Image Courtesy of UN Women.
Image Courtesy of UN Women.

This week marks the start of the 57th annual United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). Beginning March 4th and continuing until March 15th, international policymakers will convene in New York City to address this year’s theme: “elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.”

Established in 1946 by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the mission of CSW is to prepare recommendations and reports that promote women’s rights across political, economic, civil, social and educational realms. International recommendations for eliminating and preventing violence against women and girls could not have come any sooner. In recent months, acts of tremendous violence against women have occurred around the world.

INDIA: In the past few months, multiple cases of vicious sexual assault have sparked women’s rights protests throughout the nation. In December, a New Delhi woman was gang-raped on a bus and died two weeks later from injuries sustained by her abusers. Escalating India’s anti-rape protests, January brought the case of a 29-year-old woman destined for Gurdaspur who was driven to an unfamiliar village where she suffered from repeated gang-rape. The 29-year-old woman also died as a result of the attack.

SOUTH AFRICA: The controversial case involving Olympian Oscar Pistorius and his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, caught the world’s attention.  Not only did Pistorius allegedly shoot and kill Steenkamp, but the incident also occurred on Valentine’s Day, the same day women around the world participated in One Billion Rising to advocate against gender based violence.

PAKISTAN: Malala Yousafzai only wanted to attend school and gain an education. As a result of her strong belief that every girl has a right to an education, young Malala suffered an assassination attempt by The Taliban. Surviving and obtaining more international support than ever, Malala created The Malala Fund to improve opportunities for girls’ education around the world.

Not only a problem in developing countries, 83 percent of girls aged 12 to 16 experience sexual harassment in UNITED STATES’ public schools. Additionally, 40 to 70 percent of female murder victims in AUSTRALIA and CANADA are killed as a result of domestic violence. In 2011, one Gallup poll measured the gender safety gap by asking women and men from 143 countries if they felt safe walking alone at night. Results from the survey indicated high-income countries accounted for six of the top ten nations with highest gender safety gaps.* 

Globally, at least one in three women and girls is beaten or sexually abused in her lifetime.

Although only a glimpse of the international phenomenon of violence against women, the three aforementioned cases and horrific statistics demonstrate a stark need to advocate for women’s rights around the world.

We can only hope this year’s CSW establishes practical solutions for reducing such gender-based violence.

*NEW ZEALAND, ITALY, FRANCE, AUSTRALIA, THE UNITED STATES and FINLAND ranked among the top ten countries with highest gender safety gaps.

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