Urgent Interventions

Press Release: OMCT observes the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women


OMCT observes the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

November 25, 2003

On the occasion of International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, OMCT is concerned that violence against women persists throughout the world in a wide variety of forms.

As the world’s largest network of NGOs fighting against torture, summary executions, forced disappearances and all other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, OMCT notes that gender has a significant impact on the form that torture takes, its circumstances, consequences, and the accessibility of remedies. In this respect, OMCT is extremely concerned by gender-based violence perpetrated by state agents, such as rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and strip searches of female detainees by male guards. For example, in Cameroon, reports indicate that women in detention have been subjected to rape and other forms of sexual violence. Additionally, in many countries, violence against women perpetrated by state actors is connected to discrimination against minority groups. OMCT urgent appeals have drawn attention to multiple cases in Bangladesh where young girls from minority groups have been raped by the police. Victims of these crimes around the world frequently do not report the violence out of a sense of shame arising from cultural norms that place enormous value on a woman’s virginity.

Women also experience extreme levels of violence in their own homes. OMCT has reported extensively on violence against women in a variety of countries around the world over the past four years, and domestic violence recurs consistently as a serious and widespread problem. This form of violence is notoriously under-reported by the victims. While many countries have made progress in passing legislation to prohibit domestic violence, serious obstacles remain in effectively implementing this legislation. Furthermore, many countries have yet to even outlaw this form of violence. For example, despite the fact that 14,000 women a year are killed by their husbands in Russia, the Russian government has yet to pass legislation forbidding domestic violence, nor have they even developed a definition of the term. In Colombia, although legislation exists which outlaws domestic violence, there is a general lack of awareness of this law amongst women victims of domestic violence and most victims suffer in silence due to traditional customs that value family cohesion over individual rights.

Additionally, OMCT reports in the past year have revealed the following alarming statistics and facts, which demonstrate the gravity of the problem of violence against women:

· In Turkey, at least 200 women and girls are killed every year by their families because they have allegedly violated family “honour”
· In Kenya, marital rape is not criminalized and consent to sex is presumed by the fact of the marriage
· In Morocco, women have been attacked and threatened because their work involves defending women’s rights
· In France, in 1999 there were between 50,000 and 90,000 rapes committed and many of the victims did not report the crime
· In Costa Rica, about 3 women die per month at the hands of their husband or partner
· In Eritrea, 89% of women have undergone female genital mutilation
· In Brazil, if a rapist marries his victim, he is not criminally liable for the rape
· In Estonia, at least 500 women a year are trafficked abroad and forced into prostitution
· In Mali, 22% of girls are married by the time they are 15, increasing their vulnerability to violence in the family environment
· In the United Kingdom, young Asian women commit suicide at higher rates than the general population because of sexual and physical abuse, domestic violence, immigration issues, forced marriages, and racism

In light of the widespread continuation of violence against women in every country of the world, OMCT takes this opportunity to firmly condemn such violence and encourage governments and non-governmental organizations to take action against violence against women in all of its forms.

For more information about OMCT’s Violence Against Women Programme, please contact Lucinda O’Hanlon at or Carin Benninger-Budel at