Op-Ed by Ambassador Buangan: “Ending Violence Against Women Is a Human Rights Imperative”

Ending Violence Against Women Is a Human Rights Imperative

Dr. Geeta Rao Gupta and Ambassador Richard L. Buangan

This month we observe the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, starting with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25 and culminating with Human Rights Day on December 10. These two markers symbolize what we know to be true: achieving gender equality is not possible without addressing gender-based violence, a human rights abuse that holds back women and girls from fully and safely participating in social, economic, and political life. Ultimately, gender-based violence harms all of us, regardless of who experiences it, and prevents our communities from reaching their full potential.

What does it mean for us to put anti-violence values into practice each day, in all aspects of our lives? What does it look like for government, civil society, business, and every part of society to say that enough is enough – we will no longer tolerate gender-based violence?

These are questions we should all be asking ourselves in our homes, our communities, and our countries. Gender-based violence continues unabated in every region of the world, at all levels of society. The United States is committed to addressing this vast and complex problem both domestically and around the world. We recognize the critical linkages between gender equality and democracy, national security, economic security, climate change, global public health, and human rights. This is why, over the last two years, the United States has prioritized development and implementation of the U.S. National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality and updated the U.S. Strategy to Prevent & Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally and U.S. Strategy on Women, Peace, and Security.

Worldwide, 1 in 3 women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, most often committed by someone close to them. In Mongolia, that number is closer to 2 in 3. 

Research shows that countries with higher rates of gender-based violence suffer more frequently from conflict, instability, lack of adherence to the rule of law, low educational attainment, economic underdevelopment, and health crises, among other challenges. Addressing and preventing gender-based violence creates more peaceful and stable societies. We commend the Mongolian government for recognizing the significance of this issue by conducting its first-ever self-assessment on human rights and gender sensitivity with the assistance of the International Parliamentary Union. This was an important step to begin addressing gender-related human rights concerns through legislative efforts.

It is crucial that in our collective efforts we understand the full gender-based violence continuum – where, when, and how it occurs. We also must take steps to ensure inclusive access to life-saving services and shelters for all survivors, including children, persons with disabilities, and marginalized groups. Prevention of gender-based violence also requires that we promote justice and accountability for these acts and establish an enabling environment – rather than a limiting one – for all survivors of gender-based violence to thrive.

This year also marks the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a milestone document affirming that every person is born free and equal in dignity and rights, and that these rights exist without distinction of any kind. We could not agree more, and we call upon governments, civil society, private sector companies, and individuals alike to join us in helping create such a world – for the sake of our communities today and tomorrow. 

Dr. Geeta Rao Gupta is Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues at the U.S. State Department.

Richard L. Buangan is the U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia.