International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women
International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women: November 25, 2022
Colbee Cunningham (2022-23 Iowa UNA College Ambassador from Simpson College)
Mahsa Amini. Vanessa Guillén. Mollie Tibbetts. These are just three of the millions of women who have lost their lives as a result of gender-based violence. These women were sisters, mothers, daughters, and friends. And they deserved better. On this International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, let us shed light on the unfortunate reality of global violence against women and join together in solidarity to put an end to gender-based violence.
In its 1993 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the United Nations General Assembly defines violence against women as "any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life." The World Health Organization has found that more than 1 in 3, or approximately 30%, of women have experienced or will experience gender-based violence within their lifetime. Unfortunately, this figure is much worse in many parts of the world. In South Africa, it is estimated that 115 women are raped every day. In Mexico, 78.8% of women report feeling unsafe in their own homes. In Syria, 75 out of every 100,000 Syrian women are killed in organized violence.
One of the most prevalent types of violence against women is intimate partner violence. In fact, a study conducted by UN Women found that more than 640 million women aged 15 and older have been subjected to violence at the hands of their husband or intimate partner. Historical patriarchal mindsets and chauvinist social norms have created a global society in which women are still ascribed a lower social status than men. This is especially true in countries and communities in which women don’t have access to education, are not allowed to work, and, consequently, are dependent on their husband’s income to survive. More often than not, women who find themselves in these circumstances lack the economic and social means to be able to leave their abusive partners. As such, they remain trapped in a vicious cycle of intimate partner violence.
Not only does gender-based violence pose an existential threat to women’s safety, but it also hinders their personal development and psychological well-being. Women who have been subject to violence often experience physical illness, depression, unplanned pregnancies, and sexually transmitted infections, among other things. This leads them to develop psychological trauma, which impedes their ability to function properly, care for their families, and go about their daily lives. According to Sarah McLaughlin, a communications coordinator at Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust in South Africa, violence against women “erodes the social fabric of our communities.”
While violence against women is one of the most pervasive human rights violations in today’s world, the good news is that it is entirely preventable. And the time to act is now. History shows that real change can be provoked through enacting policy shifts, rethinking educational structures, supporting female leadership, and funding feminist organizations. Although promoting change on a global scale is no small task, the movement to end gender-based violence literally constitutes a matter of life and death. In the words of former US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, “Violence against women is criminal. Equality cannot come eventually, it’s something we must fight for now.”
If you’re committed to helping end violence against women, consider participating in UN Women’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which begins on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Led by civil society, the campaign is supported by the United Nations through the Secretary General’s UNiTE by 2030 to End Violence Against Women initiative. Over the course of two weeks, champions for activism against gender violence will come together to amplify the voices of survivors, to shed light on feminist movements, and to protect women’s rights across the globe.