The world is guilty of ignoring the high rate of violence against women and the increased risk of abuse the economic crisis has put them in, said leaders of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches in a message for International Women's Day.
International Women's Day, March 8, is a global day to celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women of the past, present and future. But it is also a day meant to reflect on the struggles and barriers that continue to impede women's progress.
The U.N. theme for IWD 2009 is "Women and men united to end violence against women and girls."
"The world seems to have become almost immunized to the stench of violence against women. Dowry-related deaths, honor killings, female genital mutilation, and rape as a weapon of war continue with impunity," says Patricia Sheerattan-Bisnauth, WARC's spokesperson on gender issues, in a statement. "Women and girls are sold in slavery as trafficking of persons across the globe for sexual and economic exploitation thrives."
Poor women in third world countries suffer the most from the economic crisis, contends Sheerattan-Bisnauth. High unemployment rates, rising food costs and dispute over scarce resources such as water and land lead to increased levels of violence, with women and girls most vulnerable to attack, she says.
But funding for programs that protect and empower women has often been the victim of budget cut, which only "exacerbate the situation," warns the WARC's gender issue spokeswoman.
The WARC, which represents some 75 million Reformed Christians in 107 countries, calls on churches in communities worldwide to support initiatives that counter violence against women.
"We cannot continue to ignore the plight of women and girls who are attacked in their homes or are targets of war crimes," says WARC's general secretary, Setri Nyomi. "WARC calls for renewed commitment to accelerate rather than slow down the process of seeking to end violence against women and girls and to bring about justice."
According to the Global Media Monitoring Project, coordinated by the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC), only 1 percent of news stories worldwide in 2005 focused on gender-based violence.
But according to the United Nations Development Fund for Women, violence against women and girls is a "problem of pandemic proportions." At least one out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or abused in her lifetime, according to UNIFEM.