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For too many years, the subject of violence against women and girls has been treated as a political afterthought. The U.S. is working both through the United Nations and on its own to change that, said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
When women are accorded their rights and accorded equal opportunities in education and healthcare and employment and political participation, they invest in their families and they contribute to their communities. Conversely, when they are mistreated and demeaned, then progress is not possible.
The problem of violence against women and girls is particularly acute in conflict zones. Girls are often raped and forced into becoming sex slaves. Rape as a tool of conflict is particularly common in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The U.S. introduced Security Council Resolution 1888, which was adopted on September 30, 2009 at a Council session over which Secretary Clinton presided. The resolution strengthens efforts to curb these wartime atrocities around the world and hold all those who commit them accountable. In particular, the U.S. is urging the government of the Congo to bring to justice 5 military officers who have been implicated in either perpetrating the violence or permitting it to occur.
But violence against women and girls is not exclusive to war-zones, or to any one region. There are millions -- some estimate as many as 100 million -- missing girls. And they are missing, said Secretary Clinton, because they are subjected to sex-selective abortion or female infanticide or they are denied nutrition and healthcare and allowed to die in alarming numbers before the age of 5.
The United Nations estimates that at least 5,000 so-called honor killing take place each year. Nearly 50 percent of all sexual assaults worldwide are against girls aged 15 or younger. And more than 130 million girls and young women have been subjected to genital mutilation.
In many parts of the world, said Secretary Clinton, "you find a higher value on male children, girls being coerced into early marriages, denied access to schools, adequate nutrition and healthcare, and enslaved in forced labor."
That has to change. Violence against women denies them their inherent dignity. The world cannot afford to remain silent when so many women and girls suffer the brutality of violence with impunity.