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16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence
by UN Women, agencies
2:13pm 2nd Dec, 2022
Violence against women and girls remains the most pervasive human rights violation around the world. Already heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic, its prevalence is now being further increased by the intersecting crises of climate change, global conflict and economic instability.
Against this setting, a backlash against women’s rights is underway around the world. Anti-feminist movements are on the rise, attacks against women human rights defenders and activists are up, and the legal status of women’s rights is increasingly imperiled in many countries. Regressive new laws are exacerbating impunity for perpetrators of domestic violence, governments are using force against femicide and gender-based violence protestors, and women’s rights organizations are being increasingly marginalized.
Despite these discouraging trends, there is more proof than ever that violence against women and girls is preventable. Evidence shows that the single most important driver of policy change is a strong and autonomous women’s movement—making feminist mobilization in the face of anti-rights backlash a literal matter of life and death.
This 16 Days, we’re encouraging everyone to get involved: from amplifying the voices of survivors and activists to supporting women’s organizations and strengthening feminist movements, we can all act to empower survivors, reduce and prevent violence against women and girls, and protect women’s rights.
Gender related killings (femicide/feminicide) are the most brutal and extreme manifestation of a continuum of violence against women and girls that takes many interconnected and overlapping forms. Defined as an intentional killing with a gender-related motivation, femicide may be driven by stereotyped gender roles, discrimination towards women and girls, unequal power relations between women and men, or harmful social norms. Despite decades of activism from women’s rights organizations as well as growing awareness and action from Member States, the available evidence shows that progress in stopping such violence has been deeply inadequate.
Nov. 2022
UNHCR warns rising hunger, insecurity, and underfunding worsening gender-based violence risks
Worsening socio-economic conditions, new and ongoing conflicts and humanitarian funding shortfalls are increasing the risk of gender-based violence for forcibly displaced women and girls, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is warning.
“A toxic mix of crises - conflicts, climate, skyrocketing costs, and the ripple effects of the Ukraine war – are inflicting a devastating toll on the forcibly displaced. This is being felt across the world, but women and girls are particularly suffering,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.
Many refugees and internally displaced people are unable to meet basic needs, owing to inflated prices and limited humanitarian assistance precipitated by disrupted supply chains and shortfalls in funding.
Displaced women and girls are often the most vulnerable to shocks, given the loss of assets and means of subsistence, the disruption of community-based safety nets and their frequent exclusion from education and other national social protection. Faced with food shortages and surging prices, many women and girls are being forced to take gut-wrenching decisions to survive.
“With savings depleted, many are skipping meals, children are being sent to work instead of school and some may have no options but to beg or engage in the sale or exchange of sex to survive. Too many are facing heightened risks of exploitation, trafficking, child marriage and intimate partner violence,” said Grandi.
Among refugee populations in Algeria, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan, Niger, Tanzania, Uganda, Republic of the Congo and Zambia, UNHCR has recorded serious nutrition concerns. These include acute malnutrition, stunting, and anaemia.
Across eastern and southern Africa, more than three quarters of refugees have seen food rations cut and are unable to meet their basic needs. Inside Syria, 1.8 million people in displacement camps are severely food insecure, while nine in 10 Syrian refugees in Lebanon are unable to afford essential food and services.
Across the Americas, half of those forcibly displaced eat only two meals a day, with three quarters reducing the quantity or quality of their food, according to UNHCR data.
Major deteriorations in food security are projected in Yemen and the Sahel, and millions of internally displaced people in countries like Somalia and Afghanistan live in situations where 90 per cent of the population are not consuming enough food.
There is a shocking, pernicious cycle of hunger and insecurity, each exacerbating the other and fuelling risks to women and girls, as harmful coping strategies are adopted across communities.
Reports of girls being forced into marriage to allow the family to buy food are especially shocking. In the East and Horn of Africa, child marriages are on the rise, as a way of alleviating the strain on household income. Sexual violence risks are also aggravated by the drought, with women and girls being forced to trek longer distances to collect water and firewood.
