Speech by UNDP Resident Representative Fiona McCluney: Presentation of the Study on violence in family and violence against women

Sep 27, 2017

Fiona McCluney, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Montenegro

Presentation of the Study on violence in family and violence against women

"My partner has been physically and emotionally abusing me for more than 25 years. It started with pushing and shoving and taking my keys when I wanted to leave. He was very insecure and jealous, started accusing me of cheating. He humiliated me, said I was worthless. I started believing that was true, I was so ashamed of myself. Then he started beating me up – with his hands, legs, or throwing things at me. The next day it was always the same, he was sorry and he didn’t know why he said it and did the things he did. I just wanted my kids to have a father, no matter what he was like. The final straw was when he brutally beat me up in front of the kids, I was heavily injured. That night it dawned on me things will never change. I had to run for my life, do what was right for me and my kids. I still don’t understand how I allowed myself be hurt this way?

Dear ladies and gentlemen, distinguished partners and guests,

I want you to remember these words and remember them well, because they are the true words of one victim interviewed in the course of the research we will hear about today.

According to this survey, every other woman in Montenegro has been a victim of violence at some point in her lifetime, and 1 in 5 women suffered violence during the last year. This means that there are victims right here, right now, among us, in this audience.

A clear message that it’s time to act on the issue, here and now.

Today, we are talking about one of the most pervasive violations of human rights in the world, one of the least prosecuted crimes, and one of the greatest threats to development. We are talking about Violence against Women and Violence in the Family.

The headline Survey findings clearly show that we have much more to do to respond to the cries for justice of women and children who have suffered violence. We have to do much more to end weak practices and attitudes that allow these human rights violations to continue. When perceptions among representatives of the institutions, charged with responsibility to help, reflect the same tolerance of violence as the rest of the society, we can no longer turn a blind eye.

The figures you have just seen send shivers down my spine. I’d like you all to pay close attention to them. We must not sit comfortably during this presentation, as if it was any other event. We must look at the findings of this study and ask ourselves – what can we do, right now, as individuals and as representatives of institutions?

So, the first and foremost priority is to protect the victim and prevent violence in family.

But the second reason to end our role as bystanders and push to act now is: Violence against Women places tremendous costs on the whole society.  When we refer to costs, we mean financial costs in addressing impact on:  public well-being, health and safety, work productivity, law enforcement, and sectorial budgets. We cannot be ignorant to the cost of Violence against Women, estimated to be nearly 234 million EUR, or 6% of the country`s annual GDP. This money is wasted, while it could be invested in development of the country: in building new kindergartens, schools, hospitals, sports centres. This money doesn’t come from some imaginary pot, this is what we as citizens pay as damage caused by perpetrators of violence. We cannot afford to be ignorant.

And, the third reason for action is – violence causes consequences for the generations to come. They are more likely to become violent. We cannot ignore violence at the expense of our future.

The right of women and children to live free of violence depends on the protection of their human rights and a strong chain of justice. Countries that enact and enforce laws on violence against women have less gender-based violence and that is why they are more prosperous.

For an effective response to violence, different sectors in the society must work together:

  • Starting form education, where teachers must be equipped to recognize family violence;
  • must act in the best interest of the victim using all the available mechanisms – including removing the perpetrator from the family home or putting a restriction order, so that the violence is never repeated, that it never escalates and that the justice is reached;
  • Judges and prosecutors must learn how to leave aside prejudice and social stereotypes and act according to the law, not according to their perception of violence.
  • The victim needs to have immediate access to a health clinic where she can receive emergency medical care and be treated with respect, without prejudice. She needs a place to go where both she and her children can be safe and sheltered; and confidence that when she files a police report, she will be protected, will receive justice and the perpetrator will be punished.

Here, I would like to stress the tireless work of civil society as advocates and providers of specialized services for victims of violence. I would like to use this opportunity to call for strong action to implement commitments made with ratification of Istanbul Convention and improve the quality and accessibility of services so that women have prompt access to services regardless of their location, ethnicity, age or income.

We want to see all those sectors, all responsible institutions joining forces with the NGOs, working closely together to provide all of this and more: shelters, crisis centers, post-rape care, psychological counselling, free legal counselling.

Honorable participants, ending violence against women is one of UN key priorities and a critical part of UN mission to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment. Having said that, I would like to take this opportunity to inform you that UN and EU have reinforced partnership on the issue of violence against women and violence in family and on September 20th, launched a joint initiative to end violence against women and girls. Over the next few years, comprehensive programs will be jointly funded to strengthen legislative framework, policies, data collection, consolidation of multi-sectorial support; fortify partnerships; increase access to justice; expand essential services to survivors and work to prevent violence in the first place.

UNDP helps Montenegro build responsive and accountable institutions that will meet the needs of citizens of Montenegro, including through effective protection of victims of violence. We look forward to strengthened collaboration with all of you on these issues.

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