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Violence against Women and Girls Imposes Large-scale Costs on Families, Communities and Economies, says UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

November 25 is the start of the United Nation’s 16-day campaign to raise awareness against gender-based violence

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A woman covers her mouth with a tape that reads "My sexuality is not your conjugal right" during a demonstration to support International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in Santiago, Chile, Nov. 25, 2016. VOA
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Much remains to be done to turn the awareness of violence against women and girls into meaningful change, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Friday.

“Violence against women and girls imposes large-scale costs on families, communities and economies,” Ban said in a statement Friday marking International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls. “When women cannot work as a result of violence, their employment may be put at risk, jeopardizing much-needed income, autonomy and their ability to leave abusive relationships.”

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November 25 is the start of the United Nation’s 16-day campaign to raise awareness against gender-based violence. It ends December 10, Human Rights Day.

Resources, funding lacking

Violence against women and girls is not only a human rights violation but also an obstacle to sustainable development, Ban said. He lamented that efforts to address such violence, while having strong political commitment, suffer from lack of resources, including funding.

Watch: Reversing the Trend by artist and activist Rand Jarallah

“The statistics almost defy belief. What is even harder to understand is why: why men prey on women and girls; why societies shame the victims, why governments fail to punish deadly crimes, why the world denies itself the fruits of women’s full participation,” Ban said at a U.N. Women-hosted Orange the World event in New York.

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“This is truly a matter of life and death,” he added. “In some countries, as many as 70 percent of women report having experienced physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner. In some countries, intimate partner violence accounts for between 40 and 70 percent of female murder victims.”

Ban said gender-based violence also results in lost productivity for businesses and drains resources from social services, the justice system and health care agencies. The net result, he said, is “enormous suffering as well as the exclusion of women from playing their full and rightful roles in society.”

Ban is observing the U.N. day for the last time as U.N. chief. Incoming U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres takes over January 1, 2017.

Students wearing masks pose with the word "Enough" written on their hands during a performance to commemorate victims of gender violence, during the U.N. International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, in Oviedo, Spain Nov. 25, 2016. VOA
Students wearing masks pose with the word “Enough” written on their hands during a performance to commemorate victims of gender violence, during the U.N. International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, in Oviedo, Spain Nov. 25, 2016. VOA

Marches mark the day

Around the world, dozens of protests were held Friday to mark the day.

In Turkey, protesters, mostly women, in Istanbul and Ankara spoke out against a recent proposal in parliament that critics said would legitimize child marriages. The proposal was withdrawn in its current form earlier this week and submitted for review by a parliamentary committee after mass protests last weekend.

“They discussed a proposal (the child marriage bill) last week. We came together as 137 organizations to raise our voices against the laws against women that AKP (Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party) tried to inaugurate. We will tell them that we won’t let the parliament pass the bills that are against women and children,” Meltem Kolgazi, an academic, said.

Thousands protest in Buenos Aires

In Latin America, tens of thousands of demonstrators marched in Buenos Aires to protest horrific violence against women, a long-ignored issue in the region. About 200 women have been killed by former or current partners so far in 2016, AFP reported.

Thousands also marched in Chile, Uruguay, Colombia, Venezuela and Guatemala, with another planned Saturday in Peru, according to the French news agency AFP.

A study by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) found that domestic violence, which is illegal in Latin America, is vastly underreported. A PAHO study said only 14 percent of female victims report violent crimes they have suffered.

A woman waits for a protest to start in Mexico City, Nov. 25, 2016. VOA
A woman waits for a protest to start in Mexico City, Nov. 25, 2016. VOA

Activists call for women’s strike March 8.

Events focused on eliminating gender-based violence were also held this week in Israel, Australia, Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates.

Buenos Aires protester Dora Machicado, 42, told AFP that equality for women would translate to less violence.

“Economic independence frees us from the violence of machismo,” she said.

Activists are also calling for a worldwide women’s strike March 8, 2017. Organizers said strikes are planned in Argentina, Germany, Italy, Russia, Israel, South Korea and Mexico. (VOA)

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Emergence of Radical Political Groups Raises Concern in Pakistan

Concerns are being voiced about how a few radical groups with proven terror ties have been allowed to re-brand themselves as political parties.

