DUSHANBE, November 30, 2011, Asia-Plus – in a statement made on the occasion of International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women,  the U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan Ken Gross notes that violence against women and girls touches Tajikistan just as it does every other nation.  According to him, gender-based violence is a global pandemic that knows no boundaries, it can threaten women and girls at any point in their lives and can take the form of domestic violence, rape, spousal rape, sexual exploitation and abuse, trafficking in persons, or the neglect and ostracism of widows.

“The 16 days starting with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25, and ending with International Human Rights Day on December 10, are a time to discuss, reflect, and take action to prevent violence against women.  It is clear that the international community must offer up more than words to answer the call to free women and girls from violence.  We hope that the people of the United States can work together with the government and the people of Tajikistan to reduce, and eventually eliminate, these unnecessary and heinous crimes against women and girls.

“The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is a sobering reminder that gender-based violence cannot be treated as solely a women''s issue - it is a profound challenge for the entire world.  Countries cannot progress when half their populations are marginalized and mistreated and subjected to discrimination.  Gender-based violence is not just an affront to human rights and dignity – it adversely impacts the welfare of our communities. When women and girls are abused, businesses close, incomes shrink, families go hungry, and children grow up internalizing behavior that perpetuates the cycle of violence.  The damage is passed on to the rest of the community as judicial, health, and security services are strained.  Violence acts as a cancer on societies, causing enormous upheaval in the progress of social and economic development.  Physical violence vastly increases women''s risk for a range of serious conditions, including reproductive health problems, miscarriages, and sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV.  There is no end to the economic and detrimental social and health costs that accompany this brutality. We must support the inclusion of men and boys in addressing and preventing violence and changing gender attitudes, increase accountability and commitment by community and government leaders on this issue, and highlight and promote effective programs that are already successfully.

“Women in Tajikistan are the primary caregivers for the nation’s children, the nation’s future. Women are responsible for clothing, feeding, raising, and educating the new generation. Therefore, violence against women is violence against the future of Tajikistan.  Only when men and women, the government and civil society, the nation and the international community, stand up and speak out against this scourge can the future of Tajikistan be secured.

“The U.S. Government and the Government of Tajikistan are working together to reduce violence against women through education.  The Ministry of Education has recognized the terrible consequences of violence against women and has joined in the fight.  The United States Agency for International Development is working with schools throughout Tajikistan to teach educators and students about the risk of gender-based violence.  Through its community policing initiatives, the U.S. Embassy is helping the police and the people they serve to identify and address problems related to gender violence.  The U.S. Embassy is also working with the Government of Tajikistan to train law enforcement officers on countering trafficking in persons (TIP) and with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to raise awareness of the problem and provide support to victims.

“The United States is committed to combating TIP around the world. The U.S. Embassy has a strong partnership with the Government of Tajikistan in our joint mission to combat TIP.  As part of that commitment, we produce an annual report that assesses the TIP situation in every country, including the United States, which raises awareness and encourages all governments to act against all forms of TIP. On June 27, 2011, Secretary Clinton released the Department''s 2011 Report on Trafficking in Persons, and in recognition of the Government of Tajikistan''s efforts to combat TIP over the past year, the Department of State removed Tajikistan from the TIP Report''s “Watch List.”  We commend the government of Tajikistan for its commitment to combating TIP, which is one part of the larger battles to protect Tajikistan’s women, girls, men, and boys from abuse and exploitation.

“It is important that Tajikistan quickly adopt the Law on the Prevention of Violence in the Family, which makes domestic violence a criminal offense.  This law will be the first of many critical steps needed to protect women and girls against violence in the home.  We applaud the efforts of the Parliamentary working group to include civil society and the public in the discussions about this new law. Civil society groups, government institutions including ministries and committees, international partners, UN agencies, and mass media have all spoken out in favor of a new, stronger law to protect women. These efforts show that the initiative enjoys broad support from the public and civil society, and we urge the Government of Tajikistan to continue to make progress.

“These 16 days offer an opportunity to renew the commitment to free women and girls from the nightmare of violence, whether the abuse occurs in the home behind closed doors or in the open. When women and girls are accorded their rights and afforded equal opportunities in education, healthcare, employment, and political participation, they lift up their families, their communities, and their nations. As Secretary Clinton recently noted, "Investing in the potential of the world''s women and girls is one of the surest ways to achieve global economic progress, political stability, and greater prosperity for women – and men - the world over.”