Culture-associated violence against women most difficult to stop, says UN expert
Regional, Culture, 4/11/2002
From honor killings to female genital mutilation, the eradication of "cultural" violence against women is one of the greatest challenges facing the world, a U.N. investigator said Wednesday.
"Because of the link to notions of culture, these forms of violence are tenacious and extremely difficult to eradicate," Radhika Coomaraswamy of Sri Lanka said in a report to the 53-nation U.N. Human Rights Commission.
In her 38-page report, Coomaraswamy catalogued atrocities committed against women, but which are not considered crimes on grounds they are approved by culture, tradition or religion.
These include female circumcision, rape-marriages and sexual slavery.
"In some societies, women's emotional and sexual expressions are seen as threats to the social fabric and order," she said. "As a result, dress codes, restrictions... and genital surgeries are imposed on women so that they are controlled, disciplined and regulated."
Coomaraswamy, the commission's expert on violence against women, said honor crimes against women are tolerated in many parts of the world. Women are maimed or killed for falling in love with the wrong person, seeking divorce, committing adultery or even for being raped.
Honor killings and "Rape marriages," where a rapist is pardoned if he agrees to marry his victim, are condoned in many countries. The report also stated that pledging young girls to become sex workers is common practice in certain Asian countries.
The killing of female babies is another common practice in Asia, Coomaraswamy said. In many cultures, the revulsion of having a daughter is so strong that female infanticide is accepted as a necessary evil. Females are killed as fetuses or left to die when born.
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