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Denmark combats violence against women and girls

International Women’s Day coincides with a session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women with a focus on combating violence against women. Ensuring that women and girls have the right to decide over their own bodies is a key issue for Denmark, says Minister for Development Cooperation Christian Friis Bach.

School children in Mogadishu Primary School inside the Kakuma Refugee Camp. The pictures are from a fourth-grade class consisting of boys and girls between the ages of 7 and 12 (and most likely also much older than that). There are 160 students of different nationalities in the class.

School children in Mogadishu Primary School inside the Kakuma Refugee Camp. The pictures are from a fourth-grade class consisting of boys and girls between the ages of 7 and 12 (and most likely also much older than that). There are 160 students of different nationalities in the class.

Photo: Maiken Lyster Thonke/Danida

The UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) will over the next two weeks discuss how to eliminate violence against women and girls. In doing so, the UN is addressing one of the most serious problems in the world. For women between 15 and 44, violence is the cause of more death and disability than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war put together.

The lead up to the meeting has been marked by a number of events that have increased international awareness about gender equality and that should increase focus on the need to combat violence against women and girls. This applies to the attempted assassination of the Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai, cases of gang rape in a number of countries and the death of an Irish woman after being refused an abortion. These horrible examples of assault emphasise the need for measures to be taken, both preventative and remedial.

Minister for Development Cooperation Christian Friis Bach states: “Today we commemorate International Women’s Day – 8 March. The day coincides with a session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women with a focus on combating violence against women. Unfortunately, violence against women and girls continues to be an extremely serious problem. Ensuring that women and girls have the right to decide over their own bodies, their own lives and that they are not discriminated against are key issues for Denmark. We must never experience a new Malala or new egregious cases of gang rape. Denmark will continue to oppose the religious and conservative forces that wish to treat women and girls like second-class citizens with fewer rights and opportunities than men and boys. I hope that during the meeting of the CSW, consensus can be reached regarding concrete measures that can strengthen the efforts to eliminate violence against women and girls.”

Prior to the meeting of the CSW, the Minister for Development Cooperation approved a grant for targeted efforts for combating gender-based violence in two of the most fragile states in the world, Sudan and Somalia, where women struggle for access to the most basic rights.

Background

The 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women takes place 4-15 March and will gather together delegations from around the world on the theme of “eliminating and preventing violence against women and girls”. The Danish Government will be represented by the Minister for Gender Equality, who will lead a delegation of members of the Folketing (Danish parliament), NGO representatives and government officials from three ministries.
During the negotiations, Denmark will direct focus on the link between women’s sexual and reproductive rights and violence. The right to decide over one’s own body and life is seen as a basic and absolutely fundamental right in Denmark. However, everyone does not share this understanding. Together with a number of like-minded countries, Denmark will face in the negotiations an “unholy” alliance of religious and deeply conservative forces that are attempting to halt any progress from being made based on a conception that inequality between men and women is completely acceptable or even actually mandated by God.

Violence against women and girls can only be fought if focus is directed on the underlying causes of the violence, the systematic gender discrimination and lack of influence over their own lives that many women and girls experience. During the session of the CSW, Denmark will work to ensure that consensus is reached on concrete measures to eliminate and prevent violence against women, such as ensuring access to services after incidents of violence.

Through its development cooperation, Denmark supports a large number of activities aimed at preventing violence and supporting women and girls who have been victims of gender-based violence. During the week, the Minister for Development Cooperation approved a grant of DKK15 million for activities in Sudan and Somalia along with global activities. The money was granted to the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, which has years of experience in combating gender-based violence and promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights. The grant is part of the humanitarian partnership agreement that Denmark has entered into with the UNFPA in order to ensure that the organisation can promote our common goals in the humanitarian field.

Further information on the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women is available at: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw/NGO.html.

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