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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 November, 2003, 03:52 GMT
Attacks on women 'biggest issue'
Protesters burn dolls in Seville, Spain
The burning of dolls at one rally symbolised violence against women
Amnesty International has described violence against women as today's "most pervasive human rights challenge".

Rape and female circumcision are still widespread across the globe, the organisation said in a statement.

Campaigners marked International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women with marches and rallies from Africa to the Americas on Tuesday.

In South Africa, the government called on men to take to the streets of Cape Town for a Good Man's March.

For many women their home is a place of terror, even in rich societies
Amnesty International
"This is the moment to take a stand and join the march against despicable acts of violence against women and children," said Social Development Minister Zola Skweyiya.

The country has one of the highest incidences of rape in the world with some 147 women raped every day, according to the South African Institute for Race Relations.

Other rallies included a display in the Chilean capital Santiago by naked women with painted bodies led by model Pamela Bravo.

'Domestic terror'

"Violence against women and girls is the most pervasive human rights challenge of our times," said Amnesty International.

According to the organisation, 120 million women around the world are subjected to brutal female circumcision every year and in the United States alone 700,000 women are raped annually.

Amnesty stresses that the crime cuts across cultural and religious boundaries and political, social and economic status.

"For many women their home is a place of terror, even in rich societies," it says.

The organisation cites examples of violence from around the world:

  • In Bangladesh, 50% of all murders are of women by their partners

  • In Britain, there is a call for help from victims of domestic violence every minute

  • According to the World Bank, at least one in five women and girls has been beaten or sexually abused at some point of the life.

Cyprus concerns

In another report published to coincide with the day, the ombudsman in Cyprus says that the Mediterranean island has become a site of virtually uncontrolled trafficking in women.

The ombudsman, Iliana Nicolaou, says that every year more than 2,000 women, mostly from the former Soviet republics, are channelled through Cyprus, and then forced into prostitution in other European and Arab countries.

The report criticises the Cyprus Government, saying that it issues thousands of short-term work permits to the women knowing full well that they would end up in the sex industry.

The BBC correspondent in Cyprus says that with the country set to join the European Union next year, this report will be embarrassing for the country's government and cause concern in Brussels.

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