‘Violence against women a 'cancer' on societies’

Chennai: Gender-based violence, which affects one in three women around the world, cannot be treated solely as a women's issue as it acts as a "cancer" on societies, stunting social and economic development, a senior US diplomat said here on Wednesday.

"Gender-based violence effectively acts as a cancer on societies, causing enormous upheaval that stunts social and economic development. Countries cannot progress when half their populations are marginalised, mistreated, and subjected to discrimination," US Consul General in Chennai, Jennifer McIntyre said.

Addressing a conference on "Women, Society and Law in the New Millennium," she said the cost of violence against women exceeded USD 5.8 billion dollars in her country.

"A 1995 study in Canada estimated the annual direct price of violence against women was more than USD one bn a year in judicial, police, and counselling costs. A 2004 study in the UK projected the total direct and indirect costs of domestic violence to 23 billion pounds per year," McIntrye said.

In the US, the Violence Against Women Act had strengthened efforts to investigate and prosecute crimes against women, she said, adding she was "pleased" to know that Indian government was implementing various strategies to combat gender-based discrimination and violence.

Holding that women were first-rate entrepreneurs, executives and policy-makers, McIntyre recalled the words of US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, saying "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".

Women own nearly 8 million businesses in the United States, accounting for USD 1.2 trillion of its GDP, she said, adding women entrepreneurs would create about 5.5 million jobs in the US by 2018.

"When I arrived in India in August 2011, I was happy to hear about a 2003 constitutional amendment that mandated that one third of all seats for Panchayats should go to women. I am happy to learn that today in India, approximately 40 percent of the elected representatives in the village and municipal councils are women. This success has been described as a silent revolution in Indian democracy," she said.