Treat violence against women as health, human rights issue

The Baltimore Sun |

It is a welcome change that as we begin Women's History Month, world leaders are giving attention to violence against women. Gender-based violence is rampant across the globe, and yet governments' responses remain appallingly inadequate. Violence against women is a public health issue and a human rights issue affecting society as a whole.

Progress is visible on a variety of fronts. Representatives from U.N. member states and civil-society organizations are meeting in New York this week and next to discuss " the elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child"- the theme of this year's Commission on the Status of Women.

A 2006 report published by the U.N. secretary-general's office acknowledged that "states have an obligation to protect women from violence, to hold perpetrators accountable and to provide justice and remedies to victims. Last month, the Mexican government introduced legislation requiring federal and local authorities to prevent violence against women.

But much remains to be done. The next step is to make health systems accountable for identifying the millions of victims who pass undetected through their doors, and to give them the health care and legal, economic and social support needed to mend their lives. More

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