Dear Hijran Huseynova, Chair of the State Committee for Family, Women and Children’s Affairs;
Dear Government officials, Members of Parliament, UN colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Violence against women and girls is a global pandemic and one of the most pervasive human rights violations. It is a moral affront to all women and girls, a mark of shame on all our societies and a major obstacle to inclusive, equitable and sustainable development.
According to the global estimates one in three ever-partnered women face some form of gender-based violence (GBV) per day. Statistically, this would translate into one billion women across the world abused physically, psychologically or sexually by their intimate partners, other family members or strangers.
GBV has a range of short- and long-term consequences that affect women’s health, and ability to engage in income generating activities, as well as undermine their dignity and equality of opportunity.
The good news is that following concerted efforts of the international community as well as those of the local advocates, violence against women is no longer tolerated as a matter of private affairs. More and more countries are holding up a lens of human rights and justice to GBV by adopting the legal acts that make the cases of abuse either administratively or criminally punishable.
It is commendable that Azerbaijan has also underwent this path by adopting the Law on Prevention of Domestic Violence back in 2010 and sending out a message that violence against women constitutes violation of human rights necessitating state intervention.
Today I am pleased to comment on the progress the Government of Azerbaijan has achieved since the adoption of the law. The series of amendments were made to legal and policy documents to create favourable environment for bringing the perpetrators to justice and providing protection and support services to the survivors. Numerous data collection and research initiatives were undertaken. Extensive awareness raising campaigns are regularly held.
Nevertheless, the challenges do remain. According to the findings of the first ever research on GBV in Azerbaijan held back in 2008 the average prevalence rate of lifetime physical violence among ever partnered women was 15%. The International Men and Gender Equality Survey held in 2016 showed increase in GBV prevalence rates with 32.5% of men reporting perpetrating and 32.1% of women experiencing violence.
These figures are thought provocative indeed. While, at first glance, the increase could be attributable to increased prevalence rates of GBV over the years, we should also not disregard the fact that the work held by the Government within these past years including inter alia in partnership with UN agencies have contributed to better understanding of the phenomenon and thus increased response rates among the population.
Notwithstanding different interpretations put forward by the research community to explain the trends, the truth is not far beneath the surface. The women continue being affected by violent acts that not only constitute violations of human rights but also impact sustainable development of the country. And I want to share with you some figures regarding the costly price tag attached to violence against women.
The global cost of GBV was estimated by the UN to be US$1.5 trillion back in 2016, equivalent to approximately 2% of the global gross domestic product. And we will hear in a short while from the expert the figures for Azerbaijan which, I guess, are similar to global estimates.
As you know already the UN is having very bold aspirations to reduce hunger, poverty and ensure decent work and opportunities for all by 2030. And we are pleased to see that the Government of Azerbaijan is fully committed to uphold this vision. However, we are also cognizant that the ability of those subjected to violence to decent work, health and safety is severely affected by cases of violence taking place in the country. Violence against women and girls holds back realization and implementation of the universal achievement of the SDGs.
Therefore, the importance of the project on the costs of GBV held by the State Committee for Family, Women and Children Affairs and supported by UNFPA could not be overstated. The findings will give us a chance to look at the issue from the development angle, thus pushing all to boost the action for reducing GBV by preventing violations of human rights and reducing its social and economic costs and consequences.
I would like to conclude my speech with the quote from the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who stated that “Not until the half of our population represented by women and girls can live free from fear, violence and everyday insecurity, can we truly say we live in a fair and equal world.”