Executive Director, UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Ghada Waly: Statement on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

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Vienna (Austria), 25 November 2020 — To live free from violence is a basic human right denied to millions of women around the world.

One in three women experience different forms of violence in their lifetime, often in their own home. A majority of female homicide victims die at the hands of their intimate partners or other family members.

When women manage to escape the violence, too often they find their paths to justice blocked by stigma and victim blaming, compounding legislation gaps and inadequate criminal justice responses. As a result, crimes involving violence against women are less likely to be reported and to end in conviction.

The COVID-19 crisis is making the situation worse. In many countries, confinement has increased violence risks, while women’s access to essential police and justice services has been reduced.

This year’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is an opportunity to focus on solutions - to tackle root causes, improve justice responses and end impunity.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has appealed for a worldwide domestic violence ‘ceasefire’ and some 150 countries have pledged their support. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) backs the Secretary-General’s call. We have joined our UN partners in promoting four key pillars of action: funding essential services, prevention, improving police and justice action, and collecting data.

In the last 10 years, UNODC has supported 44 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America in strengthening crime prevention and criminal justice responses to gender-based violence against women. Our Office is helping to draft national action plans, strengthening referral systems, supporting forensic doctors and specialized clinics, and training prosecutors, police officers and emergency call operators.

Working with partners, we provide victim-centred technical assistance through global and field-based programmes, including the UN-EU Spotlight Initiative in Kyrgyzstan and Mexico, and the Joint UN Global Programme on Essential Services for Women and Girls subject to Violence, in Egypt, Guatemala, Pakistan, Tunisia and Viet Nam.

Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, UNODC has supplied training and equipment to keep essential services going for women and girl victims of violence during the pandemic.

Furthermore, UNODC is conducting research on femicide, including through the flagship Global Study on Homicide. Our Office is assessing the impact of COVID-19 on gender-based violence and its effects on criminal justice system responses to help develop targeted solutions. 

To protect women’s rights, COVID recovery strategies, both at the national and international levels, must prevent and respond more effectively to gender-based violence, and strengthen the rule of law.

Empowerment through education and decent jobs represents the most powerful catalyst for gender equality, and policies and programmes to recover better must invest in women and girls to be their own agents for sustainable change.

On this International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, let us recommit to safety and justice for women for inclusive and fair societies.