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Violence Against Women Becoming a Spotlight Issue


Violence against women is widespread, said Pamela Delargy, the chief of the Humanitarian Response Unit at the UN Population Fund in New York. But, she said, “A lot of violence against women goes unnoticed and hidden, kept private, partly because of the stigma, partly because a lot of times this kind of violence is sanctioned in the local society, and some women and girls grow up thinking this is a normal part of life.”

Specific Damage

Delargy says among the problems central to Africa are female genital cutting and older men in South Africa who sexually exploit girls who need money for schooling. Delargy says sexual violence is prominent in countries in conflict, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and, earlier, Rwanda. Delargy says, “People are most aware of this in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Congo, where really, really awful kinds of sexual violence have been perpetrated as a tactic of war.”

What’s being done

Delargy says the UN Population Fund is working with governments, local authorities and civil society across Africa to prevent violence and support victims. She says one of their efforts is to lobby parliamentarians to change legislation discriminating against women, including laws targeting sexually assaulted or exploited women. She says the UN Population Fund also works with ministries of health to provide medical and psychosocial support for victims of female genital mutilation and other forms of violence.

Media attention includes entertainment world

Delargy says many organizations and individuals are working on gender violence and its social and economic costs, including women parliamentarians, the African Union, a number of UN organizations and local groups across Africa. Delargy says their efforts benefit from increased donor and media attention, as well as from that of artists, singers, playwrights, and moviemakers. She says the publicity “will help a lot, to get the average person on the street to understand what an issue this is.”