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In 1993, the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which defines violence against women as any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life. By resolution 54/134 of 17 December 1999, the UN General Assembly designated 25 November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women to raise public awareness of the issue. In 2008, the UN Secretary General launched UNiTE to End Violence Against Women, a campaign aiming to raise public awareness and increase political will and resources for preventing and ending all forms of violence against women and girls in all parts of the world. This year, 25 November marks the first day in UNiTE’s ‘16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign’, which is intended to highlight the need for sustainable financing for efforts to end violence against women and girls in order to fulfil the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (the successor framework to the Millennium Development Goals).

It is estimated that 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence. However, some national studies show that up to 70 percent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime from an intimate partner. As well as the personal impact on individual women, the organisation UN Women argues that violence against women “incurs high economic costs”, with direct costs such as medical and judicial costs, and indirect costs such as lost income and productivity which affect household and national budgets. One recent study estimated the costs of intimate partner violence as 5.2 percent of global GDP. In the UK, it has been estimated that providing public services to victims of domestic violence and the lost economic output of women affected costs £15.8 billion annually, with the cost to health, housing and social services, criminal justice and civil legal services estimated at £3.9 billion.

The Coalition Government published a Call to End Violence Against Women and Girls in 2010, which set out the Government’s ambition to end violence against women and girls and established an action plan for preventing violence, provision of services, partnership working and pursuing perpetrators. The Conservative Government published its Ending Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy 2016–2020 in March 2016. The Government acknowledged that there was more work to be done, noting that “it is unacceptable that many women still suffer in silence from crimes that wreck their lives and the lives of their families”. The new strategy set out a range of actions under the same framework as the 2010 action plan and pledged to spend £80 million of dedicated funding over the spending review period to provide support services, and to provide £15 million a year from the VAT on sanitary products to support women’s charities.

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