On 25th November 1960, the Mirabal sisters were brutally assassinated for identifying as women and activists. But what was their crime? Their only crime was fighting for their rights against Rafael Trujillo, the Dominican dictator in 1930-1961. In 1979, the United Nations General Assembly adopted an international bill of rights for women, thus calling for an end to the discrimination against women. In 1993, it adopted Resolution 48/104 declaring the Elimination of Violence Against Women. This declaration defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in or is likely to result in physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life”. To solidify this decision, the General Assembly then declared 25th November the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in 1999. Later in 2000, alarmed that women do not enjoy their fundamental freedoms and human rights freely, another resolution was adopted. In 2017, the United Nations and the European Union launched the Spotlight Initiative to put an end to the violence against women and girls by 2030.
Violence Against Women Today
Since last year, nearly one in five women has faced physical or sexual violence from a former or current intimate partner. Violence against women and girls entails a range of atrocities, from femicide and rape to female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage, to slavery and human trafficking, to cyberbullying and stalking. Violence against women is a barrier to the construction of inclusive and sustainable societies since a society can’t prosper if half of its population lives in fear of assault. Observing this day mobilizes against the violence against women, reminding us that women are the heart of change.
Among the brutal effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is the gender-based violence upsurge which has seen lockdowns trap women indoors with their abusers and caused spikes in the use of social media, which brings digital violence. Digital violence takes on many forms such as hate speech, non-consensual sharing of intimate images, doxing, online trafficking, cyberstalking, and sexual harassment and exploitation. For women and girls, the virtual world can feel like a lonely and lawless place.
Effects of Violence Against Women
A repulsive as it is, there is a large number of people who still think violence against women online is not real, because it is happening on a screen. But even if it is borderless, perpetual violence is done in cyberspace and the trauma is all too real. Some of the effects of this kind of violence are;
- Survivors develop fear, anxiety, panic, depression, and thoughts of suicide.
- It negatively impacts their social lives, relationships, work, and studies.
- Victims may withdraw completely from social media and the Internet in general, hence cutting themselves off from education, entertainment, the community, and economic opportunities.
- Women and girls fear for their physical safety as it is threatened.
- Marginalized groups such as members of LGBTQI and women of color are especially vulnerable.
On this International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) renews one of its three transformative results; its promise to end violence everywhere women and girls are. In 2020, the UN agency delivered services ranging from medical care to provision of safe spaces to legal service referrals to psychosocial support to vocational and life-skills training to over 930,000 survivors of gender-based violence.
The Theme of International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women 2021
To raise awareness of this violence, the theme of this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is “Orange the World: End Violence against Women Now!“. The color orange has been adopted as it portrays a brighter future that is free of violence against women and girls. As seen in previous years, this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women inaugurates 16 days of activism with a UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign initiative which will conclude on 10th December 2020 to observe International Human Rights Day. Many public events are being organized with orange being the color on iconic buildings and landmarks to symbolize the significance of a future free of violence. So if you see orange lights, recall the meaning!
Be Part of the Orange Movement!
According to reliable statistics, nearly 1 in 3 women have experienced abuse in their lifetime. During times of crisis as seen during the current pandemic and recent conflicts, humanitarian crises, and climate disasters, this number rises. Based on data collected in 13 countries since COVID-19, a new report from UN Women shows that 2 in 3 women reported experiencing or knowing a woman who has faced some form of violence and is more likely to suffer from food insecurity. In the same report, only 1 in 10 women reported that victims sort help from the police.
While prevalent, gender-based violence can and must be prevented. Stopping this violence begins when we;
- Believe survivors of the violence.
- Adopt inclusive and comprehensive approaches to the root causes of violence.
- Transform harmful social norms.
- Empower women and girls.
- Center survivor essential services across justice, policing, health, and social sectors.
- Work towards sufficient financing for the agenda of women’s rights.
The 16 days of activism campaign which has been led by the UN Women and UN Secretary-General since 2008, focuses on the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls across the world. It calls for global action to raise awareness, promote advocacy and create opportunities to discuss solutions to challenges. To take part in the campaign, you can make a difference by participating in person or online. Start your own discussion about gender-based violence (GBV) using the hashtags: #GenerationEquality #orangetheworld #16days and #spreadtheword.
There is no difference between the violence perpetrated online and offline. It is the fundamental human right of women and girls to feel safe and live a life that is free of violence in all spaces. Remember, digital violence and abuse is still violence and abuse. It must end!