Causes of violence against women examined at UN

April 11, 2013
The Baha'i International Community's delegation to the 57th UN Commission on the Status of Women.

NEW YORK, United States — Breaking the cycle of violence against women will require basic changes at the level of culture, attitudes and beliefs – including a fundamental reconception of prevailing notions of power.

These were among the ideas offered to this year's United Nations Commission on the Status of Women by the Baha'i International Community (BIC).

Addressing the 57th Commission's main theme of the "elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls," the BIC issued a statement stressing the importance of taking steps to prevent violence against women instead of merely reacting to it.

"Prevention must begin by identifying and addressing the underlying causes of the violence rather than its symptoms. Efforts aimed at prevention must consider the prevailing conceptions of gender identity and of power, and the forms of discrimination and disadvantage that place women and girls at risk of violence."

The conception of power especially needs to be "seriously questioned and fundamentally redefined," said the statement.

"The dominant thinking of power as 'power over' must be replaced with the concept of 'power to' – power as a capacity of the individual or of the collective."

It continued: "Distorted expressions of power and authority promote in children attitudes and habits that are carried to the workplace, to the community, and to public life."

The eight-person BIC delegation to the 57th Commission, which was held 4-15 March 2013, sought to contribute these ideas – and to "build bridges and bring people together," said Bani Dugal, principal representative of the BIC to the United Nations.

"The last time the Commission focused on violence against women was in 2003, and member states were unable to agree on an outcome," said Ms. Dugal. "As we spoke with delegates and other non-governmental organizations the consensus was clearly for a strong outcome document this year."

The Commission's agreed conclusions, indeed, were hailed by many groups for their language in support of women's rights and concrete measures to prevent violence and protect women.

"The Commission affirms that violence against women and girls is rooted in historical and structural inequality in power relations between women and men, and persists in every country in the world as a pervasive violation of the enjoyment of human rights."

The document also focused on preventative measures, such as education and awareness-raising, as well as efforts to address gender inequalities in the political, economic and social spheres.