The United Nations on Monday launched a multi-year campaign to end violence against women around the globe.
"Violence against women is an issue that cannot wait," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the opening of the latest session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women. "At least one out of every three women is likely to be beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime."
"Through the practice of prenatal sex selection, countless others are denied the right even to exist," Ban said. "No country, no culture, no woman young or old is immune to this scourge. Far too often, the crimes go unpunished, the perpetrators walk free."
The UN chief said women and girls were themselves targets in the war zones and that today's weapons of armed conflicts included rape, sexual violence and the abduction and sexual enslavement of women and children.
"This is a campaign for them. It is a campaign for the women and girls who have the right to live free of violence, today and in the future. It is a campaign to stop the untold cost that violence against women inflicts on all humankind," he said.
He pointed out that gender inequality was hampering progress toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), compounding the enormous social and economic toll on families, communities, and even whole nations.
"We know when we work to eradicate violence against women, we empower our greatest resource for development: mother raising children; law-makers in parliament; chief executives, negotiators, teachers; doctors, policewomen, peacekeepers and more," Ban said.