Statement: Sexual violence leaves people behind: we must have accountability and change for women and girls

Statement by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, on the recent cases of sexual violence against women and girls in India, 17 April


To rape and kill children is to defy and violate fundamental aspects of our shared humanity. No rape and no murder is justifiable. Such acts dehumanize societies in ways that are profoundly dangerous. If they go unchallenged and unpunished, they speak to a reduced value of human life and of an abdication of responsibility that are warning signs for us all. The assertion of the human rights of everyone, everywhere and their protection by the rule of law, is a fundamental tenet of the United Nations. It is most potent for those least able to claim their own rights and most needed by those who have least access to justice.

The recent statement on this subject by the UN Resident Coordinator in India, and the condemnation by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the gang rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua district in Jammu and a 17-year-old girl in Unnao in Uttar Pradesh are important. Even more important is the action that follows. Both of these families, who have suffered such losses, await justice. There have been too many such atrocities and too often it is women and girls who are deliberately targeted, intentionally instilling fear and building divides. Through recognition and change of the context that allows these attacks to occur, lies a vital path to broader action on gender equality, to tolerance of difference or belief, and an absolute end to impunity without exception for all those who transgress universal human rights.