Fri | Sep 21, 2018

UN chief warns no end to poverty unless violence against women is tackled

Published:Sunday | November 26, 2017 | 10:14 AM
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres

UNITED NATIONS, CMC – The United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, warned yesterday that unless the international community tackles violence against women, the world will not eradicate poverty or reach any of the other UN Sustainable Development Goals.

“It is time to further our collective action to end violence against women and girls for good,” said Guterres in his message for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which,  on [violence against women] November 25, highlights, that around the world, more than one in three women in their lives have experienced physical violence, sexual violence, or both.”

The day also spotlights the work of women’s rights activists, who are being targeted at “alarming levels”, and violence against women politicians, which hamper women’s rights.

“It is time for united action from all of us, so that women and girls around the world can live free from harassment, harmful practices, and all other forms of violence,” Guterres said.

The UN said its Trust Fund to End Violence against women, one of the ways that the UN is helping the international community fight this scourge, is a grant system that has given away more than US$129 million to groups and individuals supporting women’s rights.

The UN is also involved in the recently launched “Spotlight Initiative” with the European Union to connect UN efforts with the work of national governments and civil society; and the UN Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces Global Initiative.

Among other efforts, the UN said it launched a zero-tolerance policy towards sexual harassment and has said that it is committed to continuing the “UNiTE to End Violence against Women” campaign, under the new title “UNiTE by 2030”.

The UN said the UNiTE campaign will mark this year’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, from November 25 through December 10, under the theme “ Leave no one Behind: Ending violence against Women and Girls”.

Yesterday, two UN agencies, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), urged health services in Latin America and the Caribbean to take “specific steps” to respond to violence against women and help prevent its future occurrences, if they are equipped with the tools and training they need.

PAHO said these are the conclusions of a new manual that it has issued with the WHO for the International Day of Elimination of Violence against Women.

The document, “Strengthening health systems to respond to women subjected to intimate partner violence or sexual violence: A manual for health managers,” builds on other tools to help health care systems provide “compassionate and effective services” to survivors that address the consequences of violence and help reduce its reoccurrence.

This is considered urgent because at least one of every three women aged 15 to 49 in Latin America and the Caribbean have experienced physical or sexual violence by a partner, according to Alessandra Guedes, PAHO’s Regional Advisor on Family Violence.

She noted that violence against women is a public health problem, because it is associated with a number of significant health conditions, including anxiety, depression, suicide, unintended pregnancy, STI/HIV infection, unhealthy drinking and others.

PAHO and WHO recommended five specific steps health providers can take to support women who have experienced violence: “Listen closely, with empathy and no judgment; Inquire about their needs and concerns; Validate their experiences. Show you believe and understand; Enhance their safety; Support them to connect with additional services.” These form the mnemonic “Lives”.

PAHO said it has intensified its cooperation with countries to prevent violence against women and children, developing tools, strengthening networks and coalitions, building capacities in the countries, and improving the availability of data.

Ironically, this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women came a day after a Vincentian diplomat at the United Nations allegedly punched his wife, a newly-appointed diplomat, in the face in Brooklyn, New York.

But officers with New York Police Department (NYPD) said they couldn’t arrest him because he has diplomatic immunity.

Police sources told the New York Post that Sehon Marshall, 43, who serves as a counsellor for the Permanent Mission of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to the United Nations, “allegedly decked his wife, Sandra [also spelled Xandra] Marshall, 36, after a verbal fight broke out at their Canarsie [Brooklyn] house at 1:15 a.m.” on Friday.

Marshall was recently appointed Deputy New York Consul General, a post that her husband previously held, according to New York Consul General Howie Prince

A spokesman for the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines told reporters on Friday that it was aware of the issue but will not comment until further investigation is conducted.

Marshall first served as Deputy New York Consul General before transferred to the UN Mission. Sources claim he and then New York Consul General Selmon Walters were constantly at loggerheads.

On November 23, 2014, despite initial outcry over his would-be appointment, St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Prime Minister Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves presented the embattled Marshall, then newly-appointed Deputy New York Consul General to his compatriots at a town hall meeting in Brooklyn.

Marshall, who officially assumed office the week before, was dogged by controversial remarks he made on local radio in August 2014 regarding jobs that he said some Vincentians in the Diaspora, particularly in the United States, hold, such as “baby-sitters” and “dog-walkers”.

As the controversy brewed, Marshall apologised for his comments, and then Foreign Affairs Minister Camillo Gonsalves, the prime minister’s eldest son and now Minister of Finance in the Gonsalves administration, urged nationals, at a town hall meeting, at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center in Brooklyn, in September, to give the potential diplomat “a chance.”

Marshall, who apologised for his controversial remarks, had replaced Edson Augustus, a former Seventh-day Adventist pastor, who was recalled earlier in 2014 over reports of alleged mishandling of visa and passport matters at the New York Consulate General.