Violence against Women

Beijing+20 - Violence against Women

Photo: jonphillips.

Violence against women is an expression of gender inequality and a reflection on the power relations that exist in society. Acts of violence range from sexual harassment and domestic violence to genital mutilation and trafficking in women to forced prostitution. The manner in which violence against women is portrayed in the media as well as pornography contribute to a culture of violence against women and have far-reaching consequences for the lives of women. Many societies trivialize and taboo the issue of violence against women in families. The Beijing Platform for Action sets out clear objectives to prevent and eliminate violence and appropriate strategies:

These include clear, legally defined frameworks for violence against women as well as action plans. These should take into consideration: suitable penalties for violence against women, including – if and where applicable – stricter sanctions in the case of genital mutilation, for example; more extensive advice, care and legal remedies for those affected by violence; but also advice on how to resocialize the perpetrators, plus research funding and “impacting” the media so that they cease presenting portrayals of violence. Measures to counteract trafficking in women and to support the affected parties should be stepped up, as should the training programmes for police, judicial and medical personnel.

Numerous countries have subsequently passed legislation protecting women from violence. The Council of Europe has also adopted a far-reaching treaty to combat such violence in the shape of its Istanbul Convention.

Yet, its implementation has yet to be achieved in many countries. Law enforcement agencies in Eastern Europe, for example, have little to no awareness of the issue. As a result, women do not turn to the police, and the majority of them are unaware of any support centres. In the rural regions of the Kyrgyz Republic, bride kidnapping continues to be a widespread practice. Here, women are abducted and forced into marriage. There have been setbacks in Croatia, for example, where the minimum penalty for rape has been reduced from three years to just one. In some Arab countries, such as Syria, so-called “honour killings” continue to be punished less severely than other forms of murder. According to UNICEF, almost half of all young women between the ages of 15 and 19 believe it is normal to be beaten and therefore do not seek help. Sexual harassment is an everyday occurrence in numerous countries and goes unpunished. Yet, even in Germany, the issue is still trivialized in society.

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Good to Know

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  • Beijing Platform for Action
    Read the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action here
    [PDF].
    An overview the Platform's 12 critical areas of concern by the UN Women. more>>
  • Women in Armed Conflicts: in the context of the CSW 59, the GWI co-hosted an event at concering a pressing issue for the Platform - women in armed conflicts. more>>

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