three women experiencing physical or sexual violence at some point in her lifetime, mostly by an intimate partner. Gender-based violence robs women and girls of their human rights, and keeps us from achieving our critical goals of gender equality and sustainable development.

ZERO TOLERANCE TO VIOLENCE3UN Women is working toward “zero tolerance” for violence against women and girls. But what does zero tolerance look like? Firstly, it means moving from talk to action on eliminating violence against women and girls. This includes
addressing all forms of gender-based violence, including domestic violence and femicide. It is estimated that almost
half of all women who were the victims of homicide globally in 2012 were killed by intimate partners or family members. Zero tolerance includes tackling the high levels of sexual violence in confl ict and in refugee camps.

An estimated one in fi ve displaced women in humanitarian settings have experienced sexual violence. It means ending harmful practices such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) which, according to one estimate, impacts at least 200 million girls and women in 30 countries, and child, early and forced marriage, which is expected to aff ect
more than 140 million girls between 2011 and 2020. It also requires addressing sexual violence on university campuses. A study from the US Department of Justice shows that as many as one in four women are sexually assaulted in college in the US. And it means facing new forms of cyber-violence such as online harassment, threats, bullying and stalking. In the European Union, one in ten women report having experienced cyber-harassment since the age of 15. This violence is pervasive, but it is not inevitable.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was adopted by Member States in 2015, includes targets specifi cally dedicated to ending violence against women and girls (Target 5.2)ZERO TOLERANCE TO VIOLENCE2 and other related targets. It reaffi rms that violence against women is an impediment for gender equality and sustainable development and emphasizes the principle of leaving no one behind, ensuring that our efforts are intersectional and address the most vulnerable and marginalized, including older women, rural women, indigenous women, refugee and immigrant women, women in poverty, women with disabilities, and those in the LBTQI community.

We know that the best way to end violence against women and girls is to prevent it from happening in the first
place. Prevention must start early, and address the root causes of violence, such as gender stereotypes and social
norms that foster unequal power relations between women and men. We must get men to confront this violence in themselves and in their communities, and teach fathers how to model non-violent behaviours to their sons and daughters and promote concepts of positive masculinity.

Prevention also involves addressing the alarming rates of violence against women and girls in public spaces, schools and workplaces, ensuring women’s economic autonomy, increasing women’s access to education, and boosting their
participation in decision-making, including while exercising their political rights.

These efforts must be met with an effective response. Zero tolerance means zero impunity. This includes the adoption and implementation of laws and policies, prosecution of offenders and just and prompt reparations for survivors. It also means improved accessibility of quality services for survivors, effective coordination across sectors
and stakeholders and improved data collection. Over the past three decades, we have seen States making progress
in these key areas. These efforts are moving us in the right direction, but we still have a long road ahead.

It is also crucial that we sensitize the public to the harm done to women and girls by violence, and galvanize a loud and unified response when incidents occur. We saw the power and attention generated by such public outcry following the drugging, abduction and violent gang rape of a 16-year-old girl in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil this May, and after the brutal gang-rape and subsequent death of a 23-year-old woman on a bus in New Delhi, India in 2012. The media and entertainment industries can also play a vital role in building public awareness. Films such as the Academy Award winning A Girl in the River: the Price of Forgiveness have allowed audiences to understand what is
behind so-called honour killings and to build consensus for change. Zero tolerance is underpinned and sustained by better comprehension.

Taking a zero tolerance approach to violence against women and girls is a key component of achieving gender equality and a more sustainable, just and peaceful planet for all. When we work together across countries, sectors,
and levels, we can ensure all women and girls lead full and productive lives, free of violence, and eliminate   genderbased violence once and for all.

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