[Letter to the editor]Agenda item for the new UN headBan Ki-moon, your gentle and humble smile seems to give truth to your words that you look soft, but have inner strength. I am counting on that inner strength as you take office in January 2007. Just as the United Nations has 16 days of hope from Nov. 25 to Dec. 10 to eliminate violence against women, I will have 45 days of hope until you take office that you will make an even stronger commitment to violence against women than your predecessor, Kofi Annan.
You are a family man with a wife, a son and two daughters. If, statistically, one out of three women will face violence in their lifetime, it is a very good possibility that one of the three women in your family will be a victim of physical or sexual abuse. I hope that it will never happen to your family.
For some of us, though, violence has already claimed a piece of our psyche.
You have a formidable task in front of you, Minister Ban. Every two to four years, the world witnesses a victim count on the scale of the Holocaust, yet turns a blind eye. You see, every year, 1.5 to 3 million women and girls are lost to gender-based violence.
Women between the ages of 15 and 44 are more likely to be maimed or killed by violence than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents or war combined. Each year 600,000 women will die in childbirth. Each day 6,000 girls will undergo female genital mutilation. One in five females will be raped.
In your home country of Korea, about 1,000 women are murdered each year. Serial killings targeting women are on the rise. Prostitution, sexual trafficking, prenatal sex selection and pornography violate women’s value and dignity. Domestic abuse and rape is too often met with silence.
According to the UN Web site, “the most pervasive yet least recognized human rights abuse in the world” is violence against women. This violence compromises our health, happiness, dignity, and security.
Women subjected to violence are more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs, attempt suicide and suffer mental disorders. These problems, in turn, affect our families.
Thus far, the UN has had too many programs that overlap and are uncoordinated. Adequate administration and resources are needed. Accountability is required. It was despicable when UN peacekeepers in the Congo were alleged to have sexually abused women and girls. These females have been the victims of mass rape and have suffered dehumanizing physical and psychological pain.
It is time for violence against women to receive the priority it deserves. Who can willingly allow a Holocaust, not once, but repeatedly, to occur?
Granted, the challenge is great. Tackling the problem of violence against women means changing cultural attitudes that permit it to happen in the first place. Tradition and religion are often implicated in violence. Impunity is too often the result of violence. More laws are needed. Currently, 102 of the 192 member states lack legal provisions on domestic violence. Only 93 states have some legal provisions against human trafficking. Many states do not have support services for victims of violence. They also lack reliable data on violence that would be needed to form strategies against this human rights crisis.
Violence against women should not be tolerated. It should not be an inevitable part of a woman’s life. Minister Ban, I urge you, as a husband, a father, and a man of integrity to take this deadly and pervasive issue of violence against women and girls seriously and make it one of your priorities in office. I wish you and your family health, happiness and success.
Donggyo-dong, Mapo, Seoul