Kate Allen: The hidden atrocity of violence against women

From a speech by the Director of Amnesty International UK, to the Conservative Women's National Conference
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The Independent Online

Violence against women all over the world is arguably the greatest, but at the same time the most hidden human rights atrocity of our time. It is estimated that one in every three women in the world has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused, usually by a member of her family or someone else she knows.

Violence against women all over the world is arguably the greatest, but at the same time the most hidden human rights atrocity of our time. It is estimated that one in every three women in the world has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused, usually by a member of her family or someone else she knows.

This is not just something that happens to other women, elsewhere. In the UK the emergency services receive one call every minute about domestic violence, and two women are killed by their partners every week. There were 14,000 recorded rapes in the Britain last year.

How are we to tackle this most private of issues? In the UK we need joined-up policy and government action to provide support for victims and to change attitudes that ignore, condone and even encourage violence against women. As well as the criminal justice system being better set up to hear women's allegations and secure convictions, boys and girls at school need to learn a different way of being with each other. The attitudes and stereotypes that justify violence are learnt very young.

Government action alone will not work. Research in the UK has indicated that up to 30 per cent of adults and young people think it is sometimes acceptable to hit a female partner (for example when she has been unfaithful). Unless we all help to challenge the attitudes that make it acceptable it will not stop. Violence against women may be universal, but it is neither natural nor inevitable. We all have a part to play in ensuring it is eradicated from our world.

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