THE world marked International Women's Day on Thursday, with the United Nations and the European Union calling for an end to violence and discrimination.
The UN security council called for an end to pervasive violence against girls and women during armed conflicts and demanded that perpetrators be punished.
"Violence against women is both a cause and a consequence of discrimination against women," said Rachel Mayanja, special adviser on gender issues to Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon.
"It is based on social and cultural practices that hold women and girls as subordinate to men," Ms Mayanja noted.
UN Development Fund for Women executive director Noeleen Heyzer said that the number of countries adopting legis-lation against violence is growing, but the implementation of laws "is often insufficient."
Ms Heyzer said that 89 countries currently have legislative provisions on domestic violence, 104 countries have made marital rape a crime, 90 countries have provisions against sexual harassment and 93 states prohibit trafficking of women and men.
Violence against women "is a pandemic that can be stopped, given the necessary political will and resources," she said.
The EU pledged to fight discrimination and domestic violence against women and to promote women's participation in political life.
"Protecting women's rights and empowering them as decision-makers are fundamental principles of the European Union's work across the globe," EU external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner claimed.
But, while gender gaps in employment and education are narrowing, the pay gap across the EU remains around 15 per cent.
Women account for just 32 per cent of managers, 10 per cent of board members and 3 per cent of chief executives of large companies in EU countries.
In Bangladesh, male celebrities, athletes and students pledged to fight acid attacks, which generally target women and are carried out by men.
The attacks most often involve acid being thrown onto young women's faces or bodies by spurned suitors or angry husbands, according to the Acid Survivors Foundation.
The assaults disfigure, maim or kill dozens of people a year.
While countries such as Afghanistan reported progress in improving women's access to education and to political office, with two million girls returning to school since the fall of the Islamist Taliban regime, widespread discrimination and domestic violence continue.
The UN Development Fund for Women said that at least one in three Afghan women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused, with the abuser usually a family member or someone she knows. Prosecutions are rare.
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