by Stephanie Parker
UNITED NATIONS, March 6 (Xinhua) -- A top UN official told Xinhua that she has placed a dire appeal to the international community to acknowledge brutality against women as "a social disease," and called for more effective governmental steps to promote progress of women in all necessary fields.
The brutality against women is "a social disease, not a biological disease that no one knows what to do about. On the contrary, we know what to do to prevent it," Michelle Bachelet, the executive director of UN Women said in a recent exclusive interview with Xinhua in the midst of the 57th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), which opened here Monday.
The first step to end this "social disease" is through acknowledgment of its "characteristic differences" in various parts of the world, said Bachelet, the former Chilean president and the UN under-secretary-general.
More specifically, it is better for the world to first look at the divergences between the developing and developed world, she said.
In developed countries, women and girls are facing "domestic violence, rape, and sexual violence" while in underdeveloped countries, violence against women is "linked with poverty," she said.
Statistically speaking, she said, in "countries like Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the United States, intimate partner violence accounts for 40 to 70 percent of all female murders," despite more shelter availability and financial resources in these nations.
Meanwhile, she said, that in the underdeveloped world, "there are many situations of violence, with poverty or in the situation with women and girls living with HIV/AIDS and that makes them very vulnerable to violence."
However, in these circumstances "parents either do not want or they can not feed their child and they believe they are giving them a better opportunity so they give the girl to a man that can feed her and make her his wife" or "unfortunately they sell the girls," she said.
At this time, "140 million girls have been victims of female mutilation" and "64 million girls married before the age of 18 or the legal age to get married," she said, adding that some of these girls involved in early marriages fell between nine and 13 years old.
These figures "are appalling, impressive and dramatic," she said. "To decrease these numbers we need more country commitments and action plans."
GOALS OF THE UN COMMISSION
At this year's 11-day CSW conference, which is scheduled to conclude on March 15, the women's agency is beckoning the international community to recognize "violence against women (as) one of the most pervasive violations of human rights worldwide," and make more commitments through the adoption of a comprehensive document, she said.
This global agreement will reiterate the principles of the commission's creation 67 years ago.
The commission was created in accordance with the UN Economic and Social Council resolution 11 (II) on June 21, 1946, to promote "women's rights in political, economic, civil, social and educational fields" and the role of the Commission to make " recommendations to the Council on urgent problems requiring immediate attention in the field of women's rights," according to a document posted at the UN website.
As of now, women are still facing high levels of violence and " the world can no longer afford the costs," she said. "Seven out of 10 women in the world will experience violence in their lifetime, with some facing it everyday."
This chilling statistic translates into 70 percent of women across the world being affected by abuse and that is why all countries need to focus on decreasing this number and come to an agreement, which a decade ago was not possible, she said.
The 2003 conference on women was tasked with tackling the same theme: eliminating violence against women and girls.
Unfortunately at that time "we were unable to come to an agreement," she said.
"Today, we simply cannot afford this and indecision that blocks progress for all of those women. So that is why political will is key if we want progress," she added.
Out of the 193 UN member states, only "125 countries have laws that outlaw 'abuse' against women but in those countries they lack the implementation" which leave "603 million women" with no legal recourse, she said.
Consequently, "we are hopeful that countries will have open dialogue where they discuss what has worked and what has not," she said. "Apart from that is the reporting fact, there will be a particular activity on government and lessons learned and what they have done and what they need to continue doing."
"We hope all countries of the UN will commit to say we are going to support this because you know what happens there are conventions and laws," she said, adding that during the conference "new commitments" will be presented.