Social and welfare issues

2020 OECD High-Level Conference on Ending Violence Against Women


Opening Remarks by Angel Gurría

OECD Secretary-General

5 February 2020 - Paris, France

(As prepared for delivery)




Dear Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen:

I would like to welcome you to the OECD High-Level Conference on Ending Violence Against Women. But, at the same time, I want to share with you my disappointment and sadness.

Because I wish we were not here today. I wish that this meeting was not the most important point on my agenda. I wish that all women could stand in front of us and say that, yes, their most basic right is respected.

But violence against women remains one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in the world. And this is unacceptable.


Violence against women remains a critical issue

It is unacceptable that women continue to encounter violence wherever they go – at home, in public, at work, online. Violence against women remains pervasive in our societies. More than one in three women worldwide report having experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime – and we know that this is likely a low estimate, as many women are understandably reluctant to disclose that they have been assaulted.

It is unacceptable that 21 of the 37 governments who adhere to the OECD Gender Recommendations list violence against women as one of the three most urgent gender equality issues in their countries.

It is unacceptable that today – in 2020, no less – our societies still uphold discriminatory social norms that promote harmful masculinity, allowing, and sometimes even encouraging, men to abuse women and girls. Social norms whereby boys and men are expected to be aggressive.

It is unacceptable that, well into the 21st century, many powerful media, programmes, movies, adverts and videogames continue to promote openly harmful gender stereotypes and cross-gender aggression.


The issue of intimate partner violence

This is why today and tomorrow, we will take a closer look at a tragically common form of violence against women – intimate partner violence.

I am ashamed that so many women wake up every day with physical and mental scars caused by the people they trusted the most – their boyfriends, their husbands, their partners. This violence affects these women throughout their entire lives. It affects their health, their dreams, their desire to participate in regular activities or work. It affects their ability to care for their families and loved ones, and even affects their ability to care for themselves. I think of people like Charlotte Kneer and Luke Hart – who we’ll hear from today – whose lives were upended in the most horrific ways.

To end intimate partner violence we need decisive, comprehensive and viable action. This kind of violence is rarely an isolated, one-off incident. It is usually part of a pattern of ongoing abuse. This is why we need a strong and multidimensional response.


What the OECD is doing to help

OECD governments have been taking measured action. Many are updating their legal frameworks to address violence against women, abolishing discriminatory laws and implementing strategies to prevent and address violence. Yet, only 133 of the 180 countries covered by the OECD’s Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) criminalise domestic violence, and just 110 treat sexual harassment as a criminal offense.

There are steps that governments can – and must – take to disrupt patterns of intimate partner violence.

First, we need to understand better the magnitude and root causes of this type of violence. We still lack accurate measurements of the prevalence and nature of intimate partner violence across countries. We need to collect data more accurately and more regularly, to prevent and de escalate cycles of intimate partner violence, to inform policy action, and to raise awareness.

Second, we need much more systematic, whole-of-government action to end intimate partner violence. This requires a comprehensive legal framework to address violence against women, along with society-wide strategies to prevent, protect and prosecute against intimate partner violence.

Third, we must ensure that the services developed for survivors of violence actually meet their needs and do not create additional roadblocks on their path to recovery. The last thing survivors should worry about is their safety, or troubles related to housing, social protection, and legal assistance. The diverse range of services they need should be as coordinated and easy to access as possible. Survivors of violence should focus on rebuilding their lives. This is a tough enough battle.

Fourth, we need to get rid of the bottlenecks that stand in the way of justice. Women and girls who are survivors of violence are especially vulnerable when they face the justice system. We need to understand better what survivors need, and make sure that no barriers prevent them from getting the justice they deserve.

Finally, we must change the socio-cultural environment. We must end the shameful social acceptance of violence against women. This means better empowering women and girls in society, but also engaging men and boys to take a stand and steer our culture away from one that promotes harmful masculinity.


Dear Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen:

If we stick together, if we learn from each other to design better policies, we will end violence against women.

I am so inspired by the work that many of you here are doing. Your service makes all the difference in helping survivors of violence, in preventing women from having to become survivors in the first place, and in helping us to build peaceful, egalitarian, and compassionate communities.

The OECD is by your side in this fight. Through this conference, we want to promote policy action and help shift social norms. And we will follow through with this. Our action plan for gender mainstreaming and the new OECD Working Party on Gender Mainstreaming and Governance will help us identify and promote good governance practices for ending violence against women.

And remember: le combat ne s’arrête pas à la fin de cette conférence. Il ne s’agit pas de dire aujourd’hui « voilà tout ce que nous allons faire » et les consciences s’apaisent, non. Au contraire, notre combat s’intensifie, s’élève, s’exacerbe. Ce n’est plus un combat que ces femmes mèneront seules. Elles ne sont plus seules, nous ne quitterons plus leurs côtés. Nous le leur devons.

Et maintenant, j'ai l'honneur de passer le micro à quelqu'un qui est depuis longtemps une ardente et infatigable défenseuse de la cause des femmes, œuvrant chaque jour pour mettre un terme aux violences faites aux femmes - la secrétaire d'État française auprès du Premier ministre, chargée de l'Égalité entre les femmes et les hommes et de la lutte contre les discriminations, la ministre Marléne Schiappa. Compte tenu de sa participation à la récente conférence interministérielle de la France pour la protection des femmes contre les violences et de son engagement personnel pour cette cause, je sais que Madame la ministre Schiappa saura nous inspirer de par ses connaissances et ses idées.

Merci à toutes et à tous.



See also:

OECD work in Employment, Labour and Social Affairs


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