International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

by Winnie McCroy

EDGE Editor

Friday November 21, 2014

November 25 is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and this year, they will run the campaign 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, leading up to Human Rights Day on December 10. It's time to galvanize action to end violence against women and girls around the world.

"I welcome the chorus of voices calling for an end to the violence that affects an estimated one in three women in her lifetime," said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. "I applaud leaders who are helping to enact and enforce laws and change mindsets. And I pay tribute to all those heroes around the world who help victims to heal and to become agents of change."

This year, IFUW invites women to "Orange YOUR Neighborhood," posting orange flags, banners and ribbons at local shops and businesses to raise awareness about violence against women and to discuss solutions that would work for your community.

November 25 was chosen to commemorate the Mirabal sisters, three political activists from the Dominican Republic who were brutally assassinated in 1960 during the Rafael Trujillo dictatorship.

The International Federation of University Women draws international attention to the ongoing, widespread and systemic culture of violence against women and girls that is present in all countries and regions. IFUW calls on states, international bodies, justice, health and education sectors to develop, implement and enforce holistic plans of action, including the introduction of legislation and specialized training of first responders, to protect the victims and end the impunity of the perpetrators. National law must include adequate criminal sanctions and civil remedies, and states should ratify regional and international instruments that address the issue.

IFUW President Catherine Bell highlighted the gravely concerning statistics on the frequency and severity of violence against women and girls worldwide, noting that up to 70 percent of women will suffer violence in their lifetimes, where alarmingly, it is often intimate partners or family members that carry out the attacks with devastating effects.

"Research has shown that half of all cases of femicide are carried out by partners and husbands," said Bell. "What is more worrying still is the extremely low rate of complaint in cases of violence against women, where only 13-14 percent of the most serious cases are reported to the police, with many such reports not resulting in legal proceedings and conviction. Law enforcement, health professionals, teachers and social workers need to be properly trained in treating and protecting victims of violence so that girls and women feel safe and empowered to come forward and share their ordeals."

It is not just adult women who are being targeted; schoolgirls are a particularly at-risk group in many countries, where they often face sexual violence and harassment on the journey to or from school, or while on school premises. This results in many girls being kept at home to avoid the potential harm, which effectively denies them access to learning.

Governments and education providers must prioritize the security of girls by ensuring safe passage and secure school campuses, including gender-segregated toilets. Violence against women manifests itself in a multitude of forms including physical, sexual, psychological and economic. It occurs in the domestic context and in public, and affects women and girls of all ages and backgrounds. Trafficking, forced and early child marriage, female genital mutilation and rape as a weapon of war are all specific forms of violence that disproportionately affect women and girls. Violence against women is a violation of human rights and a form of gender discrimination. Human rights education should be provided in school curricula to help raise awareness in girls and boys of the fundamental rights to bodily integrity, dignity and non-discrimination.

The International Federation of University Women is based in Geneva, Switzerland, and has an international membership. Founded in 1919, IFUW is the leading girls' and women's global organization advocating for women's rights, equality and empowerment through access to quality education and training up to the highest levels. IFUW is in special consultative status with ECOSOC and is an NGO maintaining official relations with UNESCO.

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Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.