Stop violence against women and girls

Violence in any form not only leads to physical injuries but it also has significant consequences on mental and emotional health

Tasneem HossainTasneem Hossain
Published : 25 Nov 2022, 09:25 PM
Updated : 25 Nov 2022, 09:25 PM

Nurunnahar, a meritorious 14-year-old girl, got married to a 34 years old expatriate man from a neighbouring village on Sept 20, 2020. She succumbed to injuries caused due to excessive genital bleeding five days later. Despite her requests, her lustful husband didn’t spare her the agony. Her in-laws didn’t bother to take her to a doctor.

What a sad end to a blooming girl who could have had a beautiful future.

This isn’t an isolated case. There are many incidents of different kinds of violence against women and girls occurring every moment around the world.

This has to stop.

Freedom cannot be achieved unless women have been emancipated from all kinds of oppression.
Nelson Mandela

Our Creator created men and women with rights and duties equally divided by Him. But men took advantage of their physical power and forced women to be subjugated to their mercy and imposed unreasonable restrictions. Not only that, women became targets of violence of different forms. Worldwide the gender difference and bias place women in a disadvantaged position.

Innumerable studies reveal the widespread nature of violence against women.

Studies suggest, globally one in three women has been raped, beaten, coerced into sex or abused in her lifetime; 35 percent of women and girls experience some form of physical and or sexual violence. In some countries, the statistics are much higher, around 70 percent. Women comprise almost 50 percent of all human trafficking victims of slavery and sexual exploitation; 650 million women and girls in the world are forced to marry before the age of 18. Female genital mutilation crosses 200 million women and girls in 30 countries. About 15 million girls between 15 and 19 experience forced sex at some point in their lives. Women are victimised by battering, psychological abuse, marital rape, femicide, destroying female fetuses, forced sexual acts, child sexual abuse, eve teasing, stalking, cyber-harassment etc. Most women face neglect, discrimination and oppression throughout their lives too.

Violence in any form not only leads to physical injuries but it also has significant consequences on mental and emotional health. Violence against women both at home and outdoors has been a threatening issue through the ages.

In India, Bangladesh and many other Asian countries, women are suppressed and subjugated in a patriarchal society where male violence against women is just another issue.

The causes of male violence against women are perhaps rooted in the dynamics of power domination and traditional control of men over women. Women become easy prey due to their vulnerability. The patriarchal family structure gives the upper hand to men. The social pattern is also a contributing factor where women and girls are made to believe from childhood that they are weak and dependent on men. The glorification of the image of an ideal woman who suffers in silence has enslaved women to live in a culture that allows violence against them both at home and workplace. Marriage also gives men the opportunity to isolate women into captivity at home.

This unequal power relation within the family and the world outside makes women an easy target of male oppression, exploitation and abuse.

Global situations like war and conflict have further intensified violence against women and girls (VAWG) and worsened risk factors by displacement. Also, climate change is a catalyst. Digitalization is adding online violence against women and girls along with the existing ones. At the same time, anti-rights movements and anti-feminist groups are counteracting women’s rights organisations, weakening the cause for women.

Though gender-based violence can happen to anyone, anywhere, young girls, older women, women who identify as lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex, migrants and refugees, indigenous women and ethnic minorities, or women and girls living with HIV and disabilities are particularly at risk. Critical adverse psychological, sexual and reproductive health consequences affect women and girls at all stages of their life.

Most of the affected women and girls do not seek help. Violence remains largely unreported due to fear and stigma. Although 144 countries have laws concerning domestic violence, those are not always enforced properly. Silence of the victim and impunity of the perpetrator results in increased violence.

Violence against women hinders the process of equality, development, peace and human rights. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cannot be achieved without the elimination of VAWG.

Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It’s a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance.
Kofi Anan

Through the years, government officials and international leaders have concentrated efforts to curb VAWG. Sadly, it continues to be widespread worldwide.

Despite the adoption of the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) by the UN General Assembly in 1979, VAWG remains a global threat.

Since 1981, women's rights activists observe November 25 as a day against gender-based violence. They chose this day to honour the three Mirabal sisters (political activists) in the Dominican Republic who opposed the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo. They were brutally murdered on Nov 25, 1960.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women on Dec 20, 1993; their goal was to eradicate violence against women and girls worldwide. Later, on Feb 7, 2000, the UN officially proclaimed Nov 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. This day starts 16 days of activism, which ends on Dec 10, Human Rights Day.

The 16 days of activism campaign, led by the UN Secretary-General and UN Women since 2008, aims to prevent and eliminate VAWG around the world, calling for global action to increase awareness, promote advocacy and create opportunities for discussion on challenges and solutions to this critical issue.

In 2006, the #MeToo movement, founded by activist Tarana Burke triggered global mobilisation in preventing and responding to violence against women and girls by grassroots activists, women’s human rights activists and violence survivor advocates.

Unfortunately, there’s still a long way to go. Till now, only two out of three countries have outlawed domestic violence, while 37 countries worldwide still exempt rape perpetrators from prosecution if they are married to or eventually marry the victim and 49 countries currently have no laws protecting women from domestic violence.

Elimination of violence against women might seem a far cry, but active participation on a large scale can be a strong catalyst in helping achieve this target. It needs coordinated action of feminist groups integrated with justice, good governance, health, financial and other sectors.

The Global theme for 2022: UNITE! Activism to End Violence against Women & Girls aims to mobilise all to stand in solidarity with women’s rights activists and to support feminist movements around the world to make this world free of this heinous trend against women.

Uniting and supporting the strong, autonomous women’s rights organisations and feminist movements is the key to ending VAWG. You can also take part in the UNITE campaign to end violence against women by wearing orange to symbolize a brighter future for women.

Less than 40 per cent of women who experience violence seek the help of any sort. They stay silent due to the stigma attached. We need to stand by them and share our voices to speak out loud and clear against these injustices. If you know someone who might be suffering from abuse or any sort of harassment- report it. Challenge beliefs of traditional concepts of toxic masculinity. Create awareness against violence and donate to its cause. Join in movements to attract policymakers to make stronger laws to implement preventive measures. Support women’s leadership in decision-making.

Violence against women is perhaps the most shameful and pervasive human rights violation. 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

South Africa’s former first lady Graça Machel is a strong advocate for ending gender-based violence (GBV).

During the pandemic, the claws of domestic violence choked most women around the globe.

In 2020 South Africa’s police commissioner, Bheki Cele, confirmed that there was an increase in cases of GBV during the country’s lockdown period. Cyril Ramaphosa, a resident, dubbed it South Africa’s second pandemic.

After this confirmation, Machel wrote in the Guardian: ‘A pandemic within a pandemic has been exposed and we are confronted with the horrific reality that millions of women and children in every country are fighting for their survival, not just from COVID-19 but from the brutalities of abusers in the prisons of their homes.’

The fight against COVID -19 pandemic is on.

Isn’t it time to stand up against this atrocious pandemic too?

Let’s fight this virus of injustice and eliminate violence against women and girls.

Act NOW before it’s too late.

References:

1. National Day Calendar, Celebrate Every Day.

2. In focus: 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, UN WOMEN, 18 November 2022

3. International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women 25 November, UNITED NATIONS.

[Tasneem Hossain is a multilingual poet, columnist, op-ed and fiction writer, translator and

training consultant. She is the Director of Continuing Education Centre, Bangladesh.]

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher