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Zero tolerance to violence against women and girls

UN member state governments from around the world are gathering at the Commission on the Status of Women to discuss the elimination and prevention of violence against women, which is one of the most serious problems the world faces today. For women between 15 and 45, violence is the cause of more death and disability than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined.

Manu Sareen

Christian Friss Bach

By the Minister for Equality and for Ecclesiastical Affairs, Manu Sareen, and the Minister for Development Cooperation, Christian Friis Bach

The Danish government's position is clear: gender-based violence is not acceptable. Our efforts to combat violence are founded on strong Danish traditions for preventing violence and helping the survivors of violence. Our international engagement is based on this expertise.

Violence within relationships is a serious obstacle to equality between women and men. Worldwide, violence against women and girls is part of daily life to an alarming extent. According to the UN, up to 70 percent of women are subject to physical or sexual violence during their lives. The scale of violence is closely connected with the level of equality in a society, while gender roles and gender stereotypes determine how violence against women and girls is perceived and responded to.

In Denmark, we have worked hard to change attitudes to violence within relationships. And the results are clear: from being perceived as a domestic matter and thus a private issue, violence against women is no longer taboo but has become a public issue. However, we have not yet achieved our aim. A survey from 2012, conducted by the National Institute of Public Health, showed that 7.4% of young women and 4.8% of young men had been exposed to physical, psychological or sexual violence by their partner. Young women who have experienced violence within relationships said they felt uncertain as to when violence is violence, while some perceived violence as a normal part of their relationship and thus had not told others about it.

The appalling rape cases in recent months in India and South Africa, and the attempted murder of the Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, clearly show that there is a need for a global change of attitude.

Violence in any shape or form can never be accepted or justified. In Denmark we make constant efforts to prevent violence and help the survivors of violence. Denmark also has a special obligation to help ensure women's and men's rights globally, and to take a leading role in promoting gender equality. In this respect, we use the knowledge and experience we have acquired to create new initiatives in our development cooperation with partner countries. For example, by providing support to crisis centres for women in Arab and African countries, by supporting women's sexual and reproductive health and rights in many countries in Africa, and through targeted efforts to mitigate sexual violence against women and girls in conflict-afflicted countries such as Afghanistan and Zimbabwe.

The right to decide about one's own body and life is perceived as a fundamental right in Denmark. But this perception is not shared by all. There are many people and governments in the world who – based on the belief that inequality between the sexes is acceptable or even decreed by God – do not want change.

Denmark will continue its work to ensure fundamental human rights, to support and help survivors of violence, to explain why violence against women and girls is not acceptable, and to ensure that perpetrators are prosecuted and punished . This is the Danish government's objective both domestically and internationally. And Denmark will focus actively on this objective during the forthcoming session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women.


WoMen Dialogue is a platform for cooperation and debate on gender and women’s rights issues, and for the exchange of knowledge between Danish and Arab civil society. It is provided by KVINFO, the Danish Centre for Research and Information on Gender, Equality and Diversity. Learn more