The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1993, affirms that violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women.
Women make up about half of the world's population. Imagine that you are using only 50% of your power. The scale of the problem is great all over the world, especially in developing countries with low per capita income, low level of education, and ignorance of gender issues, where archaic, paternalistic traditions are strong and the role of religion is sometimes exaggerated. If a woman lives in fear of violence, if her behavior is tightly controlled from the outside - whether it is her partner or even her own family - then she is often unable to realize her full potential. This means that women are under the pressure from men and the environment. It is not only the woman who suffers - it is the society as a whole that suffers.
In her message to the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the Director-General of UNESCO, Ms Audrey Azoulay, rightly pointed out that, “Society cannot thrive if half of the population lives in fear of being assaulted”.
According to new UN estimates, more than a third of women around the world have experienced violence, including sexual violence, at least once in their lives. Approximately 15 million girls between the ages of 15 and 19 have been raped.
A rape culture has taken root in people's minds due to many factors, including the silencing of the problem. It is now clear that violence against women is an obstacle to progress and sustainable development.
I advocate for us to join forces to empower women and to teach men to live with women with respect and understanding from an early age. I would like to see real and full implementation of all the laws adopted by many Governments.
For millions of girls and women around the world, rape is not surprising and regrettably not uncommon. Unfortunately, this extremely sad fact is a reality. How can one not pay attention to it?
UNESCO is determined to end all forms of violence against women and girls and to end the gender imbalance of most rights and opportunities.
I welcome the efforts of all the government agencies to advance the cause of women in Uzbekistan and on behalf of UNESCO, I wish to express my full appreciation. I also wish to thank activists from NGOs in Uzbekistan, such as Istikbolli Avlod and the Women's Committee of Uzbekistan, who have succeeded in opening 197 shelters* for women as well as many journalists who actively oppose violence against women and promote a fair gender balance in society. Let me express my most sincere wish that assistance, protection and support for women will be strengthened.
May I take this opportunity to express my most sincere to the Uzbek authorities, for taking important decisions to support efforts to combat violence against women, to ensure gender balance and to provide legal support to women. They strive to create equal conditions and opportunities for women and men in all spheres of life of the society.
Together, we must all create a world where every woman and girl feels safe at home, at work, on the street, where each of them can report cases of sexual violence and obtain justice.
The #16Days of Activism campaign is the right time to act for peace and to end violence against women and girls. It is time to listen to each specific story and support it. It is time to challenge the rape culture that surrounds us. So let us fight violence against women and girls not only for sixteen days, but every day!
*According to the Women's Committee of Uzbekistan, as of December 2019.