Today, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, we are reminded of the horrific acts of violence against women that take place every day around the world and pledge to recommit ourselves to changing attitudes and ending all forms of violence against women and girls.
Gender-based violence is a global pandemic that cuts across all borders and impacts all peoples and societies -- regardless of ethnicity, race, socio-economic status, or religion. One in three women around the world will experience some form of gender-based violence in her lifetime. The medical, security, and legal costs to countries are incalculable. It dampens economic development and tears at the fabric of societies. The health costs to women includes not only the detrimental impact on their physical well-being, such as increased susceptibility to HIV infection, but also mental health costs for both women and their children.
We need to improve our efforts to prevent and respond to this crisis. When women are afforded their rights and given the chance to pursue education, employment, and political participation, they drive social and economic progress. They lift up themselves, their families, communities, and their nations. But to build this future girls must be able to learn without fear and women must be able to make decisions about their own lives and the future of their families.
Prevention, protection and prosecution are essential to combating this violence. But we must add a fourth "P" as well -- Priority. Empowering women and girls is already a priority of the United States, but we need more countries to step up and take on this challenge. The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the 16 days Campaign Against Gender-Based Violence is an opportunity to renew the commitment to free women and girls from the nightmare of violence, because the future safety and security of our world depends on it.