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Rising concerns in Pakistan regarding radical terrorist groups establishing themselves as political parties. VOA
Rising concerns in Pakistan regarding radical terrorist groups establishing themselves as political parties. VOA
  • Tension in Pakistan increasing due to emergence of Radical Political Groups.
  • Extremist groups are gaining a footing in Country’s politics.
  • According to reports, goverment’s efforts are not enough to stop the emerging radicalism in Pakistan.

Concerns are being voiced in Pakistan about how a few radical groups with proven terror ties have been allowed to re-brand themselves as political parties.

Taj Haider, one of the prominent and founding members of the opposition Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which has been in power five times since 1970, told VOA the country is again seeing the trend of extremist groups camouflaging themselves to enter into politics.

“Religion and politics cannot go hand in hand, but unfortunately this is our new reality. We have seen the recent by-elections in Lahore and Peshawar where militant-turned-political parties were able to mobilize people and gather votes,” Haider said. “And these so-called new political parties, with proven terror records, look determined to contest the upcoming elections in 2018.”

In a recent high-level party meeting presided by PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of Pakistan’s slain Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the government was sharply criticized on its inability to forcefully implement the National Action Plan and bar proscribed groups from entering the political sphere.

The National Action Plan is a 20-point strategy devised to combat extremism in 2015 that clearly states no banned groups can operate in the country by changing their names or identity.

Analysts say many other political parties are also agitated and wary about the recent political dynamic that has allowed radicalized groups to enter the political arena.

“The government has repeatedly said it will not allow the hardliners to enter into politics, but the reality is different, these parties are going into masses,” Rasul Baksh Raees, a prominent analyst from Pakistan told VOA.

“As long as these proscribed groups stick to their extreme ideologies and violence, they will be a danger to the society and democracy itself.”

Hafiz Saeed
Hafiz Saeed, head of the Pakistani religious party. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

PPP’s acute criticism came as Hafiz Saeed, the alleged mastermind of 2008 Mumbai terror attacks and leader of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), inaugurated the office of his newly launched political party Milli Muslim League (MML) in the eastern city of Lahore.

Pakistan’s Election Commission rejected MML’s party registration application in October, citing its link to Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a U.S. designated terror-sponsoring organization.

But MML looks determined to contest the upcoming state and provincial elections. The party has several offices, has launched a website, and has a social media team spreading its messages through Facebook and Twitter.

Pakistan’s government has repeatedly emphasized it will not tolerate any political party with a proven record of promoting violence and terrorism to use democracy and political means to spread their extreme ideologies.

But critics still say the government is not doing enough to stop radical groups from entering politics.

“Look what happened in Lahore’s recent by-election and who can forget the power show by extremists on the roads of Islamabad. The government was totally helpless,” Raees said.

During the Lahore election in September, a MML backed independent candidate secured the fourth position in the race. The by-election was also contested by Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TeL), another extremist religious party created to carry-on Mumtaz Qadri’s mission, the bodyguard who killed Punjab’s Governor Salman Taseer in 2011 after he had demanded reforms in the controversial blasphemy law. Mumtaz Qadri was later sentenced to death.

Islamic Extremists
Supporters of the Tehreek-e-Labaik party (VOA)

In November, thousands of followers of the Islamist group Tehreek-e-Labaik blocked Islamabad roads for weeks and demanded the resignation of Law Minister Zahid Hamid, after accusing him of blasphemy. The government eventually surrendered to hardliners’ demands after Pakistan’s military played the role of mediator.

The experts say the emerging trend of politicizing militancy is a danger to democracy. They also point out the sectarian and hardline rationale will further complicate the situation in the country that has been trying to combat terrorism for more than a decade.

“Imagine when these hardliners, through political parties, will spread their extreme views on the grassroots level. What will be the future of this country?” Raees said.

But some politicians dismiss the blending of radicalized groups into politics. Haider believes the people of Pakistan can differentiate between politicians and extremists and will not allow militant-turned-politicians to thrive.

“If you look at the past, the religious parties including the Jamaat-i-Islami [an old religious party], despite having a huge following, were never able to clean sweep or get majority in the electoral process of the country,” said Haider.

“Even now, with all these efforts, I believe Milli Muslim League or Tehreek-e-Labaik will not be able to pull large numbers during the general elections. Religious or sectarian votes are scattered in the country and can’t be unified and will not help these newly established political parties to win a prominent number of seats.” VOA