Violence against women, an obstacle to development

Bern, Press release, 11.08.2011

The President of the Confederation, Mrs Micheline Calmy-Rey, head of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), and Mrs Navanethem Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, were present at a public encounter with a number of well-know individuals actively involved in the struggle against violence against women in Switzerland, at the international level and in the African Great Lakes region.

Discrimination against women has been a recurring dimension politically, economically and socially throughout history. Although the situation regarding women’s rights has improved both at the international level and in Switzerland in recent years, many injustices still exist in particular regarding violence against women, which only too often goes unpunished or is even tolerated.

Real progress still needs to be made especially in regions experiencing war and in fragile states. The adoption in 2000 of United Nations resolution 1325 on women, peace and security without doubt marked an important step in the field of women’s rights in situations of armed conflict. Nevertheless, women and children are still too often the worst affected victims of armed conflicts, as is the case in Bosnia, Iraq, Chechnya, Colombia, Darfur and the African Great Lakes region. Violence and sexual abuse are still used on a massive scale as instruments of war to destroy the morale of civilian populations. They are also very widespread in societies with weak judicial structures, effectively offering almost complete impunity to the perpetrators and even stigmatising the victims.

The physical and psychological consequences of such acts of violence often prevent women victims from participating in the reconstruction of their socio-economic environments. Weakened or rejected, they find themselves in situations of extreme poverty. For the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), it is crucially important to help victims rebuild their lives, not only because such suffering is unacceptable but also because violence of this kind hinders development.

Through its activities in the African Great Lakes region, the SDC has been able to provide support for almost 6'000 woman victims of violence; it has also contributed to building peace in other parts of the world and to strengthening health structures – two fundamentally important aspects of the struggle against violence against women.

The struggle against violence against women must continue. The FDFA is committed to supporting these efforts both within international bodies and on the ground in regions experiencing armed conflicts as well as in fragile contexts.

Further information:

Website SDC - agenda
UN Security Councily resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security
Women, Peace and Security - National Action Plan to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1325
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse CETS No.: 201

Address for enquiries:

Information FDFA
Bundeshaus West
CH-3003 Bern
Tel.: (+41) 031 322 31 53
Fax: (+41) 031 324 90 47


Federal Department of Foreign Affairs