Between International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25th and International Human Rights Day on December 10th, thousands of organizations and activists all over the world are working to highlight the global scourge of violence against women and girls.
As Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues Melanne Verveer said, "Striking a blow against a woman is a blow against human rights:"
"Gender-based violence is a global pandemic. It cuts across all borders. It is not just a women’s problem. It affects all of us – men and women, girls and boys."
Violence against women and girls is not only a moral challenge and a human rights violation, said Ambassador Verveer. It also carries with it a terrible economic consequence and undermines productivity. "Violence against women and girls leaves all of our communities poorer. Businesses close, incomes shrink, families go hungry, and children grow up internalizing behavior that perpetuates the cycle of violence."
The negative consequences on health are significant as well. “The health costs to women include not only the detrimental impact on their physical well-being, such as increased susceptibility to HIV infection, but also mental health costs for both women and their children.”
In addition to the myriad chores women do in the household, including raising and teaching their children, many also work in the informal economy, earning a living selling market goods or as domestic workers. As a result, when a woman cannot work because of injury, the cost is often hidden.
That is why investing in the prevention and prosecution of acts of aggression against women may cost money upfront, but it pays off in the long run.
"Prevention, protection and prosecution are essential and we must add a fourth "P" as well: combating gender-based violence must be a priority," said Ambassador Verveer.
"We must end the impunity that too often leaves the most egregious perpetrators unaccountable for their crimes. Violence against women and girls is a crime, not something private or cultural. We must redress the low status of women and girls around the world that renders them undervalued and vulnerable," she said.
"We must support the inclusion of men and boys in addressing and preventing violence and changing gender attitudes, increase accountability and commitment by community and government leaders on this issue, as well as highlight and promote effective programs that are already successfully at work."
"No country can progress by leaving half its people behind. . . . The consequences are simply too great for us to not act."