The Eradication of Violence against Women and Girls
The Baha'i International Community welcomes the report by the Special Rapporteur on violence against women – in particular its proposals for internationally comparable indicators to measure progress in eradicating violence against women.
The failure of nations to recognise the extent of and to decrease this form of violence has revealed the shortcomings of a ‘reactive' approach, leading many to embrace the broader goal of prevention. The challenge is how to create conditions for women and girls to develop their full potential and for all of society to support the changes required. This means not only changing legal, political and economic structures, but also transforming individuals – men and women, boys and girls – whose morals or values consciously or inadvertently sustain exploitative behaviour.
Promoting specific morals or values may be controversial, as such efforts are often associated with repressive and narrowly defined visions of the common good. Moral capabilities are essential, but the means to develop them must be consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, aimed at fostering the spiritual, social and intellectual development of all people.
Such capabilities can be taught in schools but will not be effective unless they take root in family and community. Neighbours, educators, health workers, employers, politicians, religious leaders, police, media professionals – all share responsibility for the protection of women and children.
However, the State has the duty and responsibility to protect the individual. It is at this level that enlightened leadership is desperately required. Many governments continue to hide behind cultural and religious reservations to international treaties, perpetuating a climate of legal and moral impunity and rendering this kind of violence and its victims invisible. Very few States can claim a reduction in overall prevalence. Some have the political will to adopt gender-specific measures but fail to allocate adequate resources to supervise implementation.
International indicators, based on clear definitions of violence, could serve as catalysts for an evolving process. It is excellent to note that many States seek “meaningful” indicators, including ones that can address “root causes”.
We fully support this further step in the development of effective ways to monitor State responses, and we hope that ongoing efforts will focus even more on what the Special Rapporteur calls “the neglected areas of tolerance, attitudes and prevention”.