While the need for programmes to address gender-based violence has never been greater, UNHCR is concerned that funding has not kept pace. The UN Refugee Agency is urging donors to support essential gender-based violence prevention and response services, and to sustain funding for life-saving humanitarian programs to ensure refugees and other forcibly displaced can meet their basic needs.
* In 2022, the number of people forced to flee conflict, violence, human rights violations and persecution crossed 100 million people for the first time.
Sep. 2022
Achieving gender equality is still centuries away, warns the United Nations in a new report.
At the current rate of progress, it may take close to 300 years to achieve full gender equality, the “Progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG): The Gender Snapshot 2022” shows.
Global challenges, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, violent conflict, climate change, and the backlash against women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights are further exacerbating gender disparities.
The new report, launched by UN Women and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), highlights that, at the current pace of progress, SDG 5—achieving gender equality—will not be met by 2030.
Sima Bahous, UN Women Executive Director, said: “This is a tipping point for women’s rights and gender equality as we approach the half-way mark to 2030. It is critical that we rally now to invest in women and girls to reclaim and accelerate progress. The data show undeniable regressions in their lives made worse by the global crises—in incomes, safety, education, and health. The longer we take to reverse this trend, the more it will cost us all.”
“Cascading global crises are putting the achievement of the SDGs in jeopardy, with the world’s most vulnerable population groups disproportionately impacted, in particular women and girls. Gender equality is a foundation for achieving all SDGs and it should be at the heart of building back better,” said Maria-Francesca Spatolisano, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs of UN DESA.
Without swift action, legal systems that do not ban violence against women, do not protect women’s rights in marriage and family—for instance, denying women their right to pass on their nationality to their children, or to inherit—do not provide them with equal pay and benefits at work, and do not guarantee their equal rights to own and control land, may continue to exist for generations to come.
At the current rate of progress, the report estimates that it will take up to 286 years to close gaps in legal protection and remove discriminatory laws, 140 years for women to be represented equally in positions of power and leadership in the workplace, and at least 40 years to achieve equal representation in national parliaments.
To eradicate child marriage by 2030, progress must be 17 times faster than progress of the last decade, with girls from the poorest rural households and in conflict-affected areas expected to suffer the most.
The report also points to a worrisome reversal on the reduction of poverty, and rising prices are likely to exacerbate this trend. By the end of 2022, around 383 million women and girls will live in extreme poverty (on less than USD 1.90 a day) compared to 368 million men and boys.
Many more will have insufficient income to meet basic needs such as food, clothing, and adequate shelter in most parts of the world. If current trends continue, in sub-Saharan Africa, more women and girls will live in extreme poverty by 2030 than today.
The invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing war there is further worsening food insecurity and hunger, especially among women and children, limiting supplies of wheat, fertilizer and fuel, and propelling inflation. In 2021, about 38 per cent of female-headed households in war-affected areas experienced moderate or severe food insecurity, compared to 20 per cent of male-headed households.
Further facts and figures highlighted in the report include:
In 2020, school and preschool closures required 672 billion hours of additional unpaid childcare globally. Assuming the gender divide in care work remained the same as before the pandemic, women would have shouldered 512 billion of those hours.
Globally, women lost an estimated USD 800 billion in income in 2020 due to the pandemic, and despite a rebound, their participation in labour markets is projected to be lower in 2022 than it was pre-pandemic (50.8 per cent, compared to 51.8 per cent in 2019).
There are now more women and girls who are forcibly displaced than ever before: some 44 million women and girls by the end of 2021.
Today, over 1.2 billion women and girls of reproductive age (15–49) live in countries and areas with some restriction on access to safe abortion.
The report points out that achieving universal girls’ education, while not enough by itself, would improve such an outlook significantly. Each additional year of schooling can boost a girl’s earnings as an adult by up to 20 per cent with further impacts on poverty reduction, better maternal health, lower child mortality, greater HIV prevention, and reduced violence against women.
The report showcases that cooperation, partnerships, and investments in the gender equality agenda, including through increased global and national funding, are essential to correct the course and place gender equality back on track.
