The Holy See Speaks on Behalf of Women

Says They Are Victims of Violence

NEW YORK, MARCH 3, 2006 ( The Holy See has asked the international community to adopt laws defending women from sexual violence.

The petition was presented Thursday by Marilyn Ann Martone, in name of the Vatican Commission on the Status of Women, of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC).

The council is meeting to consider themes arising from the Fourth World Conference on Women, and from the 23rd special session of the General Assembly entitled “Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century.”

“The Holy See again condemns vigorously the sexual violence that frequently has women and girls for its object and encourages the passing of laws that will effectively defend them from such violence,” said the representative of the Holy See.

“Nor can we fail, in the name of the respect due to the human person, to condemn the widespread culture which encourages the systematic exploitation of sexuality and corrupts even very young girls into letting their bodies be used for profit in a worldwide $3 billion industry,” said Martone.

“Progress for women is progress for all,” she said. “The World Summit rightly underlined the interdependence of development, peace and security and human rights.”


Martone promoted microcredit projects directed toward women.

“This is a phenomenon which has had the support of local Catholic Churches for many years, through parallel schemes and informal small loans to poor people whose needs were not met by the financial institutions,” she said.

“It is most encouraging to see poor women’s patience, honesty and hard work rewarded in this way in many places, and it is to be encouraged by attention to the reform of structures that will in turn assist the spread and continued success of new initiatives in this field,” she added.

The representative outlined some key areas that need to be addressed, in particular, she said, “it would be well therefore to reconsider policies directed at elderly women, who have oftentimes cared for others in their adulthood, and who in justice should receive proper support in their turn.”

She said another area concerns migrant women: “It often happens that women migrants become the principal source of income for their family. The most common employment opportunities for women, other than domestic work, consist in helping the elderly, caring for the sick and working in the hotel sector.”

“These, too, are areas where just treatment must be assured for migrant women out of respect for their femininity in recognition of their equal rights,” she said.

Trafficking of women

“Trafficking in human beings,” said Martone, “has a particularly negative impact on women.”

“In some cases there are women and girls who are exploited almost like slaves in their work, and not infrequently in the sex industry,” she said. “The culture which encourages the systematic exploitation of sexuality is as pervasive as it is unhealthy for society and must be addressed by more than fine words.”

Another area of concern is the situation of the woman in “armed conflicts,” where “women and girls are also victims of systematic rape for political purposes.”

“Those who permit, encourage or command such acts merit just punishment along with the immediate perpetrators of such crimes, while the protection of women must be honored,” she affirmed, referring to article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

“The women’s movement has been described as ‘the great process of women’s liberation,'” she said.

Martone continued: “This journey has been a difficult and complicated one and, at times, not without its share of mistakes. But it has been substantially a positive one, even if it is still unfinished, as all people of good will strive to have women acknowledged, respected, and appreciated in their own special dignity.”

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