Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. It marks the start of 16 days of action against gender violence around the world.
It is 48 years since the Mirabal sisters were brutally assassinated in the Dominican Republic on 25th November 1960, raising global recognition of gender violence. The campaign ends on 10th of December, International Human Rights Day, highlighting a symbolic link between Violence against women and human rights.
Unifem say: “Violence against women is the most pervasive violation of human rights, occurring every day, in every country and every region, regardless of income or level of development. On 25 November people around the world are coming together to condemn this universal crime against women.”
It is estimated that one in three women will at some time in their life be beaten, raped or abused in some other way. These women are most likely to be attacked by men they are acquainted with. In a Home Office report 45% of rapes reported to the survey used to compile the report, were committed by the victim’s current partner.
Reclaim the Night March took place on Saturday 22nd November, calling for an end to male violence against women and an end to male impunity against rape. Around 2000 women took to the streets of London for the 5th anniversary march organised by the London Feminist Network to demand justice for rape survivors.
Violence against women is not limited to domestic assaults in the UK. Women continue to face violence at the hands of state agents all over the world.
Amnesty International say: “All governments have the responsibility under human rights law to condemn violence against women and not invoke customs, traditions or practises in the name of religion or culture to avoid their obligation to eliminate violence against women.”
Extreme violence against women is pervasive in the Democratic Republic of Congo where it is reported women are being gang raped and subjected to horrific sexual crimes and acts of brutality. This amount to war crime in a country currently engaged in fierce conflict.
New laws to prevent forced marriage and protect those who have already fallen victim have been brought into statute in England, Wales and Northern Ireland today. The new laws mean that anyone found guilty of forcing someone into marriage could be jailed for up to two years.
Louise Johnson, Legal issues advisor at Women’s Aid Scotland said: “This legislation does not apply to Scotland and the relevant protective mechanisms cannot simply be “cut and pasted” into Scots law because of significant differences between Scots and English Law.” However The Scottish Government is in the process of drafting a consultation document on forced marriage, looking at whether civil legislation should be introduced north of the border.
Forced marriage is considered by many to be “an issue of the invisible suffering of women”. According to the UN about 1 million people are forced into marriage around the world each year. In a Lothian and Borders Police publication they state: “Forced marriage is primarily an act of violence against women.”
The new legislation south of the border has been welcomed by many of the organisations involved in the 16 days of action against gender violence around the world.