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Speech of Ms. Shoko Ishikawa, UN Women Country Representative in Viet Nam at the Talk Show - ENDING VIOLENCE, NURTURING LOVE

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Date:  Wednesday, 23 November 2016, from 9.00 am

Venue: Room 102C, Hanoi University, Km 9 Nguyen Trai, Trung Van, Thanh Xuan, Hanoi

  • Representatives of Faculty of International Studies, Hanoi University
  • Ms. Nguyen Van Anh, Director of the Center for Studies and Applied Sciences in Gender - Family - Women and Adolescents (CSAGA)
  • Distinguished guests and colleagues,

I would like to welcome everyone this morning to a discussion on sexual violence.

25th November is the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls. Ahead of this important day, we are having this event to commemorate the beginning of the 16 days of activism to end violence against women, which lasts until December 10th.

Globally 1 in 3 women experience violence in their lifetime, often by the hands of someone they know, love and trust. Here in Viet Nam also, a national study conducted by the government in 2010 found that one third of ever married women have been physically or sexually abused by their husbands or intimate partners.

In 2014, a group called Young Women making Change (YChange) that will be presenting afterwards conducted a survey on violence among young people in dating relationships in Viet Nam. Out of 500 young women aged 18-30 surveyed, they discovered that 59% reported having experienced some form of violence by their dating partner. One in ten of them reported being sexually abused. The results clearly tell that sexual violence is a serious concern among young women in Viet Nam.

Sexual violence could happen among dating couples, friends, families or people in your community. Although anyone could be the offender or victim of sexual violence, majority of cases are committed by men against women. The phenomena of violence against women – violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman, or affects women disproportionally –  remains a critical global challenge.

Sexual violence can take many forms including rape, sexual assault, forced pregnancy, sexual harassment, stalking and trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation. With the development of modern technology and spread of social media, we also observe emerging forms of sexual violence, such as sexting which is to share sexual and sexually implied content, including texts, photos of partial nudity and sexual images or videos. In short, any unwanted sexual contact or experience is sexual violence.

Consequences are serious. Women and girls who experience violence lose their dignity. They live in fear and pain, and in the worst cases it could cost their lives. Violence cuts deeply into the liberties we should all have: safety on the streets, at school at work, or any place whether be it public or private.

The UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) provides for the international legal framework to prevent gender-based violence, to protect women, to prosecute and punish perpetrators and provide remedies to survivors. However, to do this, we must break down social barriers, while also addressing gaps in laws; training gender-sensitive service providers; making services accessible to survivors; and holding the justice system to account.

Too often, sexual violence is hidden by society. When a woman reports that she has been raped, the question is asked if she did something to invite the sexual act on herself; perhaps she walked in the wrong place at the wrong time, or wore the wrong clothes – because after all, men’s sexual desire is only natural, and ‘good girls’ are not sexually active. The 2010 National Study on Domestic Violence revealed that 87% of the survivors of domestic violence did not seek help from the authorities.

Friends could be the first and only person who will be contacted when sexual violence happens. Have you ever encountered a situation when your friend shared a story about an uncomfortable situation she faced? Let’s take a moment to think of what you can do and to make sure that your friend stays safe.

-Don’t be afraid to reach out to a friend who you think needs help. Start a conversation. Tell them you’re concerned for their safety and want to help. Be supportive and listen patiently.

-Acknowledge their feelings and be respectful of their decisions, and help your friend recognize that her experience is NOT her fault.

-Connect your friend to people in their community that can give them information and guidance – there are some NGOs that can help provide counseling and advice.

If you feel that your friend is in immediate danger or if things are serious it’s important to call on professionals for support. You may consider talking to a counselor, trusted adult or local authorities.

Even when you feel like there’s nothing you can do, don’t forget that by being supportive and caring, you’re already doing a lot.

To young men in the audience, I am calling on you not to be a silent bystander. If you witness sexual violence, if you hear boys making sexist and derogatory remarks about women and girls as if they are an object to serve and please them, speak up. Let them know that it is not OK to disrespect women and girls. We need you to help break the cycle of violence.

To all students in the audience, in addition to helping friends in trouble, you can also contribute to ending dating violence by helping to build a healthy youth culture that promotes gender equality and respect for each other.

Recently, UN Women and the Youth Union developed a training manual ‘The Change-Makers” to help young people facilitate discussions with other youth on violence against women and girls, gender stereotypes and social norms that condone violence, and promote healthy relationships.

We have already more than 130 Change Makers across the country, and today I invite all of you to become change-makers, and lead in making a difference in your schools and homes.

Universities also have a role to play. You should proactively establish a Code of Conduct and zero tolerance policy to violence and abuse in any forms, but particularly gender-based violence among their students. Universities need to have student counselors that are trained in detecting abuse and can provide safe spaces for students to talk about their problems. Training programmes should be organized for students to learn skills to resolve conflicts with respect and form positive relationships with others and promote healthy sexuality.

The ultimate goal to end violence against women is to stop it before it starts. All of us have a role to play in this and today I hope you will leave this hall with ideas about actions that each one of us can take to end the pandemic of sexual violence and create a caring society that respects all women, men, girls and boys.

Thank you for your attention.