Prelate's Words to UN on Violence Against Women

“A Long Way to Go in Order to Achieve Effective Equality Everywhere”

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GENEVA, Switzerland, JUNE 10, 2011 ( Here is the address Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See’s permanent observer at the U.N. offices in Geneva, delivered June 3 to the 17th Session of the U.N. Human Rights Council on the topic of violence against women.

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Mr President,

The Delegation of the Holy See welcomes the second thematic report on violence against women, a topic of human rights concern that rightly has resulted in greater awareness among the general public and has strengthened the efforts of States to achieve just and equitable treatment of women.

As noted in the report, the root problem rests with a view of women that ignores or rejects their equal dignity. Notwithstanding the progress achieved, violence against women remains a tragic reality. Rape is used as a weapon of war during conflicts; girls are trafficked as merchandise; domestic workers at times are abused with impunity; young women are kidnapped, forced to convert and forced to marry; others are forced to abort. While violence occurs more frequently where poverty and social instability are prevalent, we also must recognize that some legal systems and traditions still condone it. Such negative and unequal treatment of women often cause long-lasting physical, psychological and social negative effects. There is still a long way to go in order to prevent violence against women and girls and to achieve effective equality everywhere.

As Pope Benedict XVI has remarked: “There are places and cultures where women are discriminated against or undervalued for the sole fact of being women, where recourse is made even to religious arguments and family, social and cultural pressure in order to maintain the inequality of the sexes, where acts of violence are consummated in regard to women, making them the object of mistreatment and of exploitation in advertising and in the consumer and entertainment industry. Faced with such grave and persistent phenomena the Christian commitment appears all the more urgent so that everywhere it may promote a culture that recognizes the dignity that belongs to women, in law and in concrete reality.”[1]

Personal and structural forms of violence against women are often inter-related and demand assertive efforts to achieve their elimination. This phenomenon can not be analyzed in isolation from the social context in which it occurs. As it is noted by the Rapporteur, improvement in the standard of living and provisions of equal access to education will enable society to prevent additional occurrence of such violence. In fact, education itself can serve as a vehicle to create a mentality that supports and respects women.

Taking into account “the fundamental anthropological truths of man and woman, the equality of their dignity and the unity of both, the well-rooted and profound diversity between the masculine and the feminine and their vocation to reciprocity and complementarity, to collaboration and to communion[2],” my Delegation considers that it is possible to improve the situation of women and to fight the scourge of violence, and to build a creative equality and a mutual respect that prevent any recourse to violence.

Thank you, Mr. President.


[1]Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the Participants in the International Convention on the Theme “Woman and Man, The Human in its Entirety,”Vatican City, 9 February 2008,

[2] Ibid.

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