Thursday, October 21, 2010

Violence against women: 'pandemic proportions'

UN Report Sheds Light on Rape as Weapon of War
Agence France Presse: Sexual violence as a weapon of war and as an outcome of turmoil and disaster is inflicting a terrifying toll on women, the United Nations said on Wednesday.

'Women rarely wage war, but they too often suffer the worst of its consequences,' the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) said in its annual snapshot of the world's population.

'Gender-based violence, including rape, is a repugnant and increasingly familiar weapon of war. The immediate toll it takes extends far beyond its direct victims, insidiously tearing apart families and shattering societies for generations to come.'...

UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid said conflict today was less and less about soldiers confronting each other on the battlefield and more about seeking to break the will of civilians. 'In many of today's conflicts women are disempowered by rape or the threat of it, and by the HIV infection, trauma and disabilities that often result from it,' she said. 'Girls are disempowered when they cannot go to school because of the threat of violence, when they are abducted or trafficked, or when their families disintegrate or must flee.'

Women and girls also become vulnerable in the aftermath of protracted emergencies, such as earthquakes and floods, where law and order have broken down...

'For war-affected women, justice delayed is more than justice denied -- it is terror continued,' said Margot Wallstrom, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's special representative on sexual violence in conflict.

  • At the turn of the 20th century, 5% of war casualties were civilians.
  • In World War I, 15% were civilians.
  • In World War II, the figure leapt to a 65% civilian death toll, as whole cities were bombed.
  • By the mid-nineties, 75% of war deaths were civilians.
  • Today, 90% of the human war toll are civilians -- the majority women and children.
One out of every three women worldwide is physically, sexually or otherwise abused during her lifetime.

Globally, women are still disproportionately affected by violence and abuse, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, age, or socio-economic group. As noted on the United Nations Development Fund for Women's website, violence against women has reached 'pandemic proportions.' Among women aged 15-44, acts of violence cause more death and disability than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined,' a UNIFEM fact sheet states.
Image source here.