The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

Illustration by Liliya Nikolova

Today marks the United Nations’ International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and the launch of 16 days of activism against gender-based violence.

This campaign will take place from 25 November to 10 December (International Human Rights Day) under the theme “Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands against Rape”.

“The theme highlights the need to end the “rape culture” that is entrenched in our society, whether in situations of conflict, peace, in our homes or on the streets.” -UN Women

This international day is designated to fight and to raise awareness on rape, domestic violence and other forms of violence against women.

This date became an official United Nations (UN) resolution in 1999, based on the assassination date of the Mirabal sisters, who were activists in the Dominican Republic.

For the UN, violence against women is “one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violation in our world today” and it is still “largely unreported due to the impunity, silence, stigma and shame surrounding it”.

Speak Up GIF By UN Women via GIPHY

Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) can be sexual, physical and psychological, and can manifest itself through sexual violence, harassment, human trafficking, mutilation, child marriage or intimate partner violence.

It was defined in the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, issued by the UN in 1993, 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”.

by UN Women

Rape is at the centre of the theme this year because it is a specific physical form of violence which is “ rooted in a complex set of patriarchal beliefs, power and control that continue to create a social environment in which sexual violence is pervasive and normalised”, according to the UN.


“Sexual violence against women and girls is rooted in centuries of male domination. Let us not forget that the gender inequalities that fuel rape culture are essentially a question of power imbalances.” – António Guterres, UN Secretary-General

These last few years, survivors and activists have launched campaigns such as #MeToo #TimesUp and #BalanceTonPorc which have shed light on the issue of sexual violence and rape, while giving a voice to those who were previously silenced or ignored.

This focus on rape, and violence against women and girls in general, is supported by a wide range of figures and facts.

  • 1 in 3 women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.


  • 1 in 2 women in the world were killed by their partner or a family member in 2017.


  • 72% of all human trafficking victims are women and girls.


Nicole Kidman, a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador said: “As a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, I know that we all have a role to play. The 16 days campaign is a moment for the world to come together and take action.”

A commemoration will take place today at the UN headquarters in New York with several speakers and panelists such as Susannah Grant, the showrunner of Netflix’s limited series “Unbelievable” and Ajna Jusic, the President of the association “Forgotten Children of War.”

About 100 events will also be organised starting today, such as marches, art competitions, marathons and cycling rallies, and buildings and monuments will be lit in orange to symbolise a future free of violence against women.