Sexual and gender-based violence is the most extreme form of the global and systemic inequality experienced by women and girls.
It knows no geographic – or socio-economic – or cultural boundaries.
Worldwide, one in three women will suffer physical or sexual violence at some point in her life. This extends from rape and domestic violence to harassment at work.
Here are some examples:
- In the year 2014, more than 200 girls were kidnapped and systematically abused – including sexually – in Nigeria.
- Recently, we have seen graphic testimony from Iraqi women survivors of rape and systemic sexual slavery, during – and after – conflict.
- In many so-called developed countries, over the past several years, there have been high-profile cases of sexual violence on sports teams and on university campuses.
- Like all other countries in the world, gender-based violence also happens here, in Iran.
Women and girls experience violence in all countries and in all neighborhoods.
But these crimes often remain unreported and hidden – sometimes because women survivors choose to remain silent.
Because they fear stigmatization and shame within their homes and communities. Their claims are often dismissed. They feel they have no-one to turn to who will respect their dignity.
We must end this silence.
Everyone has a responsibility to prevent and to end violence against women and girls.
This has to start by our challenging the pervasive culture of discrimination against women and girls – in all countries – that allows violence to continue.
We must shatter negative gender stereotypes and attitudes.
We must introduce and implement laws to prevent discrimination and end exploitation.
That is why the United Nations is happy to note that the Bill to Eliminate Violence Against Women and Girls in Iran is in the process of being finalized for submission to the Majlis
This shows the commitment of the Islamic Republic of Iran to address and resolve this issue.
But laws alone are not enough. We as individuals, must do more.
We must all – especially men – stand up against abusive behavior whenever we see it. We must say:
- “I do not agree with this.
- I will not support such action.
- It is wrong.”
We must risk criticism for standing out from the crowd.
We must condemn all acts of violence.
We must establish equality with women in our work lives. And our home lives.
We must change the everyday experiences of women and girls.
Women’s rights were once thought of as women’s business only. But, more and more, men and boys are becoming true partners – true allies – in the battle for women’s empowerment. This must continue. And it must expand.
Respect for the dignity of all human beings – which Ayatollah Moghagheq Damad just spoke about a few minutes ago – is inherent in the universal standards and norms of the United Nations. The United Nations is the custodian of the CEDAW – the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Therefore, it goes without saying that violence against women and girls is a human rights violation – as both Vice President Mowlaverdi and Ayatollah Damad have said this morning in their own interventions.
It is also a public health problem.
And it is a serious obstacle to sustainable development.
I was delighted to see Vice President Mowlaverdi speak so passionately about the Sustainable Development Goals. As you know back in September 2015, at the United Nations HQ, all countries – including Iran – adopted the 2030 Agenda which contains the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
SDG-5’s aim is very simple: to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. Empowering our women strengthens one half of the population of each country.
I am pleased that, along with many other countries, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has agreed to prepare and share its Voluntary National Report on SDG achievement – including on SDG-5 achievement – at the UN in July this year. The UN will support this effort.
But the UN also supports in other ways. This is my first public speech in the new calendar year 2017. A few days ago, at the start of 2017, our new UN Development Assistance Framework for work in Iran commenced. Our 4 priority areas are: environment, health, resilient economy and drug control. In every single one of these pillars, the UN will be undertaking programmes which will empower women.
Before closing, I would like to take a moment to thank the National Union of Iran’s Bar Associations. All the universities. All the organizations which have supported this important event. You are indeed what Ayatollah Damad has called “supporters of justice”.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I end by saying that we all have a role to play in ending violence against women. And I urge everyone in this room – as well as those beyond this room who hear our words today – to play your part in protecting women and girls from discrimination and violence.
If we stand together in our homes – in our communities – our countries and across the world – we can challenge discrimination.
We can end impunity, that is still far too prevalent on our planet.
We can put a stop to the mindset and the customs that encourage – or ignore – or tolerate the global disgrace which is called “violence against women and girls”.