Tuesday, November 25 marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, during which we are reminded of the horrific acts of violence against women and girls that take place every day, everywhere. On that day, the three of us swore never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women. We encourage all Kenyan men to join us.
Violence against women and girls takes many forms –physical, sexual psychological and economic. It hinders women’s participation and contribution to community development. Most often, the abuse is by someone she knows, including a husband or another male relative. Violence not only affects women, but also children, families and communities. It is a burden on national economies and a threat to lasting peace and sustainable development.
The problem of violence is not unique to Kenya but is a global scourge. More than one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex, or abused. The Kenya Demographic and Health Survey 2008-09 found that 45% of women aged 15-49 have experienced physical or sexual violence. In parts of the Pacific, the rate is as high as two in three surveyed women. In Australia, one woman is killed every week by a current or former partner. Such violence is a significant problem in every country and requires a global response.
It is critical for nations to share knowledge, experiences, expertise and show political will in ending violence against women and girls, and to address the attitudes and behaviours that perpetuate, justify and fail to counter such violence. Each individual, community and government has a responsibility to speak out. The attacks by men against women in Kenya deemed to be inappropriately dressed are not in keeping with Kenya’s status as a regional role model in promoting women’s rights. There is no reason, no rationalization, no provocation that can justify a woman being stripped and beaten. This is violence against women, plain and simple, and should be recognised and condemned as such.
We applaud Kenya’s leadership, through institutions, policies and legislation to address gender equality and women’s empowerment, and congratulate Kenya on joining the HeForShe movement, UN Women’s solidarity movement for gender equality. Like Kenya, we believe gender equality should be at the heart of all our development efforts. We are committed to securing a dedicated goal on women and girls in the Post 2015 development framework.
The UK government is working to end sexual violence in conflict and recognises the importance of empowering and equipping peace support operations to fulfil their mandate to protect civilians. This year, we hosted over 151 countries at a global summit to end sexual violence in conflict. Prime Minister David Cameron also hosted the UK’s first Girl Summit in July which mobilised efforts to end Female Genital Mutilation and child, early and forced marriage.
Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs is a Champion of the UK’s Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative, and is also actively promoting the Women, Peace and Security agenda at the United Nations Security Council. In October, Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls, Natasha Stott Despoja, drew attention to the particular vulnerability of women and girls in conflict and called for an end to sexual violence.
Canada is committed to protecting women and girls from violence, and promoting their human rights, empowerment and well-being. Recently, Canada and Zambia co-led a resolution on child, early and forced marriage at the United Nations, which was co-sponsored by 116 countries. Canada is also at the forefront of international efforts to address sexual violence against women in conflict, including committing up to $10 million to support survivors of sexual violence in the Middle East. In Kenya, Canada is supporting the Kenyan Federation of Women Lawyers and Equality Effect to improve access to justice for women and girls who are victims of sexual violence.
Ultimately, it is about individuals and the choices they make. Our collective efforts are needed to achieve profound and lasting change around the world; not just for the benefit of women and girls, but for all of us.
Australian High Commissioner- H.E. Geoff Tooth
British High Commissioner- H.E. Dr. Christian Turner
Canadian High Commissioner- H.E. David Angell