June 2022 
International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict - Statement by UN Secretary-General António Guterres:
Sexual violence in conflict is a cruel tactic of war, torture, terror and repression. It reverberates down generations, and threatens both human and international security.
In places affected by conflict, the turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has made it even more difficult to hold perpetrators of sexual violence to account.
At the same time, survivors face new obstacles to reporting crimes and accessing support services.
Even as we respond to the pandemic, we must investigate every case, and maintain essential services for every survivor. We cannot allow this already underreported crime to slip further into the shadows. Perpetrators must be punished.
Investment in recovery from the pandemic must tackle the root causes of sexual and gender-based violence.
On this International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, let’s resolve to uphold the rights and meet the needs of all survivors, as we work to prevent and end these horrific crimes.
“Conflict-related sexual violence” refers to rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, enforced sterilization, forced marriage and any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity perpetrated against women, men, girls or boys that is directly or indirectly linked to a conflict. The term also encompasses trafficking in persons when committed in situations of conflict for the purpose of sexual violence or exploitation.
A consistent concern is that fear and cultural stigma converge to prevent the vast majority of survivors of conflict-related sexual violence from coming forward to report such violence. Practitioners in the field estimate that for each rape reported in connection with a conflict, 10 to 20 cases go undocumented.
UN Women expresses its grave concern at the continued use of sexual violence as a tactic of war, terrorism and political repression and calls on all parties to conflicts to commit to ceasing such acts.
Sexual violence in conflict disproportionately impacts women and girls and causes grave and lasting harm to survivors, their families and their communities, posing major barriers to peace and development.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed women and girls in conflict and crisis settings to sexual violence and has exacerbated existing barriers to survivors’ access to multisectoral services and justice.
This makes our efforts to promote gender equality and achieve peace, as well as just and inclusive societies, all the more urgent and relevant.
The best way to address any type of human rights violation, including sexual violence in conflict, is to prevent it from happening in the first place, which is why it is crucial to address gender inequality as a root cause of this scourge.
As the world plans its recovery from the pandemic, we need to take an inclusive, intersectional and informed approach, one that recognizes that achieving durable peace and prosperous societies is not possible without women’s expertise, meaningful participation and leadership.
Apr. 2022
Justice critical to fighting sexual violence in conflict. (UN News, agencies)
Pramila Patten, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative working to end rape as a weapon of war in a UN council meeting, underscored how prosecution for the crimes of sexual violence in conflict is critical to deliver justice for survivors and prevent future violence.
She recalled that the UN Security Council has passed 10 resolutions on Women, Peace and Security, five of which focus on preventing and addressing conflict-related sexual violence. Ms. Patten questioned what such declarations mean right now for women in Ukraine, Afghanistan, Myanmar or Tigray in northern Ethiopia.
“Every new wave of warfare brings with it a rising tide of human tragedy, including new waves of war’s oldest, most silenced, and least-condemned crime - rape and sexual violence,” she said.
Ms. Patten presented horrifying cases of rape and other violations included in her latest report, revealing what she called “the emboldening effects of impunity”. The report covers some 18 country situations and documents thousands of UN-verified cases committed last year.
Ms. Patten underscored how prosecution is critical, and a form of prevention, as it can help turn the culture of impunity for these crimes, towards a culture of deterrence.
“Whereas impunity normalizes violence, justice reinforces global norms. It is time to move from visibility to accountability, and to ensure that today’s documentation translates into tomorrow’s prosecutions,” she said.
Regarding the way forward, her report calls for targeted action to reinforce prevention, the use of early warning indicators of sexual violence as well as threat analysis, curtailing the flow of small arms, gender-responsive justice and security sector reform, together with amplifying the voices of survivors.
Justice and accountability
Nobel laureate Nadia Murad was among thousands of women from the Yazidi minority group in northern Iraq who were sold into sexual slavery and raped by ISIL terrorists, the group officially known now as Da’esh, in 2014.
