The international community is turning attention to the violence that women and girls are dealing with on a global scale. November 25 is International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women. The goal of this day is to call for global action on the cause of eliminating violence by achieving gender equality and the full empowerment of women.
“Violence against women is fundamentally about power,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on Wednesday. “It will only end when gender equality and the full empowerment of women will be a reality.” He noted that his policy of gender parity in the United Nations is one step toward achieving this goal.
Violence against women is one of the most extreme forms of discrimination. According to the latest report by the UN Secretary-General, 19% of women between 15 and 49 years of age said they had experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in the 12 months prior to the survey. The data was compiled from 2005 to 2016 and included 87 countries.
In 2012, almost half of all women who were victims of intentional homicide worldwide were killed by an intimate partner or family member, compared to 6% of male victims. What the challenges that contribute to this ongoing acceptance of violence against women? One of the major challenges is a lack of funds. Efforts to prevent and end violence worldwide struggle to find resources for these initiatives are severely lacking.
This year, however, there is good news on the funding front. The European Union and the United Nations launched the Spotlight Initiative to Eliminate Violence Against Women and Girls. Another initiative helping to expose the issues and impact of violence against women is the UNiTE to end violence against women initiative launched in 2008 by the United Nations.
The theme of the 2017 International Day is to leave no one behind. In line with that theme, UNiTE is leading a campaign called 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, which aims to raise public awareness and mobilize people throughout the globe to bring about change. The 16 days will start on November 25 and end on December 10, which is also Human Rights Day. Led by UN Women and partners, hundreds of events will be held worldwide, including marches, flashmobs, concerts, and football and rugby games. Iconic buildings will be lit up in orange to galvanize attention during the campaign.
“There is an increasing recognition that violence against women is a major barrier to the fulfillment of human rights, and a direct challenge to women’s inclusion and participation in sustainable development and sustaining peace,” said Guterres.
This violence, the most visible sign of pervasive patriarchy and chauvinism, directly impacts women’s physical and psychological health. It affects whole families, communities, and societies. Every woman and girl have the right to a life free of violence, but this right is violated in a variety of ways in every community, with more than one in three women worldwide face violence throughout their lifetime.
UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said that gender-based violence takes place hidden, but in plain sight, normalized so it is hardly noticeable.
“It becomes just a part of life,” said Mlambo-Ngcuka. “When we talk about leaving no one behind, we want to identify all these different forms of violence that women experience.” She also mentioned the #MeToo movement, which has exposed how men in authority can become serial perpetrator, and the men’s rise to positions of power does not always mean they respect those they are responsible for leading.
The movement also exposed stories that indicate how frightening it is for young women and men to come forward to expose predators, fearing that they will not be believed. This has created a culture of entitlement, where there are often no consequences for sexual crimes, which has left many women dealing with these crimes in silence.
“Sanctions and accountability are critical for behavior change, and for the coming generations to be socialized differently, so that they know that this is not acceptable,” said Mlambo-Ngcuka.
Mr. Guterres is also addressing the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse in house by launching a new victim-centered approach to the offenses committed by those serving under the UN. The United Nations is committed to addressing violence against women in all its forms, he stressed, citing such initiatives as the UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women, which has successfully awarded $129 million to 463 initiatives across 139 countries and territories over the past 20 years.
While this violence continues, the international community will not achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a master plan to end poverty and save the planet, adopted by the United Nations in 2015.