International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women

Good morning.  It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to today’s seminar on preventing and responding to gender-based violence. This seminar, which will be replicated tomorrow on five family islands, is the result of months of collaboration between the U.S. Embassy, the Pan-American Development Foundation, the Royal Bahamas Police Force, the Ministry of Education, and the Crisis Center.  I would like to take this moment to thank our partners as we launch today’s event, which coincides with the International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women.

The United Nations in December 1999 established the International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women to raise awareness of the various forms of violence that women around the world face each day.  To highlight the scale and nature of an issue that is so often hidden, the United Nations Resolution calls for 16 Days of Activism to Eliminate Violence Against Women, which concludes annually on December 10, International Human Rights Day.

By virtue of your presence here today, you take part in this global call for action and we move one step closer to ending violence against women.

Domestic violence is a worldwide epidemic.  Studies from a range of countries, including the United States, show that 40 to 70 percent of female murder victims were killed by their husband or boyfriend, often during an abusive relationship.

In addition, studies of relationship violence among young people—often called teen dating violence—suggest that such violence affects a substantial proportion of the youth population.  And research indicates that experiencing violence as a child increases one’s risk of experiencing or perpetrating violence later in life.

Violence against women and girls, whether in our own neighborhoods or on distant shores, damages us all — men and women alike.  The challenges we face in addressing this issue require us all to work together — the international community, governments, multilateral organizations, private sector companies, and grassroots-level advocates, such as those of you here today—to prevent violence.

While many nations have passed legislation addressing gender-based violence, the next critical step is for us to work together at local and community levels to improve implementation of those laws by increasing accountability and addressing impunity.

As fellow advocates to ending this violence, I ask for your help.  We need to empower girls to speak up for themselves.  And at the same time, we must support the inclusion of men, boys, and critical community stakeholders – such as religious leaders – in addressing and preventing violence and in changing gender norms and attitudes.

I hope that today’s seminar, which is part of a broader violence and crime resistance and prevention program, will provide you with additional information, strategies, and tools that you can use to eliminate gender-based violence.

And I hope that together, we can promote the development of relationships, families, and communities in which the voices of women and children are heard, their rights are respected, and their lives are free of violence.  Thank you.