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The challenge

It is widely accepted today that women’s empowerment is crucial to achieving sustainable growth and development across the world and that the scourge of violence against women and girls is a major impediment to that empowerment. According to UN Women, more than one in three women experience physical or sexual violence today – mostly by an intimate partner.

At the same time, policy-makers and practitioners also recognise that the interests of women, including younger women, are not separate from those of humanity more broadly; empowering women cannot be achieved without wider processes of positive social change that benefit all people. The days of ‘ghettoising’ women’s issues are hopefully in the past.

The role of the SDGs

Many hope that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were agreed at the UN summit in New York last September, will tackle such challenges in a much more systematic and explicit way than their predecessors, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), did. And a key aim of the recent meeting in New York of the UN Commission on the Status of Women was to provide impetus to efforts to turn this promise into practice.

Of the 17 SDGs, Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, is the most important goal in efforts to combat violence against women and girls. A number of targets flow from it that directly address the issue:

5.2       Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.

5.3       Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and    forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

Last but not least, no less important than the targets for Goal 5 are the indicators against which progress will be measured. Below are the indicators that most directly address the issue:

5.2.1    Proportion of ever-partnered women and girls aged 15 years and older subjected to physical, sexual or psychological violence by a current or former intimate partner, in the last 12 months, by form of violence and by age group

5.2.2    Proportion of women and girls aged 15 years and older subjected to sexual violence by persons other than an intimate partner, in the last 12 months, by age group and place of occurrence

5.2.3    Percentage of women aged 20-24 who were married or in a union before age 15 and before age 18

5.2.4    Percentage of girls and women aged 15-49 who have undergone female genital mutilation/cutting, by age group

The UK Government has been a consistent supporter of the SDG process and has over successive governments sought to place gender equality, including through combating violence against women and girls, at the heart of its international development work. For example, the current government has just published a “Strategy to end violence against women and girls” for the period 2016-20.

Key sources:

World Health Organisation factsheet on intimate partner and sexual violence against women (January 2016)

Facts and Figures: Ending Violence against Women, UN Women (February 2016)

Virtual Knowledge Centre to end Violence against Women and Girls, UN Women

For a full list the 17 SDGs and the linked targets, see: “Transforming our World. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” (pp14-28).

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