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UN launches violence against women campaign

Five million signatures gathered online

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The world must do more to put an end to violence against women and girls, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said Tuesday during a ceremony marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

"We need to combat attitudes and behavior that condone, tolerate, excuse or ignore violence committed against women. And we need to increase funding for services for victims and survivors," he said at the launch of the seven-year campaign to mobilize public opinion to ensure that policy makers at the highest level work to prevent and eradicate violence against women.

Actress Nicole Kidman presented Moon with the signatures of more than five million people worldwide who joined the internet-based Say NO to Violence against Women initiative.

“As long as one in three women and girls may be abused in their lifetimes, violence against women must be everybody’s business,” said Kidman, who is a goodwill ambassador to the U.N. Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).

An average, one in three women is beaten, sexually coerced or experiences some other form of abuse by her intimate partner in the course of her lifetime, according to a Feb. 2008 U.N. factsheet. An estimated one in five women will be the victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that the annual worldwide number of so-called “honor killing” victims may be as high as 5,000 women.

“Violence against women and girls makes its hideous imprint on every continent, country and culture,” said Moon.

Noting some progress on the issue, with a number of countries working to implement laws protecting women, the U.N. chief said "we need to do more to enforce laws and counter impunity."

“It is time to focus on the concrete actions that all of us can and must take to prevent and eliminate this scourge," he said. "It is time to break through the walls of silence, and make legal norms a reality in women’s lives.”

He noted that the crimes of rape, trafficking and female violence is not confined to poor countries.

"Across the world, in countries rich and poor, women are being beaten, trafficked, raped and killed," he said.

"These human rights violations do more than harm individuals; they undermine the development, peace and security of entire societies."

This year the U.N. campaign coincides with the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We need to combat attitudes and behavior that condone, tolerate, excuse or ignore violence committed against women.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon