critically at issues that militate against women. It also commemorates women's rights and peace.
International Women's Day is the story of ordinary women as makers of history; it is rooted in the centuries- old struggle of women to participate in society on an equal footing with men. This date is commemorated at the United Nations and is designated as a national holiday in many countries such as Armenia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Russia, Ukraine, Vietnam and South Africa.
This is an occasion which is marked by women's groups around the world. Even as women on all continents, often divided by national boundaries and by ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic and political differences, come together to celebrate our day, we can look back to a tradition that represents at least nine decades of struggle for equality, justice, peace and development.
Mr. Speaker, the United Nations' theme for International Women's Day for this year is “Ending Impunity for Violence against Women and Girls” and I believe that there could not have been a better theme. The theme is consistent with our commitment and efforts to reduce, if not eliminate, domestic violence, which has culminated in the passage of the Domestic Violence Act.
Mr. Speaker, the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993) defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”
This encompasses “physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family and in the general community,
including battering, sexual abuse of children, dowry-related violence, rape, female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, non-spousal violence and violence related to exploitation, sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere, trafficking in women, forced prostitution, and violence perpetrated or condoned by the state.”
In all societies, to a greater or lesser degree, women and girls are subjected to physical, sexual and psychological abuse that cuts across lines of income, class and culture.
The problem of violence against women manifests itself in a terrifying array of forms throughout the world. Women experience physical or mental abuse throughout their lifecycle, in infancy, childhood and/or adolescence, or during adulthood or older age. The experience of violent intrusion or the threat of such intrusion is a common thread in the fabric of women's everyday lives in societies around the world.
Mr. Speaker, studies indicate that the menace of violence against women is on the ascendancy. According to UNICEF, 100 million to 140 million girls and women have undergone some form of female genital mutilation; a practice which is still carried out in 28 African countries, despite the fact that it is outlawed in a number of these nations.
Research results indicate that between 10 per cent and 50 per cent of women have been physically abused by an intimate partner in their lifetime and that between 12 per cent and 25 per cent of women have experienced attempted or completed forced sex by an intimate partner or ex-
partner at some time in their lives. Mr. Speaker, up to 69 per cent of women report have been physically assaulted and up to 47 per cent of women report that their first sexual intercourse was forced.
Mr. Speaker, the physical and psychological effects of violence on victims cannot be overemphasized. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of lives destroyed, reports show that violence against women has been linked to a number of immediate and long-term conditions, including physical injury, chronic pain syndromes, depression and suicidal behaviour. Partner violence can also affect a woman's earning, job performance and her ability to keep a job.
Violence against women is an obstacle to the achievement of the objectives of equality, development and peace. Violence against women both violates and impairs or nullifies the enjoyment by women of their human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Violence against women arises from a combination of individual biological and psychological characteristics as well as social, economic and political factors. The low social and economic status of women can be both a cause and a consequence of violence against women. Abusive practices against women have frequently been and are still being justified in the context of cultural norms, religious beliefs and unfounded “scientific theories” and assumptions.
This situation is the result of society's attitudes towards women and efforts to “keep women in their place.”
Mr. Speaker, violence against women is one issue that must necessarily be addressed if our nation and for that matter the world in general is to move forward in peace. There are a lot of things that can be done to eliminate this bitter injustice
against women. Spreading the word, breaking down the taboos and exposing the violence that takes place among us is the first step towards effective action to reduce this awful, cruel thing called domestic violence in our own societies.
Mr. Speaker, violence against women is a social problem that warrants an immediate coordinated response from multiple sectors. I believe that the social and political institutions that have the mandate and responsibility to protect the citizens of the country to execute their responsibility to the letter. It is sad, however, to note that sometimes social institutions put in place to protect citizens too often blame or ignore the victims of violence.
It, however, gives me pleasure to note that the Domestic Violence Victims and Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service has done well in providing redress and support for victims of domestic violence.
Mr. Speaker, while economic disparity and legal inequality are known to contribute to incidents of violence against women, it is obvious that violence arises from ignorance, the failure to understand such fundamental realities as the oneness of the human race and the mistaken notion that force is the only honorable way to resolve conflicts. Therefore any attempt to curb violence that does not educate individuals to overcome gender prejudice will certainly fall short.
The government and other stake- holders can also help by organizing, and supporting education and training campaigns to raise awareness about violence against women as a violation of women's enjoyment of their human rights.
With increasing illiteracy among women in the developing world, it is vitally important to reemphasize the role of education everywhere if violence against women is to be controlled. However, the problem of violence cannot truly be resolved unless men are also educated to value women as equal partners. Any effort to protect women against male aggression against women and to curb the menace must involve the early training of boys.
Mr. Speaker, every effort must be made to eliminate this social evil because it threatens world peace. The emancipation of women, the achievement of full equality between the sexes, is one of the most important, though less acknowledged prerequisites of peace. The denial of such equality perpetrates an injustice against one half of the world's population and promotes in men harmful attitudes and habits that are carried from the family to the workplace, to political life, and ultimately to international relations.
There are no grounds, moral, practical, or biological, upon which such denial can be justified. It is only when women are welcomed into full partnership in all fields of human endeavour that the moral and psychological climate will be created in which international peace can emerge.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity.
D e p u t y M i n i s t e r f o r Wa t e r Resources, Works and Housing (Ms. Cecilia A. Dapaah): Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to contribute to the Statement on the floor. In so doing, I wish to congratulate all women around the world in all colours, shapes and form for the immense contribution to human-kind. The theme, “Ending Impunity for Violence against Women and Girls,” is very apt and timely. This shows and emphasizes that women are still
going through violence, physical, psycho- logical, religious, emotional, spiritual, economic and political.
Mr. Kojo Armah -- rose