Violence against women persists in every country in the world as a pervasive violation of human rights and a major impediment to achieving gender equality. Such violence is unacceptable, whether perpetrated by the State and its agents or by family members or strangers, in the public or private sphere, in peacetime or in times of conflict. … [A]s long as violence against women continues, we cannot claim to be making real progress towards equality, development and peace. —In-Depth Study on All Forms of Violence against Women: Report of the Secretary-General, 2006
Yesterday was International Day for the Eliminatio of Violence Against Women and the beginning of a period of 16 days chosen by women of 130 countries around the world to bring out awareness of the issue. Why 16 days? Because the period between Nov 25th and Dec 10th is marked by several important events in this fight:
Nov 25th: International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. This day was chosen because it was on this day in 1960 that the Mirabel sisters, three women who had the courage to oppose the dictatorship of Trujillo in the Dominican Republican, were murdered.
Dec 1st: World AIDS Day. Established by the World Health Organization in 1988 to focus attention on this world epidemic.
Dec 6th: École Polytechnique Massacre. On this day in 1989 a gunman breaks into an Engineering school in Montreal and kills 14 women before killing himself. The day became a hallmark for the fight against gender violence.
Dec 10th: International Human Rights Day. Celebrates the adoption by the UN in 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in response to crimes committed by the Nazis against Jews, homosexuals, Roma, communists, etc and the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the US.
Denise Arcoverde, from the blog Sindrome de Estocolmo and creator of the NGO Grupo Origem, made a public plea that we all say something about it during the next 16 days to create, hopefully, a bit more awareness. I felt compelled to answer so expect a post on each of those dates during the next 16 days… It would help if any of you in the blogosphere remember those dates, even if it is just one post during the next couple of weeks.
Around the world, violence against women is a major cause of death and disability among women aged 16-44 years of age. As an UN report points out, it is as serious a factor as cancer and a greater cause than traffic accidents and malaria combined. Here in Spain the issue is in every major newspaper. Over 60 women have been killed by their partner or former partner this year alone. Many had restraining orders issued against their attacker.
The numbers probably pale in comparison with places like Brazil, where over 200 are killed in one city alone, but it is intolerable nonetheless. The positive side of all of this is that people are talking about it. It seems most people I talk to are aware and concerned about it. They seem to agree that as long as women are in an inferior position, things like this will go on. But judging from the cases mentioned in the newspapers, it seems to me that many cases of violence against women are caused not so much by the woman’s inferior position but by the inability of certain men to accept their wive’s equal position within society and their marriage. While women’s rights and position have improved by leaps and bounds during the past 50 years, much within our societies has still to catch up with this change. Most women’s work is still of the underpaid, undervalued category, and many men (and women) still see women as inferior and treat them accordingly.
I think the first phase of women’s rights’ movements across the world involved, to a large extent, convincing women themselves of their rights and their equality. I think our governments and society now need to convince the men of that fact. We also need to admit that women are not equal to men. We are different. We are equal as human beings. We are equal perhaps in terms of capabilities. But we are different. It’s not enough to guarantee access to jobs and schools. We also need a flexible workplace that allows women who have children to consiliate their roles as mothers with their jobs. We need accessible childcare services so that single women can manage a family on their own. We need our law-enforcement services to adopt a zero-tolerance policy regarding violence against women. The list goes on. As the UN secretary-general said, our path towards peace, equality and development will be marred as long as violence against women persists. And violence against women will persist until our society fully embrace women’s rights and contributions.
Some sites on the issue:
Human Rights Watch: Women’s Rights – Latest news and campaigns regarding women’s rights around the world.
Instituto de la Mujer – Spanish government organ dealing with women’s issues. Provides many statistics regarding violence against women in Spain and the rest of Europe.
No más violencia contra las mujeres – Spanish site developed by Amnisty International.
Stop violence against women – Also by Amnisty International. Dedicated to the 16 days of activism to stop domestic violence.
Women’s Human Rights Resources Programme – Located at the University of Toronto, Canada. Contains a database of legal resources related to international women’s rights as well as specific Canadian cases.
Not a minute more – Site devoted to the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women created by UNIFEM (United Nations Development Fund for Women).