Since the adoption of the UN General Assembly’s declaration on eliminating violence against women twenty years ago, the world has taken major strides to prevent, reduce and condemn the abuse of women and girls worldwide, according to U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Susan E. Rice.
In her remarks at the Commission on the Status of Women in New York, Ms. Rice says the world can still do more to help those victims of violence.
“In a single generation, the ground has shifted.” – Ms. Rice
She says the world has debunked the vicious myth that women who have been sexually assaulted were “asking for it”.
Domestic violence is now outlawed in 125 countries, she added.
In addition, Ms. Rice says the use of rape as a weapon of war is widely condemned as a most despicable crime.
More work to stop the violence against women
According to Ms. Rice, the world still has far more work to do together.
She says one in three women worldwide will still be beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in their lifetimes, most of them by an intimate partner.
Ms. Rice reports more than 600 million women and girls still live in countries that have not yet declared domestic violence a crime.
“Women with disabilities are two to three times more likely to be physically or sexually abused.” – Ms. Rice
In addition, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women still face higher risks of violence and abuse, she underlined.
Thousands of women and girls caught in conflict zones and post-conflict zones are subjected to rape and horrific abuse daily. And some 60 million girls are assaulted each year while simply trying to get to school, Ms. Rice noted.
Suggested Actions to end the global scourge of violence against women
According to Ms. Rice, ending this global scourge will require comprehensive support services for survivors, justice for perpetrators, redoubled efforts to prevent assault, and the common recognition that women and girls have fundamental and inalienable rights, including making their own reproductive health choices.
She says community members from police officers to religious leaders to health officials must also fulfill their respective responsibilities to defend women’s rights.
US Makes progress to ending the violence against women
According to Ms. Rice, in the United States, the rate of intimate partner violence has declined by two-thirds over the past two decades.
All 50 states in our union now have laws that treat date rape or spousal rape as just as much of a crime as rape by a stranger, she said.
US government is also training law enforcement officers and judges to care better for victims.
“We are helping educators reduce gender violence and improving access to quality women’s health care.” – Ms. Rice
Ms. Rice cites they are enlisting men and boys in this critical work because halting violence against women is everyone’s responsibility.
President Obama will sign the Violence Against Women Act
Highlighting that US has much more to do, Ms. Rice announces President Obama will sign the Violence Against Women Act, renewed by the U.S. Congress last week.
Ms. Rice explains that this historic law transforms the way the United States approaches both survivors and perpetrators of abuse.
It strengthens tools to hold offenders accountable, launches new programs to help rape and assault victims, and will now finally offer increased protections for Native American women and the LGBT community, she underlined.
The United States is taking action internationally
According to Ms. Rice, in 2012, President Obama launched the first-ever U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally.
She says the United States is leading the UN system in helping end violence against women and girls-from creating a UN Special Representative to combat sexual and gender-based violence in conflict, to demanding justice when UN personnel inflict sexual exploitation and abuse, to empowering women as equal partners in conflict prevention and peacebuilding.
Efforts also need implementation, accountability and enforcement
“But, we don’t just need plans and laws. We need implementation, accountability and enforcement.” – Ms. Rice
She highlighted there is a need to recognize that reproductive rights and access to reproductive health services are essential to empowering women and girls.
Ms. Rice stresses the plans need action not just by government officials but by all parts of society.
She notes that the epidemic of violence against women and girls has touched many of us personally.
“Let us never forget that the victims whom we seek to protect are our own mothers and daughters, our sisters and friends, and maybe even ourselves.” – Ms. Rice
The United States looks forward to forging a robust set of Agreed Conclusions that enshrine common commitment to protecting women and girls from violence and discrimination in all forms, she added.
“Billions are depending on us. We must not fail.” – Ms. Rice
Presidential Memorandum that promotes gender equality and empowering women and girls globally
US Presidential Memorandum was signed by President Obama that aims to ensure that advancing the rights of women and girls remains central to U.S. diplomacy and development around the world.
US makes it clear that advancing the rights of women and girls is critical to the foreign policy of the United States.
President Obama’s National Security Strategy explicitly recognizes that “countries are more peaceful and prosperous when women are accorded full and equal rights and opportunity. When those rights and opportunities are denied, countries lag behind.”
US consider it is the unfinished business of the 21st Century of empowering women and girls, and it is essential that it remains central to US foreign policy for years to come.
In May 2012, with the USAID launching a women’s leadership fund, Obama administration has reaffirmed its commitment to empower women and girls around the world.
The Obama administration is taking steps to do more to increase women’s participation.
The State Department has recently created an initiative for women in public service as well.
In 2011, Secretary Clinton also signed a new Declaration on Women’s Participation.
In addition, President Obama has placed women in many of the highest positions within his administration including the Secretary of State, the UN Ambassador, the Secretaries of Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, and Labor.
Nearly 50 percent of his appointees to district courts are women, by far the highest percentage of any President in American history.
Recently, President Obama has already appointed two women to the Supreme Court, including one first Latina. And he has recently nominated the first woman to be a four-star general in the history of the Air Force.
The United States was at the forefront in 2009 and 2010 in leading efforts at the UN to support the consolidation of the UN’s existing gender-related institutions into a single more effective women’s agency. Ms. Brimmer said it was their goal at the UN to elevate women’s issues to their rightful status.
United States is also playing a leading role, along with international partners, in supporting empowerment of women, within the UN system, through participation in the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).