|Feb 21, 2006 at 04:35 PM|
International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women
What You Can Do:
– Email the poster “Violence against Women” to your network of friends, family and coworkers.
– Print and distribute the poster in public areas to raise awareness during the next 16 days, from November 25- December 10.
– Write articles, op-eds and letters to the editor of your local newspapers about “Violence against Women” to educate your community.
– Inform us about your activities and events in your area on this issue.
Violence Against Women Around the World
Violence against women is perhaps the most shameful human rights violation. And it is perhaps the most pervasive. It knows no boundaries of geography, culture, or wealth. As long as it continues, we cannot claim to be making real progress towards equality, development, and peace. —UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, 1999
At least one out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime — with the abuser usually someone known to her. Violence against women and girls is a universal problem of epidemic proportions. Perhaps the most pervasive human rights violation that we know today, it devastates lives, fractures communities, and stalls development.
Statistics paint a horrifying picture of the social consequences of violence against women — in 2002, the Council of Europe adopted a recommendation declaring violence against women a public health emergency, and a major cause of death and disability for women 16 to 44 years of age. In a World Bank report, it was estimated that violence against women was as serious a cause of death and incapacity among women of reproductive age as cancer, and a greater cause of ill-health than traffic accidents and malaria combined. The economic cost is also considerable — a 2003 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the costs of intimate partner violence in the USA alone exceed $5.8 billion per year: 4.1 billion are for direct medical and health care services while productivity losses account for nearly $1.8 billion.
Moving the Issue Into the Public Eye
For the most part, the human cost of gender-based violence is invisible. Fear and shame continue to prevent many women from speaking out, and data collected is often insufficient and inconsistent. There has been significant progress in the last two decades however, to bring the issue into the open and place it firmly on national and international policy agendas.
Women’s organisations have taken the lead in developing innovative efforts ranging from providing services, drafting and lobbying for legislation, raising awareness through advocacy, education and training, and building national, regional and international end-violence networks.
More than 45 countries now have specific legislation on domestic violence and a growing number of countries have instituted national plans of action to end violence against women. But absence of adequate resources to implement policies continues to hamper progress.
Taking Safety Into Their Own Hands
Networks that have been created by women’s groups at national, regional and global levels are growing in strength and impact. These networks, such as the Pacific Regional Network Against Violence Against Women, the Women, Law and Development Network in Africa, the South Asian Forum Against Human Trafficking and numerous others, have come to play a leading role in raising awareness and pursuing positive change in community attitudes and practices related to gender-based violence.
These networks have inspired a wide range of campaigns that have brought the issue front and centre. In the 1980s, theInternational Day Against Violence Against Women was among the first campaigns organised, and was observed on November 25th each year across Latin America, to honour the Mirabel sisters, three political activists who were assassinated. In 1999, the UN joined the campaign by designating November 25th, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence AgainstWomen. The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign is another campaign that is symbolic of the global women’s movement and end-violence networks. Coordinated by the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership, it runs from November 25th to December 10th (Human Rights Day), and involves hundreds of organisations around the world in activities ranging from mediaprogrammes, to demonstrations, to conferences, exhibitions and performances.
UN agencies have also joined with NGOs and governments to conduct regional campaigns to raise awareness and mobilize community action. UNIFEM, as part of its deep involvement in the global fight to eradicate violence against women, took the lead in coordinating several UN inter-agency regional campaigns over the last years, in Africa, Latin America, Asia and the CIS region. UNIFEM also spearheaded organizing of a global videoconference on ending violence in 1999. The conference, a groundbreaking collaboration between UN agencies, linked five sites — Strasbourg, Nairobi, New Delhi, Mexico City and New York — to discuss innovative strategies to address the issue globally.
The International Community’s Response
The dramatic changes in norms, laws, policies and practices that address the issue, have been matched in recent years by responses from the international community. This has led to a global recognition of violence against women as a human rights abuse.
The 1981 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), recognises violence against women as a particularly egregious form of discrimination that must be eradicated. States parties to the Convention are obliged to take all appropriate means to eliminate discrimination against women. Further comprehensive international policy statements aimed at ending violence are the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1993, and the Platform for Action from the UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. Both documents define gender-based violence as a violation of women’s human rights and a form of discrimination that prevents women from participating fully in society and fulfilling their potential as human beings. Both documents also commit signers — UN member states — to taking action to safeguard women and girls.
Rising to the Challenge — Not a Minute More
Substantial progress has been achieved in raising awareness of the scale of the problem. Despite this progress however, today’s world is no safer than it was two decades ago. There is increased violence in societies in general, and a continuing gap between political commitment and adequate resources. Interventions to combat violence will not be effective until the level of resources matches the scale of the problem.
Violence against women remains prevalent, pervasive, systemic, and even sanctioned. The key challenge that remains is to move the issue from awareness that it is a human rights violation and a crime, to making it socially unacceptable and counter to community norms. Governments, NGOs, civil society, the private sector and international bodies must work together to face this challenge head on, and to provide the political will, commitment and courage to finally eradicate this scourge from human life.