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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

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)

Next Story

Bangladesh Opposition Denies Election Result, Claims Vote-Rigging

Some were told, inside the polling booth, to vote in a particular manner; others were excluded from voting itself.

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Women stand in a line at a voting center to cast their ballot during the general election in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Dec. 30, 2018. VOA

While Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is preparing to form a government for a record third consecutive term, her party’s landslide win in Sunday’s general elections has been tainted by violence and allegations of vote-rigging.

After reports began piling up of alleged manipulation of votes and voters, as well as reports of opposition party polling agents not being allowed to enter voting centers by ruling party supporters, the Jatiya Oikya Front (JOF), the largest opposition alliance, has called for Sunday’s election to be declared null and void.

JOF chairman Kamal Hossain said a “vote robbery” had taken place across the country.

“We reject the reported results of this farcical election and are calling for a fresh election under a nonpartisan government,” Hossain said.

The election authority, however, rejected the accusation of vote-rigging and said Sunday’s polling would stand.

‘Cannot conduct another…election’

“Across the country, huge number(s) of people enthusiastically took part in the election in a peaceful environment. The 30 December polling has now made way to the formation of a new government. … No, we cannot conduct another fresh election now. This is no way possible at all,” said Bangladesh’s chief election commissioner, Nurul Huda.

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Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina gestures after casting her vote in the morning during the general election in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Dec. 30, 2018. VOA

 

After the Awami League (AL) and its allies won 288 of the 300 parliamentary seats in Sunday’s polling, the election commission said the ruling party would form the government. The main opposition alliance of JOF won six seats.

The country’s first contested election in a decade has been marred by weeks of violence, allegedly unleashed by ruling party supporters, a mass arrest of opposition party leaders and activists, and the deaths of at least 17 people on Sunday.

​The government had promised the election would be free, fair and all-inclusive. Weeks before the election, however, opposition party candidates began reporting attacks by supporters of the ruling Awami League party.

Opposition candidates filed hundreds of complaints with election authorities, alleging ruling party supporters were not allowing them to carry out their campaigns.

Video clips, which claimed to show AL leaders violently threatening opposition party supporters to stay away from polling places, circulated in social media during the run-up to Sunday’s election.

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An opposition BNP activist is being arrested by policemen in Dhaka. In 2018, thousands of opposition leaders and activists were arrested in Bangladesh on allegedly trumped up cases of political violence. VOA

 

Allegations of intimidation

The opposition alliance alleged tens of thousands of its polling agents, intimidated by ruling party activists, were forced to stay away from polling stations around the country Sunday.

The alliance also alleged that in the presence of election and security officials, Awami League polling agents and supporters illegally stuffed ballot boxes at many voting centers. One JOF candidate reported that he witnessed AL activists stuffing ballots at a voting center in his constituency. His claim could not be independently verified.

Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir claimed Sunday’s election was massively rigged by the Awami League and the rigging began starting Saturday evening. BNP, the largest opposition party in Bangladesh, is a member of the JOF alliance.

“We were reported (on Saturday night) that police had entered different voting centers, accompanied by Awami League leaders and activists, before leaving the place after half or one hour. In the presence of the election officials, they stuffed the ballot boxes during the night,” Alamgir said.

Senior AL leader Mahbubul Alam Hanif said the charge of rigging was baseless.

“Can they present any evidence of rigging? Can they show any evidence of any booth being captured by force or some people casting votes fraudulently? They cannot present any evidence in support of their charge. Yet, they are claiming that votes have been rigged,” Hanif told VOA.

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An opposition BNP activist is being arrested by policemen in Dhaka. In 2018, thousands of opposition leaders and activists were arrested in Bangladesh on allegedly trumped up cases of political violence. VOA

 

Despite Bangladesh’s chief election commissioner saying no to new elections, JOF chairman Hossain said Tuesday that his alliance would submit a memorandum to the election commission Thursday, calling for a fresh election.

In a statement Tuesday, the European Union said that “Violence has marred the election day, and significant obstacles to a level playing field remained in place throughout the process and have tainted the electoral campaign and the vote.” The EU called for “a proper examination of allegations of irregularities.”

Forming new government

Yet AL is also preparing to form the new government, with winning candidates taking their parliamentary oaths on Thursday. An official noted the process would be completed by January 10.

After declaring victory, Hasina said in an address that her aim is to work for the “welfare of the people” of Bangladesh.

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Salahuddin Ahmed, a Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) candidate for general election, is seen bleeding as he was stabbed on a election day in Dhaka, Dec. 30, 2018. VOA

 

“(Victory in) this election has given me a chance to work for the country for five more years. … I am thankful to all for this,” she said.

Despite the pace of forming a new government, many rights issue groups say the allegations of vote-rigging cannot be ignored.

Iftekharuzzaman (who uses one name), executive director of anti-graft watchdog Transparency International Bangladesh, called for a judicial probe over the reported cases of rigging in Sunday’s election.

“Conduct of fair probe of such incidents by the EC to determine its deficit and making this public are essential in our view,” Iftekharuzzaman told VOA.

Also Read: Bangladesh Prime Minister Wins Another Term, Opposition Rejects Result

“In addition, ensuring justice through a judicial probe of the allegations of immense value for the credibility, self-confidence and public trust in the government, that is being formed in the wake of an unprecedented outcome of an unprecedented election,” he added.

Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of the international rights advocacy group Human Rights Watch, said reports that people were not allowed to vote as they wished is a very serious allegation.

“Some were told, inside the polling booth, to vote in a particular manner; others were excluded from voting itself. These are all very serious allegations and the opposition is already calling for a re-poll, and the government must address all these concerns as soon as possible,” Ganguly told VOA. “The international community cannot ignore these allegations and should take them seriously.” (VOA)