" If we are to fight discrimination and injustice against women we must start from the home for if a woman cannot be safe in her own house then she cannot be expected to feel safe anywhere.”
A Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women
Women's rights activists have observed 25 November as a day against gender-based violence since 1981. This date was selected to honour the Mirabal sisters, three political activists from the Dominican Republic who were brutally murdered in 1960 by order of the country’s ruler, Rafael Trujillo (1930-1961).
On 20 December 1993, the General Assembly adopts the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women through resolution 48/104, paving the path towards eradicating violence against women and girls worldwide.
Finally, on 7 February 2000, the General Assembly adopts resolution 54/134, officially designating 25 November as the International day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and in doing so, inviting governments, international organizations as well as NGOs to join together and organize activities designed to raise public awareness of the issue every year on that date.
On 25 November 1960, the Mirabal sisters were brutally assassinated because of their identity as women and activists. Their only crime was having fought for their rights against the Dominican dictator, Rafael Trujillo (1930-1961).25-Nov-2020.
Taking a Stand Against Gender-Based Violence
Despite the adoption of the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) by the UN General Assembly in 1979, violence against women and girls remains a pervasive problem worldwide.
To that end, the General Assembly issued resolution 48/104, laying the foundation for the road towards a world free of gender-based violence.
Another bold step in the right direction was embodied by an initiative launched in 2008 and known as the UNiTE to End Violence against Women. It aims to raise public awareness around the issue as well as increase both policymaking and resources dedicated to ending violence against women and girls worldwide.
Yet, there is still a long way to go at the global scale. To date, 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.
GENEVA (24 November 2021)* – Women and girls everywhere continue to be subjected to multiple forms of gender-based violence, including femicide, online violence and domestic violence, UN and regional experts* said today. They call on States to exercise due diligence and to fight pushbacks on gender equality.*
Ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, they issue the following statement:
“Although they represent more than half the world’s population, women and girls the world over are still at risk of being killed and subject to violence, intimidation and harassment when they speak out – for the simple fact of being women and girls. Violence against women and girls is the result of intersectional forms of social, political, economic, racial, caste and cultural discrimination perpetrated daily against women and girls in all of their diversity, including in the context of armed conflict, and States and the international community have the obligation mandated by international human rights law and standards to address this violence. Together, these forms of discrimination not only aggravate the intensity and frequency of violence but also sharpen the impunity that exists against it and increase societal and individual readiness to allow it.
Of particular concern is the fact that not only women and girls continue to be subjected to multiple manifestations of violence but that the spaces where this violence takes place have also multiplied. Nowhere is this more apparent than within online spaces, including social media. Governments, private companies and others may seek to hide their responsibilities behind the seemingly “borderless” nature of the internet. But human rights are universal and, as such, there is one human rights regime that protects the rights of women and girls offline as well as online, and that demands zero tolerance for violence against women and girls in the digital space. Violence against women and girls flourishes because those who seek to silence women and girls and facilitate their exploitation, abuse, maiming and killing are not firmly prevented from and held accountable for their actions.
While a number of States, non-state actors and other stakeholders have stepped up their interventions and resource allocations to prevent and respond to gender-based violence against women and girls, more effort in terms of both financial and non-financial interventions is needed to make these approaches truly transformative, particularly with regards to prevention, to avoid that policies remain ‘gender blind’, ‘gender exploitative’ or ‘race neutral’. Many of these policies do not disaggregate data based on social and racial constructs which discriminate, marginalize, exclude, and violate
women and girls. These policies need to transform the prevailing social, economic and political systems that produce, nurture, and maintain gender inequality and drive violence against women and girls everywhere, through increased investment in their education and skills development, access to information, social services and financial resources, and support for positive representation and images in public discourse and social media. Collectively, they need to do more to challenge the patriarchal social norms and constructs of masculinity, femininity, racism and casteism that are based on extremely harmful stereotypes and which can cause psychological, physical, emotional and economical harm, including for women of colour, including those of African descent. These stereotypes pervade state institutions as evidenced by the lack of accountability for many cases before law enforcement and justice systems. States must also ensure access to comprehensive physical and mental care for survivors of gender-based violence, as part of the full range of quality sexual and reproductive health care that must be available for all.
Collective effort is required to stop the reversal of progress made in ending violence against women across the world and to counter the backlash against gender equality and the tenets of human rights-based legislation and governance. Those responsible for these regressive steps often begin by attempts to co-opt the justice system, change or issue new legislation and curtail fundamental rights and freedoms for women and girls, such as their freedom of thought, expression and association, their right to peaceful assembly, freedom of association, freedom of thought and, in particular, their sexual and reproductive rights. All human rights are inalienable, interdependent and exist without a hierarchy, despite the efforts of some actors to sacrifice some of these rights at the expense of others, often in the name of their own cultural or religious norms and their particular perception of societal harmony.
Women and girls around the world need to be heard; their voices should not be silenced nor their experiences go unnoticed. Women will never gain their dignity until their human rights are protected. Women’s rights are human rights. Women and girls’ agency and participation in all processes that affect their rights and lives need to be promoted and protected at all costs. States should ensure and create an enabling environment for women to exercise their fundamental freedoms of expression, association, peaceful assembly and public participation free from intimidation and attacks. States must exercise their due diligence obligation and protect women human rights defenders, activists and women’s organizations who are regularly harassed, intimidated and subjected to violence for defending their rights and promoting equality. The level and frequency of violence against them should raise alarm bells everywhere. It is, and should be, a public policy and a human rights priority.
If we want to gauge the underlying health, security and prosperity of a society, we all need to address our duty to play a part in the respect and furtherance of women and girls’ rights. There will be no prosperity without ending violence against women and girls in the public as well as in the private sphere.
" There will be no ending of violence against women and girls if we don’t recognize and protect the dignity, rights and security of women and girls everywhere and at all times.”