26 November 2003



(Reissued as received.)



NEW YORK, 24 November (UNFPA) -- Women and girls should be safe in their homes, on the streets, in the workplace and in school, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Executive Director, said today on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination on Violence against Women.  Yet, far too many live in fear and countless others have paid with their lives, she stated.


The UNFPA called for zero tolerance of gender-based violence.  “As long as it persists, we cannot claim to be making steady progress towards equality, development and peace”, said the Executive Director.  She encouraged people to ask themselves:  “How many more rapes, wife beatings, and killings in the name of honour must women endure?  How many more women must be disfigured with acid or doused in petrol and set aflame?  When will the impunity that is enjoyed by so many offenders finally be brought to an end?”


The massive and systematic violations of women’s human rights require a massive and systematic response, said the Executive Director. She urged all governments to renew their commitment, and urged all religious and local leaders, and members of every family and community, to stand firmly against gender-based violence.


Ms. Obaid recognized progress that has been made, as well as the valuable work of activists worldwide to end these crimes, but stressed that much remains to be done. “Police and military officers must be properly trained to protect women’s rights”, she said. “Laws penalizing violence against women and girls must be strengthened and vigorously implemented. And services for survivors offering shelter, counselling, and medical care must be urgently established”.


Ending violence against women and girls is a priority for the UNFPA.  In Timor-Leste, the UNFPA delivers strong messages to communities through a drama group.  The UNFPA is also training all police officers there to deal with domestic violence cases.  The Fund also works with representatives from the Government, local communities, the church and women’s groups.


On the occasion of the Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, 25 November, the UNFPA is also launching the three-minute Web film entitled, “Women, War, Health”. Translated into nine languages, this clip highlights the urgent need to protect women's health in war and refugee settings.  From Kosovo to Congo, the use of rape as a weapon of war is alarmingly widespread.  The UNFPA works with partners to help minimize and provide treatment for cases of sexual violence, to provide life-saving medical supplies and assistance to pregnant women, and to halt the spread of HIV/AIDS.  The Web film can be viewed at http://www.unfpa.org.


The UNFPA is the world’s largest multilateral source of population assistance.  Since it became operational in 1969, the Fund has provided substantial assistance to developing countries, at their request, to meet reproductive health needs and support development efforts.


For more information, please contact:  Abubakar Dungus at tel:  1 (212) 297-5031, dungus@unfpa.org or visit UNFPA’s Web site at www.unfpa.org.


For questions about the Web film, please contact David Del Vecchio at tel: 1 (212) 297-4975 or delvecchio@unfpa.org.








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