6 January 2011 - Violence against women is a worldwide problem and an issue that features prominently on the agenda of the United Nations. It presents itself in many forms - physical, sexual, psychological and economic - and in many countries around the world inequality and ignorance are sad realities which women face daily. Lack of services for survivors and often poor law enforcement responses make this issue a critical human security problem which affects women regardless of age, culture or location.
In Southern Africa, UNODC is working with officials and civil society to counter this through a range of programmes on gender-based violence. One such initiative is the implementation of a regional project aimed at developing effective law enforcement responses to violence against women in the region. As part of this work a new UNODC Handbook on Effective Police Responses to Violence against Women and a Training Curriculum were recently launched to improve capacity of law enforcement and national criminal justice systems in Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
The Handbook is designed for first-responders such as the police, and assists in defining the issue, providing an overview of relevant norms and standards, and giving guidance on how to intervene. In particular, it focuses on how to investigate acts of violence against women - a process that requires considerable sensitivity. Complementing this, the Training Curriculum has been developed to equip local and national police with the knowledge and skills required to respond in an effective and appropriate manner to violence against women - specifically violence within intimate relationships. This includes measures to prevent violence against women, ways to respond to and investigate acts of violence, and resources to meet the needs of victims during and after an incident.
In addition to this regional-based, law-enforcement focused approach, UNODC is also working with communities in South Africa to provide local-level support to victims of gender-based violence. Several UNODC-supported 'one-stop centres' have been established across the country to provide legal, psychological and medical services to the survivors of violence as well as rehabilitation and support services for men in order to break the cycle of domestic violence.
In a bid to further the UN's response to this crime, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched the UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign in 2008. Aimed at preventing and eliminating violence against women and girls in all parts of the world, UNiTE calls on Governments, civil society, women's organizations, young people, the private sector, the media and the entire UN system to join forces in addressing the global pandemic of violence against women and girls.