Eight years on, some 2,800 women and children remain in the hands of the terrorist group, she said. “The pursuit of justice is one of the most visible forms of accountability,” she told the Council, citing the historic genocide conviction of an ISIL fighter by a German court last year. She wondered if the international community will do more.
Action, not pity
“As survivors of sexual violence, it is not easy for us to tell our stories. But we do it to prevent what happened to us from happening to others,” said Ms. Murad. “We are called brave, but the courage we really want to see is from leaders in a position to do something, whether they are Heads of State, Member States here at the UN, or corporate leaders. We need more than moral outrage; we need action.”
Ms. Murad called for the Council to refer the ISIL case to the International Criminal Court, or to establish a hybrid court that will prosecute the group’s crimes. She also urged other nations to follow Germany’s example.
Survivors have found the strength to rebuild their lives and help their families, communities, and countries, she said, so surely the world can find the strength to take meaningful steps to end sexual violence in conflict.
“As survivors, we look to you, the leaders in this room, to act with the same courage we have shown. Survivors do not want pity; we want justice.”
During the debate, Ms. Murad announced the launch of a new initiative for collecting evidence of rape in war. The Murad Code is a set of guidelines for investigators and others documenting and investigating conflict-related sexual violence. The guidelines were shaped by feedback from survivors around the globe, she said, and aim to promote greater respect, understanding, transparency, and healing.
Two civil society representatives from Syria and Ethiopia also briefed ambassadors.
Legal investigator Mariana Karkoutly said although the Syrian war has been on the Security Council agenda for more than a decade, no action has been taken to hold perpetrators accountable for violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.
She reported that at least 150,000 people are estimated to have been arbitrarily arrested, detained or disappeared since the war began. Nearly 10,000 women are among the scores of Syrians being held in detention centres, where sexual violence is used as a tool to humiliate, punish and force confessions.
Ms. Karkoutly, co-founder of an organization for women lawyers called Huquqyat, outlined a list of actions for the Council that included referring the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court, adopting a resolution on detainees and missing persons, investigating and prosecuting perpetrators of sexual violence, and ensuring women’s rights are at the heart of accountability efforts.
“When people in Syria watch conflicts rage in Ukraine and other parts of the world today, we are reminded of our own suffering, and the abject failure of this body to stop the violence,” she said. “I join my voice with those of the millions of girls and women from Syria who are not here with me today and call on you to take action. There can be no peace without justice.”
Hilina Berhanu from Ethiopia spoke of her visits to the Tigray region, where rape has been used as a tactic of war or means of reprisal.
This violence is ethnically motivated, she said, and used to humiliate survivors and their communities. Men and boys have also been victims, while women with disabilities, and those from minority and indigenous communities, have been particularly at risk.
Ms. Berhanu urged the Security Council to demand that all efforts towards documenting, investigating and preventing sexual violence in conflict are centred around survivors. Ambassadors must also demand that warring parties allow safe humanitarian access to people in need in Tigray and elsewhere, and that aid includes comprehensive sexual and reproductive healthcare.
"Lack of access to psychosocial support services also means that the mental health of survivors hangs in the balance. Many have already died by suicide," she said.
Ms. Berhanu had a special request for the three African countries on the Council – Gabon, Ghana and Kenya -- urging them to work both at the UN and in the Africa Union to drive forward action on women, peace and security.
These countries were also asked “to take a harder look at the prevailing view that supporting investigations of conflict -elated sexual violence in Ethiopia could somehow derail the proposed reform agenda of the current government.”
* The Murad Code: Is a global, voluntary code of conduct for those collecting information from survivors of systematic and conflict-related sexual violence. The Murad Code’s full title is the “Global Code of Conduct for Gathering and Using Information about Systematic and Conflict-Related Sexual Violence”.
The Code is named after the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Nadia Murad, which reflects its objective to place survivors’ rights and well-being at its heart. The Murad Code project key objective is to respect and support survivors’ rights and to ensure work with survivors to investigate, document and record their experiences is safer, more ethical and more effective in upholding their human rights.

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