Thank you Madame Bachelet, for your leadership in promoting women’s human rights. Thank you UN Women, for bringing us together these past two days. The forum has demonstrated a broad commitment, across the world, to end violence against women.
The structures of most societies, including my own, discriminate against women. Their lack of power and lower status is reinforced by political, economic and social discrimination. This inequality is at the root of many forms of gender-based violence. It gravely reduces women’s ability to exercise their fundamental rights.
There are different realities and different cultural contexts in all the countries represented here today. But let us always keep in mind: the universal human rights apply equally to all individuals.
Norway is, and will remain, a staunch supporter of everyone’s right to make decisions concerning their own body and sexuality. Free from coercion and violence.
However, women and girls continue to face rape, intimate partner violence, sexual harassment, beating during pregnancy, honor killings and other forms of gender based violence. In times of conflict, rape is used as a tactic of war. In protracted humanitarian crises, as social order brakes down, sexual violence can reach endemic proportions.
The physical, emotional and psychological consequences for women, girls and their families can be devastating. It also affects communities and can have economic consequences far beyond each individual tragedy. Therefore, the issue of violence against women should not only catch the interest of gender- and health ministers, but also the finance ministers and prime ministers.
At least a third of all pregnancy-related deaths could be avoided if these women and girls only had access to family planning and safe abortions. Promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights for all is a question of ending unnecessary suffering. The provision of safe abortions and post-abortion care is a priority not because we want to promote abortion, but because we want to avoid the injuries and deaths that would otherwise occur.
So what is the real moral issue we are facing? It is the fact that women and girls are dying from causes that can be prevented.
Providing access to youth-friendly health services and sexual education and reducing early marriage and childbirth are key factors for empowering and protecting women and girls from sexual and gender-based violence. The first step to protect themselves against sexual violence and abuse, is for girls and women to know about their rights, including their reproductive rights.
Violence against women is a global problem. My country is no exception. To address this we need stronger legislation and public action. We have introduced several measures, including strengthening of our Penal Code, launching a National Action Plan to Combat Violence in Intimate Relations and established shelters and Regional Competence Centers.
Another important Norwegian experience is the benefit of engaging civil society, including organizations working with men against violence. We are also proud to support this kind of work internationally through our development cooperation.
Men and boys must not only to be seen as part of the problem, but as part of the solution.