Violence against women one of biggest scourges says UN rights' chief

(Photo: REUTERS / Enrique Castro-Mendivil)Women holding signs take part in a "Slutwalk" to protest against discrimination and violence against women, in Lima November 9, 2013. The march is part of the SlutWalk protest movement which started after a policeman advised women students in Canada to "avoid dressing like sluts".

GENEVA, Switzerland - Violence against women remains one of the greatest scourges of our time, the United Nations High Commissioner High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said Friday.

"It is disgraceful that even today, for many women and girls everywhere, violence is lurking around street corners, in workplaces or in their very own homes," she said from Geneva.

"And too often, justice is elusive," said Pillay who joined churches and others throughout the world to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on Monday.

Pillay called for people around the world to do their part to eliminate the harmful gender stereotypes that help perpetuate a climate where violence against women is considered acceptable or "deserved."

"Violence is simply and totally unacceptable – no matter what she was wearing," she said citing global examples of where women assaulted can become victims in accusations against them for their attire.

Throughout the world church leaders and activists are looking at ways to highlight and stem violence against women.

Discrimination against women persists in "veiled, underhand and unspoken" ways, even in "supposedly egalitarian nations," human rights activist Bianca Jagger said in London on Thursday at a lecture sponsored by the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Speaking at Church House, Westminster, Jagger argued that "embedded deep in our cultures still lurks an institutional belief that women are inferior."


In a talk entitled "Ending Violence Against Women and Girls, and the Culture of Impunity," she appealed to world leaders to adopt what she called "the missing Millennium Development Goal" of eliminating violence against women.

In the northern England area of Cumbria church leaders from the main denominations are supporting a campaign in which men can make a pledge not to condone or commit violence against women.

White Ribbon Day on November 25 is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

It marks the start of 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, The Westmorland Gazette newspaper reported Friday.

At a recent meeting the church leaders signed up to the White Ribbon Pledge which reads, "I pledge never to commit, condone, or remain silent about men's violence against women in all its forms."

Church of England Bishop of Penrith, Rev. Robert Freeman said, "I am really pleased to support the 16 days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence."

He said 58 other Anglican bishops will also wear a white ribbon to show their concern for what they said is a disturbing but often unspoken issue in society.

"All domestic violence is wrong. However, statistics show that the overwhelming majority of domestic violence is by men against women, and is often behind closed doors within our families.

"Men need to increasingly be clear that they stand against all gender-based violence, and we all need to empower and support women and all survivors of abuse and violence, by becoming visible in standing against gender-based violence in all its forms."

Their meeting follows their long support for a county partnership project also highlighting the prevalence and impact of domestic abuse.

The scheme is run between Churches Together in Cumbria, Letgo and Safer Cumbria, provides training for clergy and pastoral carers.

The White Ribbon Pledge was signed by the following Cumbria Church leaders: Bill Bewley, representative of Religious Society of Friends (Quakers); Rev. Andrew Dodd, Network Minister for Cumbria, North West Baptist Association; Rev. Michael Campbell, Roman Catholic Bishop of Lancaster; Rev. Richard Church, NW Synod Moderator, United Reformed Church; Rev. Robert Freeman, Church of England Bishop of Penrith; Major Drew McCombe, Divisional Leader, Salvation Army NW Division and others.

In November the World Council of Chruches relaunched a campaign called "Women in Black" campaign in which people dress in black each Thursday to protest violence against women.

It was originally an initiative of women in support of Serbian and Croatian women affected by sexual assault during the Balkan war in the 1990s.

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