Statement from Minister Paradis: International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

November 25, 2013

As leaders, teachers, workers and caregivers, women are central to the health and well-being of their children, families and communities. We know from experience that investing in women and girls has a positive and lasting effect on all aspects of development: children and families are healthier, the economy is more prosperous, and society flourishes. But in order for this to happen, women and girls need to live free of violence.

Globally, one in three women will be beaten, raped, or abused by an intimate partner in their lifetime. In fact, women aged 15-44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than they are from cancer, motor accidents, war and malaria, according to World Bank data.

Violence against women also includes rape as a tactic of war during or after armed conflicts. Between 250,000 and 500,000 women were raped during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda; between 20,000 and 50,000 women were raped during the conflict in Bosnia in the early 1990s. Most recently, we have seen examples of this in Syria.

The roots of violence against women lie in gender inequality and persistent discrimination. It is a vicious cycle. Women and girls who are marginalized or live in poverty are at increased risk of violence. In the meantime, violence exacerbates gender discrimination, limiting the full participation of women and girls in society and pushing them further into poverty.

The Government of Canada has made the promotion of women’s and girl’s human rights and gender equality central elements of its domestic and foreign policies. For more than thirty years, Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada has been integrating gender equality into its development programming and ensuring that every project supports women’s and girls’ empowerment.

For example, in the Democratic Republic of Congo—where the prevalence of sexual violence is among the highest in the world—Canada has been providing long-term support to survivors of sexual violence to prevent such crimes and help bring perpetrators to justice. Since 2006, thousands of survivors have accessed health and psychosocial care, received legal assistance, and acquired new income-generating skills so they can become self-sufficient.

Canada is also supporting a multi-country criminal justice program in Guatemala, EI Salvador, Honduras and Ethiopia that focuses on strengthening the rule of law and improving the justice system's ability to respond to serious violent crimes, including violence against women. We are already seeing meaningful results. In Ethiopia, for instance, 18 female police officers and prosecutors working with female victims of violence have received training on how to identify and prepare files for prosecution in the past year.

This work is complemented by Canada’s ongoing support and implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security. Canada also supported the creation of UN Women, which is a powerful voice for women's issues across the United Nations and its Member States, and helps to address the challenges faced by women.

On this day, I would like to call on all Canadians to combat violence against women and girls and recognize that fulfilling their rights is imperative for a peaceful, just, and secure world.

Christian Paradis
Minister of International Development and Minister for La Francophonie