Today we are celebrating the international women’s day. This year the 8th of March coincides with the 57th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), which takes place these days in New York. Delegations from all UN member states are at the CSW to discuss the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls. This brings one of the most serious problems in the world to the forefront of the international development agenda. For women in the age group 15 to 44 years violence is responsible for more deaths and disabilities than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war put together.
The run up to the CSW has been marked by a number of incidents, which places increased attention on the issue of gender equality and the need to combat violence against women and girls. The shooting of the Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai, the brutal rape incidents in several countries and the death of an Irish woman who was denied access to abortion. These horrific examples of assaults stress the need for action – both preventive and remedial.
Minister for Development Cooperation, Christian Friis Bach, states:
“Today we are celebrating the international women’s day. At the same time the UN Commission on the Status of Women is meeting to discuss elimination and prevention of violence against women and girls. Violence against women and girls are sadly still a very serious problem worldwide. For Denmark the right of women and girls to decide over their own bodies and their own lives free of discrimination is a key issue. The world should not have to see another Malala or renewed examples of very serious incidents of rape. Denmark will continue to fight religious and conservative forces engaged in a campaign to undermine the rights of women and girls. I hope the CSW will agree to strong and ambitious results with concrete recommendations that will strengthen efforts to combat violence against women and girls.”
In this first week of the CSW, the Minister for Development Cooperation approved a grant of 15 million DKK to efforts to combat gender-based violence in two of the world’s most fragile states, Sudan and Somalia, where women are fighting to gain access to their most basic rights.
The 57th Session of the CSW takes place in New York from 4th to 15th March. It gathers delegations from all UN Member States around the theme “elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls”. The Danish Government is represented by the Danish Minister for Gender Equality leading a delegation of parliamentarians, civil servants and civil society representatives. During the negotiations Denmark will focus on the link between women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights and violence. The right to decide over one’s own body and life is considered a fundamental right in Denmark. But this view is not shared by all. Together with a group of like-minded countries Denmark is facing an “un-holy” alliance of religious and conservative forces who, based on a notion that inequality between men and women is completely acceptable or even God-given, are trying to undermine previous progress.
Violence against women has to be fought by addressing the underlying causes to violence – the systematic gender discrimination and lack of influence many women and girls are experiencing. Denmark is actively supporting that the CSW will reach agreement on concrete measures that will strengthen the prevention of violence and support women against violence, including securing access to key services.
Through its development cooperation Denmark is supporting a range of activities aimed at preventing violence and supporting women exposed to violence. This week the Minister for Development Cooperation approved an allocation of 15 million DKK for programmes in Sudan and Somalia as well as global activities. The grant will be channelled through UNFPA, which has extensive experience with fighting gender-based violence and promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights. The grant is part of a humanitarian partnership agreement between Denmark and UNFPA.