Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread violations of human rights. It can include physical, sexual, psychological and economic abuse, and it cuts across boundaries of age, race, culture, wealth and geography. It takes place in the home, on the streets, in schools, the workplace, in farm fields, refugee camps, during conflicts and crises. It has many manifestations — from the most universally prevalent forms of domestic and sexual violence, to harmful practices, abuse during pregnancy, honour killings and other types of femicide.
International and regional legal instruments have clarified obligations of States to prevent, eradicate and implement punitive measures on violence against women and girls. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, CEDAW (which celebrates its 30 years anniversary) requires that countries party to the Convention take all appropriate steps to end violence. However, the continued prevalence of violence against women and girls demonstrates that this global pandemic of alarming proportions is yet to be tackled with all the necessary political commitment and resources.
According to the UN Secretary-General’s 2006 In-Depth Study on All Forms of Violence against Women, 89 countries had some legislation on domestic violence, and a growing number of countries had instituted national plans of action. Marital rape is a prosecutable offence in at least 104 States, and 90 countries have laws on sexual harassment. However, in too many countries gaps remain. In 102 countries there are no specific legal provisions against domestic violence, and marital rape is not a prosecutable offence in at least 53 nations.
Southern Africa like all countries in the world has high levels of violence against women. In countries such as South Africa where data is readily available 1 in every 4 women is assaulted by her partner and a woman is raped every 26 seconds. South Africa is considered one of the most violent countries in the world. It does also have some of the most sophisticated ways of gathering information and is therefore an ideal choice for programming in this area. The South African Police Crime Statistics Annual Report showed that the chance of an attempted murder taking place in the Northern Cape was more than seven and a half times higher than in Limpopo. Living in the Northern Cape meant women had the highest chance of being raped - 1557 100 000. In addition a study conducted by UNICEF (2007 ) in Swaziland on Violence against children and young women indicates that 33% of young women reported that they had experienced some form of sexual violence prior to age 18; while 48% of the interviewed stated that they had experienced some form of sexual violence in their lifetime (respondents were between 13-24 years old). More than 35% of the respondents indicated that they were in the home of a relative or friend when the violation occurred clearly linking the abuse to a well known acquaintance or relative. Thirty seven percent of the 18-24 age groups who had experienced some kind of sexual abuse also indicated that they had not reported the crime because they did not know that this was abuse. The figure was slightly lower for the below 18 age group. This data clearly shows that violence against women is rife in Swaziland, but the authors also note that they have not been able to identify any other similar study for sub-Saharan Africa except for another done in South Africa in 1998. The dearth of data on this subject matter is obviously a matter of great concern as this limits the level of articulation of the problem and therefore defining of appropriate response strategies to the relevant target group. It can be postulated from the above data that the likelihood of the link between Violence and HIV transmission in such a scenario can be expected to be relatively high.
UN Women SARO has identified Ending Violence Against Women as a key work and programming area. In this, we will be guided by the global initiatives spear headed by the UN to end VAW, and with special emphasis, by the Secretary General Campaign UNITE to End Violence against Women that UN Women SARO is backing through its support to the Africa Wide Campaign to end Violence against Women led by the African Union (AU)
Under EVAW thematic area, UN Women SARO is leading implementation, at a national level, of “Safe Cities for Women and Girls Programme”in South Africa, with the aim of preventing violence against women and girls in public spaces through participatory processes at a local level.
Among other initiatives, UN Women SARO is committed to prevent one of the most serious and extended violation to human rights: trafficking in Women , a reality that threatens to keep increasing in the frame of the World Cup to be held in South Africa next year.