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UN rights chief assails impunity for worldwide violence against women

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner Louise Arbour marked International Women's Day [official website] Thursday with a stark message [text] on violence against women [factsheet 1, 2, DOC], urging an end to impunity for what was paradoxically the "most common but least punished crime in the world" in an environment where "most States have largely accepted the international normative framework aimed at preventing, tackling and punishing discrimination and violence against women":

A recent World Health Organization study found that 23 to 49 per cent of women suffered violence at the hands of their intimate partners in most of the 71 countries surveyed. UNICEF has reported that 130 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation. According to the United Nations Population Fund, 5,000 women die every year in "honour" killings perpetrated by family members. And it is estimated that less than 5 per cent of rape prosecutions lead to convictions globally, partly because the majority of cases place emphasis on the conduct of the woman and not on that of the perpetrator....

[M]ost States...recognize that women's equality and entitlements are human rights, thus empowering women to become active right-holders and claimants, rather than passive beneficiaries of discretionary policies. Many countries, however, have not matched this progress in international law with implementation, policy and practice, particularly where it matters the most, that is, in the daily lives of women around the world.
Speaking to a gathering of female international lawyers in Geneva later in the day, Arbour expressed particular concern about rapes committed against women in refugee camps in Darfur, saying there was an "absolute rampant use of sexual violence" there and that supposed attempts by the Sudanese authorities to rein that in were "grossly inadequate." AP has more.

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