The Price is not Right--The Economic and Social Costs of Gender-Based Violence to Development

Remarks by ADB Vice-President Stephen P. Groff on 15 October 2012 in Manila, Philippines

Good afternoon, distinguished guests, ADB colleagues, ladies and gentlemen. It is a great pleasure to make a few opening remarks at today's Eminent Speaker's Forum, hosted by ADB's Gender Equity Community of Practice.

The Chair of the Gender Equity Community of Practice, Shireen Lateef, will introduce Dame Justice Silvia Cartwright, our Eminent Speaker, but allow me to say that the subject of Dame Silvia's address, The Price is not Right--The Economic and Social Costs of Gender-Based Violence is of enormous interest to me and others in the development field.

Let me begin by saying, gender-based violence (GBV) is simply unacceptable. It is a gross violation of women's human rights. Gender-based violence not only harms women physically and psychologically but also hampers their productivity, reduces human capital and undermines economic growth. Gender-based violence prevents women from exercising their rights, compromises their health, restricts them from becoming fully productive and realizing their full social and economic potential. Gender-based violence is an affront to women's dignity, personal security and well-being. The impacts of GBV endure inter-generationally.

There is no doubt that gender-based violence is a critical development issue. The costs of not addressing GBV is significant for the victim, the society and the economy as whole. Failure to address GBV is, in my view, tantamount to complicity. In the past, this topic was largely within the ambit of NGOs, women's rights activists and specialized UN agencies. Today, it is widely recognized that stopping gender-based violence should be everyone's business and an essential component of the development agenda. Today, the conversation has shifted from a focus confined to women's rights to the broader human, social and economic costs of gender-based violence. Hence, institutions such as ours need to engage with this serious development issue.

The questions for us are--where and how should ADB engage? Should we support legislative and policy reforms? Should we design projects that tackle the issue at the community level? Should we focus economically and socially empowering women so they can say "no" and have the power and "voice" to fight back?

To date various ADB supported projects have tackled different aspects of gender-based violence. In Bangladesh, a primary health care project assisted women victims of violence through one-stop shop centers that provided psychological, physical, and legal assistance. In Nepal, police from women's police cells, prosecutors and advocates were trained on women's legal rights and how to more effectively deal with gender-based violence. In Pakistan, the Access to Justice Program helped establish women's police cells, recruit more female judges and introduce the Sexual Harassment Bill. Right here in the Philippines, the Justice Reform program trained the Philippine National Police on handling GBV. At the broader policy level, a regional technical assistance project helped strengthen regional and national legal frameworks to combat trafficking in women in South Asia.

Are these the right approaches? How can institutions such as ADB step up these efforts and better contribute to meeting the challenges of gender-based violence? I am interested in hearing from Dame Silvia about:

  • the scale and cost of gender-based violence in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • How to measure the economic and social costs of GBV? Which countries have been able to do this and how?
  • What is the impact of GBV on development?
  • What is the role of institutions such as ADB? A large number of governmental and non-governmental organizations with greater comparative advantage are already working on GBV. For example, UN Women has a significant global program on violence against women. What would be the value added of ADB's engagement in this area?

I leave you with these thoughts, and look forward to hearing from our distinguished eminent speaker Dame Justice Silvia Cartwright. Thank you.