Today, on the 25th of November, the United Nations mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. In this article, I shall draw attention to the inequality between men and women, based on traditions and culture, since I think it can help us understand womens difficult lives and mens violence against women. In more primitive societies, it has been accepted that the physically strong has more power than the weak, and it has traditionally been accepted that the powerful can use his power if he so chooses, including degrading, inhumane and humiliating treatment of others, and indeed of women. Although this thinking is changing, it is still prevalent in many societies and in subgroups. We men are responsible for our actions, in general and as individuals, in relationships as in other situations in life. We are all responsible for what we do, and that doesnt only include direct violence, it also includes indirect and structural violence. The rich, men and women alike, have a responsibility for the structural violence and injustice done against the poor, and must be working for change towards a fairer society for all. I would like to underline that violence against women, as other violence between individuals and groups, even nations, are based on 'power structures where we seem to believe that the strong has the right to be in charge. A strong state can behave like a strong man and beat up a weaker state, and even today, when we are presumably quite enlightened, we seem to accept such absurdity. A bully in the home can beat up, or order around, his wife and children, and servants if he has any, and somehow, we seem to accept it. Religion, as part of culture, is many times used to justify social and economic systems, including the power structures where men are ranked as first class human beings and women relegated to the lower slots. However, religion as such is never on the side of the oppressor; it is on the side of the oppressed, the last, the least and the lowest. But since men are the leaders of religion, and the other institutions in society, they have decided what is right and wrong. No wonder then that the rules and regulations are stricter for women than for men But since Gods law is the same for all, we better get used to that fact in sacred matters, and then we should devise laws that are equal for all, men and women, rich and poor. As time changes, people also change. Old traditions are forgotten and new and better ways found. Whereas we should appreciate and cherish cultural variations and diversity, we should also realise that certain traditions and ways are outdated and wrong. Some principles are universal in our modern world, such as those found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We cannot excuse violence against women by claiming that it is a cultural tradition, acceptable in certain cultures. The basic, minimum standards for human behaviour are indeed universal, but still we allow some delay in implementation of them. After all, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the General Assembly in 1948. Further, focus on gender equality took off as recently as the 1970s. The International Declaration on the Rights of the Child was adopted in 1989. In the recent decades, discrimination based on sexual orientation is seen as a human rights abuse. Overall, we have seen greater inclusion of various minority groups, ethnic, linguistic, handicapped, mentally challenged, and others. All this gives hope for a better future for all, not least as regards 'greater equality between men and women, which is the basis for the elimination of violence against women. Over time, it will become socially and politically unacceptable to discriminate women in the workplace, in political parties, when making a decision about the choice of a future spouse (and divorce), the number of children in a family, what education girls and boys should have, and so on. The issue of violence against women will follow suit, except for in cases when substance abuse and mental illness play a major part. Improved counselling and treatment is needed in such groups, and they are growing. This is a dream, you may say, and this will take many generations? True, I am from Norway, where we have come quite far in reaching great gender equality - but we still have many fields where we need to improve the conditions, to benefit women, men and children, also in the field of violence against women. Sometimes, when both the husband and wife in a family have demanding jobs and are in career races, the family and neighbourhood suffers. As we make progress in some areas, we regress or stand still in other areas. We must discuss further on how to organise our modern lives with greater gender equality, so that the psychosocial needs of all can be better fulfilled. We can also learn from more traditional cultures, including in Pakistan, so that we can build new and better societies and communities where few, and ideally nobody, feels left out and becomes frustrated. Frustration and a feeling of not measuring up is often a cause for discrimination against others, abuse and violence. Greater equality between men and women will lead to better lives for all, with less violence and abuse. This is the main premise - and promise. Yet, we must work deliberately to reach the goals. We should also try to define in detail factors that lead to the reduction of violence in society in general, which will also lead to less violence against women. Today, in times of globalisation, the gap between rich and poor is again growing, which is very risky since it is likely to lead to more conflicts and violence. Hence, macro policies and trends are such that we are likely to experience more abuse and violence against women. We already see that in groups of forced and voluntary migrants, and people who are smuggled and trafficked. IDPs and refugees are always more vulnerable than others, and abuse of and violence against women and children is higher than in normal situations. Fifty years ago, racial discrimination in America, and 20 years ago, apartheid in South Africa became politically unacceptable (because it was economically too costly to maintain), and the systems collapsed and more just systems developed. In both cases, it seemed unlikely that it would happen so fast. But then it did indeed happen. So also with greater gender equality and elimination of violence against women. I have in my own lifetime seen greater changes than anyone could predict - not only in Norway, but everywhere, in cities and in rural areas. Norways high degree of gender equality was certainly a major factor when the United Nations Index this year ranked Norway as the worlds best country to live in. Obviously, womens rights and conditions were included. After all, women do constitute half of the population in any country, and women, children and adolescents are 89 percent. Thus, we men better change fast because we are in minority. I am certain that when women realise this fact, and get into leadership positions, and work with young people, we will all get a chance to live in more just and peaceful societies, with less violence and abuse. The writer is a senior Norwegian social scientist currently based in Islamabad. Email: atlehetland@yahoo.com