Sexual and reproductive health

Working together to end violence against women and girls

Photo of the panellists
Panellists at the United Nations, Geneva.

16 days of activism against gender violence (25 November to 10 December 2012)

Geneva, 23 November 2012: The Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations, WHO, UNFPA and OHCHR convened partners from several society, country missions and international organizations to discuss the scope and scale of violence against women and girls, the health and social consequences, how it can be prevented and how to respond to the needs of survivors.

Call for action

The Panel, moderated by Ms Madeleine Rees, Secretary General, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, had among the distinguished panellists: H.E. Ms Elissa Golberg, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations and International Organizations in Geneva; Dr Marleen Temmerman, Director Department of Reproductive Health and Research, WHO; Mr Dean Peacock, Founding Director, Sonke Gender Justice and a Member of the Secretary-General’s Network of Men Leaders; Ms Marcia Kran, Director, Research and Right to Development Division, OHCHR; Ms Michelle Higelin, Deputy General-Secretary, World YWCA. The panellists very eloquently highlighted the wide scope of this problem, which knows no borders, and has enormous and costly social, health and economic consequences. The responses cut across multiple sectors and areas. Partners must, therefore, work together to make a difference.

WHO activities

New information sheets on VAW

Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO): Panel discussion on 10 December 2012

Breaking the cycle: the intersections of violence against women and violence against children at PAHO, Washington DC from 9.30 to 12.30.

Statement and country information sheets: South-East Asia Region (SEARO)

The Regional Director of SEARO made a statement on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Country information sheets on gender-based violence will be posted on the week of 27/11/12.

Specifically, the following points were highlighted:

  • Violence against women (VAW) is a major violation of women’s human rights and a public health problem affecting millions of women and girls. Women and children experience short and long-term physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health consequences of such violence.
  • Good news is that many countries have made commitments to international and national frameworks to end VAW. There is an urgent need for countries to implement their existing commitments.
  • Men and boys have a critical role to play in preventing VAW. Men and boys who are making a positive change towards ending VAW must be supported in building an alternative narrative about “what it means to be a man”.
  • A human rights-based approach to prevention of VAW must include legislative frameworks as well as comprehensive policy responses that raise awareness and address underlying socio-economic causes.
  • The health sector has a critical role to play in prevention and provision of services as part of a multi-sectoral response to VAW. Health providers need to be trained in providing services and referrals to support survivors of violence.
  • Strengthening the role of women as agents of change to end VAW requires investments in women’s movements, economic independence and education.

Message from the UN Secretary-General Bank Ki-moon

UN Secretary-General

Millions of women and girls around the world are assaulted, beaten, raped, mutilated or even murdered in what constitutes appalling violations of their human rights. All too often, perpetrators go unpunished. Women and girls are afraid to speak out because of a culture of impunity. We must fight the sense of fear and shame that punishes victims who have already endured crime and now face stigma. It is the perpetrators who should feel disgraced, not their victims. As we build on these efforts, we must fundamentally challenge the culture of discrimination that allows violence to continue. On this International Day, I call on all Governments to make good on their pledges to end all forms of violence against women and girls in all parts of the world, and I urge all people to support this important goal.


The panel discussion was co-sponsored by the Permanent Missions of Chile, Finland, Republic of Mauritius, Norway, Thailand and the United States of America as well as Sonke Gender Justice, World YWCA and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.