CONTACT: Shayna Samuels,


Over 500 Physicians Worldwide Call on WHO to Support Global Treaty to End Violence Against Women and Girls, in Advance of 2021 Assembly


Letter Spearheaded by Mandela Prize Winner 

Points to Gaps in International Law Allowing 1 Out of 3 Women to Experience Violence in Their Lifetimes  


In anticipation of the 2021 WHO Assembly coming up May 24 – June 1, a letter was sent today signed by more than 500 physicians from around the world to the WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, as well as to diplomats from 195 nations, calling for a global treaty to end violence against women and girls. 


Spearheaded by Mandela Prize-Winner Dr. Morissanda Kouyate from Guinea, known in part for his fight against female genital mutilation, the letter states: “The right to be free from violence is a universal human right…But no international treaty adequately or comprehensively addresses all aspects of a State’s duty to respect, protect, and fulfill every woman’s right to live free from violence”. 


In a phenomenon that the WHO calls “devastatingly pervasive,” 1 in 3 women will experience violence in their lifetimes, with younger women being most at risk. On the upcoming WHO Assembly agenda is discussion about a “global plan of action…to address interpersonal violence, in particular against women and girls, and against children”. But so far, a new global treaty has not been proposed. 


In addition to Dr. Kouyate, other notable signatories of the letter include: Professor Gabrielle Casper from the Sydney School of Medicine (Australia); Professor Chyong-Huey Lai, Vice Superintendent of Chang Gung Memorial Hospital (Taiwan); Dr. Svetlana Suvorova from Medical University (Russia); Emeritus Professor Kyung Ah Park of Yonsei University (Korea); Dr. Eleanor Nwadinobi, President of the Medical Women’s International Association (Nigeria); and Dr. Charlie Clements, former executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University (U.S.). More about the proposed global treaty can be seen here.  See the full letter and list of signatories here


Below are a few excerpts from the letter. Interviews with any of the above spokespeople are available upon request. 


“Violence against women and girls had already assumed pandemic proportions prior to the COVID-19 crisis, with one in three women globally experiencing violence over their lifetimes…Yet, violence against women is not being responded to with the sense of urgency required to address a global pandemic of these proportions. Although references to violence against women in international and regional treaties are numerous, they differ in substantive scope and nature.


“Designed to be complementary to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination (CEDAW), the treaty aims for a norm that combines the best of public health and human rights frameworks. We, the undersigned physicians and public health professionals, support this call. We urge you to do the same…We pray that the pain that women and girls suffer daily around the world due to domestic and sexualized violence will awaken the collective consciousness of the world to act.”


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