Delegates from around the world are in Rome for a two-day international conference exploring violence against women.  Italy organized the conference in its capacity as this year's president of the Group of Eight most industrialized nations. 

Prominent women politicians and representatives from charities, activist groups, and international organizations are gathered in Rome for a two-day conference exploring violence against women.  They are discussing the causes of violence and looking at ways to avert the threat to women.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano opened the conference.

He said that while there are terrible episodes of violence associated to situations of conflict and emergency or linked to barbaric customs like female genital mutilations, there are too many also in modern and advanced nations.  Napolitano cited sexual violence in its most brutal form, aggression and rape, as well as domestic violence and those in the workplace.

U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Ashe Rose Migiro is taking part in the conference along with African family and development ministers, the Afghan Women's Affairs Minister Hasn Bano Ghanzanfar and Iranian Women's Alliance President Manda Zand Ervins.

The conference is expected to end with a declaration to be presented at a G8 conference of foreign ministers scheduled later this month in New York, on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.

Italy's Equal Opportunities Minister Mara Carfagna called violence against women a crime against humanity.  She said it is sometimes condoned for tribal or religious reasons and this indifference cannot be accepted.

Minister Carfagna said around 140,000 women worldwide are victims of physical, psychological and sexual abuse and that 50,000 are killed by close relatives every year.

She said the numbers are staggering and for this reason we cannot turn away, but we must promote meetings like this to raise public awareness, in order to educate the next generations to the respect of women and non-violence.

Politicians and supporters are being urged to wear white during the course of the conference in order to raise awareness about the issues being discussed.  More than 20,000 bracelets with the conference's slogan "Respect women, respect the world" are being distributed in major Italian cities.