International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

“Even tonight and I need to take a walk and clear
my head about this poem about why I can’t
go out without changing my clothes my shoes
my body posture my gender identity my age
my status as a woman alone in the evening/
alone on the streets/alone not being the point/
the point being that I can’t do what I want
to do with my own body because I am the wrong
sex the wrong age the wrong skin (…)”

– “Poem about my rights” by June Jordan

25th of November

On the 25th of November 1960, three political activists from Dominican Republican, were brutally murdered by forces loyal to the country’s ruler, Rafael Trujillo. This was the day chosen by women’s rights activists, in 1981, to represent the fight against gender-based violence. This is the day we remember the women who survive, those who didn’t and those who are currently suffering from oppression and violence.

Violence Against Women

Violence against women is defined as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”

It is estimated that 1 in 3 women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. More than 600 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not considered a crime and another 2.600 million live in countries where marital rape is not explicitly punished.

These are not simply statistics; these numbers represent real lives that go through extremely traumatic experiences. Some of them are not unique incidents but ongoing violent acts, sometimes continuing for decades, frequently perpetuated by intimate partners or family members.

Violence and oppression of girls and women is not new, it’s been a reality for centuries. It is still one of the most widespread and devastating human rights violations in our time. Most of the cases are not even reported due to the feeling of impunity, stigma and shame. Yet, thanks to the passionate resistance and fight of so many women and activists our reality is shifting, and more voices are being raised.

Any women, from any background, inserted in any context can be a victim of gender-based violence. Nonetheless, some are unequivocally in more vulnerable positions than others. Women from the LGBTQ+ community, migrants and refugees. Women with disabilities or living within a humanitarian crisis or a context of socio-economic inequality. These are the women with the most fragile status, the main targets of these brutal acts and those who face more challenges to get out of the cycle of violence.

The most common and severe forms of violence against women

Intimate partner violence is the most common form of violence and the leading cause of feminicide globally. It is also connected to an increase of suicidal behaviors and depression.

Only 52% of women married or in a union are free to make their own decisions about sexual relations, contraceptive use and health care.

Even though sexual violence and harassment is usually portraited as a violent attack by a stranger, most forced sex cases are perpetrated by someone known by the victim.

Sexual violence as weapon of war has been used as a deliberate strategy to destroy community bonds, terrorize, weaken resistance, humiliate the enemy and even perpetrate ethnic cleansing in some cases. This is one brutal and violent act heavily underreported.

During the last decades, human trafficking has been growing exponentially. Displacement caused by war, social-economic inequalities and the demand for cheap labor and sex work keep this industry going. It’s estimated that each year, between 700 000 to 2 million women and girls are trafficked across international borders. 71% of all human trafficking victims worldwide are women and girls, and 3 out of 4 of them are sexually exploited.

You can learn more about this issue through our previous article about human trafficking. Click here

Since the 90’s, sex selective abortion and female infanticide grew at an alarming rate, echoing the perpetuation of the low status of young girls and women. Problems such as sexual violence and human trafficking have also been increasing due to these acts.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises procedures that alter or injure the female genital organs for non-medical reasons, having no health benefits or whatsoever for the victims. This is a traditional practice, now considered a human rights violation, that puts about 3 million girls at risk every year.

Violence against women is not just a display of gender inequality, it is a key element to perpetuate this unequal balance of power as well. Oftentimes, the offenders use violence as an instrument for subordination. Legal mechanisms are crucial to emphasize the unacceptability of gender-based violence, but the promotion of economic and social rights play an important role as well. Equal access to education, participation in decision-making and social justice are vital to save lives.

“We want ourselves alive, free and without fear”

Post Author: Inês Ribeiro

Inês Ribeiro
Hello!! I'm Inês, a 21 years old portuguese girl in love with political science, human rights, social justice and art.

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