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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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Violence And Intimidation Directed Towards Rohingyas In Bangladesh Camps

Human Rights Watch warned in a report in August that the Bangladeshi government was restricting access to basic services by resisting attempts by aid agencies.

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Rohingya, Violence
Rohingya refugees carry a hume pipe in Balukhali refugee camp near Cox's Bazar, in Bangladesh. VOA

The failed attempt to send thousands of Rohingya back to Myanmar starting this month has drawn attention to alleged violence and intimidation by security forces against members of the Muslim minority living in Bangladesh’s sprawling refugee camps.

Bangladesh has boosted its international reputation by hosting more than 730,000 Rohingya who fled a vicious campaign by Myanmar’s military last year that U.N. investigators have labelled genocide – an accusation Myanmar has consistently denied.

But Bangladesh appears keen to demonstrate that Rohingya refugees will not be welcome there indefinitely. The planned repatriations sparked fear and chaos last week as Rohingya went into hiding – and in a handful of reported cases attempted suicide – to avoid being sent back.

Rohingya, myanmar, violence
Rohingya refugee children shout slogans during a protest against the repatriation process at Unchiprang refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, in Bangladesh. VOA

Meanwhile, allegations of sporadic beatings, looting and intimidation by Bangladeshi soldiers, police and camp officials have underscored the bleak conditions faced by Rohingya in their host country, where most are denied official refugee status and face restrictions on freedom of movement.

The repatriation of some 2,000 refugees was scheduled to begin last Thursday, but Bangladesh has now put the plans on hold until next year after failing to find any Rohingya willing to go back.

Rohingya in the camps have told VOA that soldiers were stationed near the homes of those who were told they would be sent back last week, fueling fears of forced repatriation and adding to widespread distress in communities already suffering extreme trauma after last year’s violence.

One Rohingya man told VOA anonymously that block leaders in the camps were also “announcing with loudspeakers… that it’s essential for everyone to carry ID with them whenever and wherever they go if they leave their homes.”

Late last month, security forces looted property from Rohingya shopkeepers at the Balukhali camp, said John Quinley, a human rights specialist with the non-profit organization Fortify Rights.

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Rohingya refugees walk under rain clouds on June 26, 2018, in Jamtoli refugee camp in Bangladesh. VOA

“Right now the security forces are operating in the camps with total impunity,” he said.

In another case earlier this month, Fortify Rights reported that security forces rounded up 18 Rohingya leaders and slapped and hit some of them while telling them to instruct other refugees to cooperate with a new U.N.-backed project to provide them with “smart cards.”

Many Rohingya oppose the identity cards because they fear the information on them will be shared with the Myanmar government.

Bangladesh’s refugee, relief and repatriation commissioner, Abul Kalam, told VOA he was unaware of the allegations of violence but would follow up. “Generally, it is not acceptable that someone would apply force on or beat someone to do or not to do something,” he said.

Quinley called on the U.N.’s refugee agency to “do everything in their power to make sure that the Bangladeshi authorities are respecting human rights.”

Rohingya, myanmar, violence
An elderly Rohingya refugee holds a placard during a protest against the repatriation process at Unchiprang refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, in Bangladesh.VOA

Spokesperson Caroline Gluck said the agency has notified the authorities of a “small number” of reports of violence related to the smart card project. The agency has “been following up with them to ascertain the circumstances of what happened,” she told VOA.

Officials have responded that the incidents were “not linked” to the smart card project, she said.

She added, “The new ID card will enable refugees to be better protected and will streamline access to assistance and services.”

Mohammed Sheikh Anwar, a Rohingya activist, told VOA the Bangladeshi government “needs to keep the lower-level authorities in check. There should be an accountability measure.”

“Committing violence against genocide survivors to make them agree to the authorities’ terms is not the solution,” he added.

Rohingya, myanmar, violence
A Rohingya refugee woman draws water from a hand pump at a temporary shelter in New Delhi, India.

Last week a Rohingya man named Ata Ullah said he was beaten at the office of an official at the Chakmarkul camp, the Guardian reported, after he failed to provide the official with a list of refugees.

Ata Ullah said in a video circulated on social media that when he couldn’t provide the official with a list he “was beaten with a large stick… they stepped on my neck, I could not stand it.”

Also Read: Bangladesh Government Build a New Rohingya Camp

Human Rights Watch warned in a report in August that the Bangladeshi government was restricting access to basic services by resisting attempts by aid agencies and Rohingya refugees to “create any structures, infrastructure, or policies that suggest permanency.”

As a result, the report said, “refugee children do not go to school, but rather to ‘temporary learning centers,’ where ‘facilitators,’ not ‘teachers,’ preside over the classrooms. The learning centers are inadequate, only providing about two hours of instruction a day,” the report said. (VOA)