UN ramps up message on prevention of violence against women

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - Village authorities will spread the word about eliminating violence against women, hoping to change attitudes and put a stop to the abuse of women and girls. 

Rural people know little about the Law on the Development and Protection of Women and it is not enforced in their communities, so domestic violence continues.

This was the main message delivered at a workshop on Monday for government officials and development partners to discuss ways to adapt and use the United Nations’ Essential Service Package.

This is aimed at providing essential services for women and girls who are victims of violence. It also aims to strengthen the coordination and referral pathways amongst service providers to better prevent and respond to gender-based violence.

Speaking at the meeting, Vice President of the Lao Women’s Union Ms Bandith Pathoumvanh outlined the content of the first multistakeholder consultation workshop on the Essential Service Package and mapping.

The Essential Service Package was created by the United Nations Joint Global Programme on Essential Services for Women and Girls Subject to Violence.

It is a guidance tool identifying the essential services to be provided to all women and girls subject to gender based violence, including services to be provided by the health, social, police and justice sectors.

Ms Bandith said it was important to anticipate and prevent violence within communities. This is especially important during disasters, when existing issues are amplified.

Strong coordination among partners is necessary to prioritise gender based violence prevention and response, she added.

There has been significant progress in Laos on national policies and law development to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls. Marital rape and sexual violence by partners and individuals are criminalised by law.

Direct and indirect forms of violence are also prohibited by law. Gender equality and women’s empowerment is included in the 8th National Socio Economic Development Plan while the Noi framework also empowers and protects the rights of girls.

But despite various laws and policies, studies show that 58 percent of women and 49 percent of men believe that gender based violence is justified if women do not stick to traditional gender norms, roles, and relations.

Another study revealed that one third of women reported having experienced physical, emotional and/or sexual violence. Nearly half of those women also reported never seeking help due to discriminatory gender stereotypes coupled with ineffective referral pathways. 

Also speaking at the workshop, UNFPA Representative to the Lao PDR, Ms Mariam A. Khan, said Laos has many good laws and policies to protect and uphold the rights of women and girls so they can live free from violence. Making services available in line with these laws and policies is now a priority.

In 2018, the Lao Women’s Union set up Women Friendly Spaces at two camps for flood victims in Sanamxay district, Attapeu province, with support from the UNFPA.

The UNFPA also worked to strengthen referral pathways in these camps to prevent and respond to gender based violence.

Gaining momentum through this collaboration, the partners aim to implement the Essential Service Package from 2020-2023.

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