UNITED NATIONS (FinalCall.com) – The United Nations has termed violence against women a universal crime. The world body has, therefore, designated Nov. 25 as the “International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women.”

The World Health Organization estimates that nearly one in four women will be raped, beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime, sometimes with fatal consequences.

“Violence against women is the most pervasive violation of human rights, occurring every day, in every country and every region, regardless of income or level of development,” stated Noeleen Heyzer, executive director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) in a press release on Nov. 22.


Ms. Heyzer stated that the real extent of the problem of violence against women is unknown. “Owing to fear of reprisal for reporting events, refusal by authorities to recognize the problem or knowledge that nothing will be done,” she said in the statement.

“Far too often, especially in communities of color and in immigrant communities, women are fearful of reporting abuse or don’t know where to seek help,” said Councilwoman Yvette Clarke (D-Bklyn.), who is the co-chair of the New York City Council’s Women’s Caucus. “Domestic violence continues to be a shameful and insidious silent tragedy in our community,” she said in an emailed statement to The Final Call.

She also noted that the Women’s Caucus garnered $9.5 million in funding for domestic violence prevention and awareness organizations, and mentioned the importance of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which as of Sept. 30, ran out of funding.

“It is imperative that the VAWA be renewed,” Councilwoman Clarke stressed, further pointing out that, “More importantly, provisions for programs dealing with immigrants and women of color are slated to be cut in the new budget by this Republican Congress.”

On Nov. 18, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on violence against female migrant workers. The move was initiated by Indonesia and the Philippines. According to observers, the resolution specifically acknowledges the risks of violence and exploitation facing female workers.

“Ending violence against women, like other pandemics, cannot be done on the cheap,” Ms. Heyser stressed in her statement. At the 2005 World Summit, heads of states and governments emphasized that progress for women is progress for all; and committed to eliminating discrimination and violence against women.

“On this International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, let us re-dedicate ourselves to that mission,” UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan stated in a published message. Getting world leaders to keep their pledge would require a change of mindset, he said.

“It is still all too common and deep-seated that violence against women is acceptable,” Mr. Annan contended.

On Nov. 25, UNIFEM announced the awarding of 24 grants to organizations in developing nations, totaling $1.8 million. According to UNIFEM, the $1.8 million represents an 80 percent increase from 2004. The grants were awarded by the Trust Fund to Eliminate Violence Against Women. The trust fund received over 1,059 proposals, but could only fund 24. Since its inception in 1996, the fund has awarded $10 million to 198 initiatives in 100 nations.

(For more information on the trust fund, visit www.unifem.org/genderissues/violence against women/trust fund.php.)