25th November 2018 – International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women
Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations of our time. That is why every 25th November we celebrate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. This day is an opportunity for governments, international organisations and NGOs to raise public awareness about the levels of violence women suffer and to try to implement new measures to eradicate it. This year, the UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign has chosen the global advocacy theme to be “Orange the World: #HearMeToo”. While orange has been the colour used the past years to unify all activities taking place on this day, the theme makes reference to the internationally popular #MeToo movement, a women’s initiative to end sexual harassment and sexual assault worldwide.
Violence against women and girls takes many forms, including physical and emotional abuse, rape, forced marriage, female genital cutting, trafficking and deprivation of resources and rights. It is estimated that one in three women in the world have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime, while two thirds have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner. Moreover, according to the UN Secretary-General’s report on progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, in 2012 almost half of all women who were victims of intentional homicide worldwide were killed by an intimate partner or family member, compared to only 6% of male victims. In England and Wales, in the year to March 2017, 1.2 million women suffered from domestic abuse, with around 2 women killed every week.
These horrifying numbers show the imperative need to keep working to eradicate violence against women and the necessity to dedicate an International Day to raise awareness on the issue, which has been celebrated on the 25th of November since 2000, after the UN General Assembly designated it on December 1999. However, this day was previously marked by activists in 1981, in homage to the sisters Patria Mercedes Mirabal, María Argentina Minerva Mirabal and Antonia María Teresa Mirabal, three political activists who were murdered in 1960 in the Dominican Republic on the orders of dictator Rafael Trujillo. The date was chosen by women’s rights activists to pay tribute to the sisters’ lives and to all women fighting to end oppression and violence.
Violence against women and girls is strictly prohibited by international law. Women’s right to live a life free of violence is upheld by numerous treaties, including the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (DEVAW) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). There also exist various regional treaties covering this topic, such as the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights of Women in Africa, and the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.
In spite of this international framework, violence against women and girls is ubiquitous and much more needs to be done to end this problem. Women are still socially seen as inferior to men and this, for some, gives grounds for sexist behaviours and practices towards them that are contrary to human rights. A pan cultural shift of attitudes and beliefs surrounding gender roles and relations is a momentous task, but it is needed in order to tackle this issue. Addressing violent and toxic ideas of masculinity and hierarchical gender dynamics is a must in order to shift these oppressive viewpoints.
It is well known that violence has devastating and long-term consequences for women, but also for their families and communities. Likewise, research has shown that gender equality helps to prevent conflict, and that high rates of violence against women correlates with outbreaks of conflict. However, ending violence against women has not been given the importance that it requires, both at the international and national levels, which is why women still face intolerable levels of abuse. Greater efforts and more effective measures are needed, starting by addressing the funding shortfall in this area, designating sufficient resources for initiatives to prevent and end violence against women.
Although the official response has not been effective enough, international feminist movements are getting stronger and stronger, with women’s movements like #MeToo, #TimesUp, #Niunamenos, #NotOneMore, #BalanceTonPorc and many others, being on the rise in the past few years. Women everywhere are raising their voices against violence and oppression and it is clear now how strong these initiatives truly are.
At JAN Trust, we condemn all forms of violence against women and girls and work to eradicate it worldwide. At our centre, we provide a safe space for women to feel free of sexist violence and to become empowered and independent members of society.
If you want to know more about the work we do, visit our website www.jantrust.org.