In 1999, the UN General Assembly declared 25 November as International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women. The designation invited governments, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations to “organize activities designated to raise public awareness.”
On Monday, November 25, 2013, leaders around the world urged a re-commitment for ending violence against women and girls. This year’s theme focused on wearing orange to raise awareness. The ceremony involved commending leaders for their efforts to enact and enforce laws to ultimately help victims of gender-based violence.
One may wonder what kind of violence the day calls for. The gender-based violence takes many forms including physical, psychological, economical, and sexual. UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri described gender-based violence as “a gross human rights violation,” and a “pandemic.” Additionally, Puri points out how it is less safe for women to be in conflict or post-conflict times, than be a soldier, because rape is being used as a war tool. Finally, Puri explains the most common place for a woman to be raped is at home, and often under the veil of a cultural ritual.
A recent study by the World Health Organization (WHO) reported one in every three women have experienced violence—physical or sexual—from her partner in her lifetime. This shows this is not a regional problem, but a problem women from all over the world are facing. UNAIDS Director of Rights, gender, Prevention and Mobilization, Dr. Mariangela Simao says, “Lots of gender-based violence is sexually related. There is a lot of data right now showing that most of violence against women happens in the context of intimate partner violence—domestic violence. And many times it takes the face of non-consensual sex, which is a polite way to say rape.”
Closely related to sexual violence comes the forced infection of HIV/AIDS. According to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, 50 young women are infected with HIV every hour. More than 603 million women live in nations where rape and domestic violence are not legally considered crimes. These facts can be hard to believe, and this is why the UN is calling for action.
Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator said, “This is not acceptable: better laws and their enforcement are needed.” The Day also called for education in school that teaches human rights and mutual respect among all people regardless of gender. Leaders urged prevention must address gender inequality as the cause of the violence.
Looking toward ways to end the violence, officials agree empowering women, educating women about their rights will assist in the progress to ending violence. Furthermore, discussion of ending violence against women and girls must include men playing a role to solve the problem as well.
– Laura Reinacher