International Day to End Violence Against Women 2011

November 22, 2011 was the International Day to End Violence Against Women. And I didn’t hear anything about it.

I’m not particularly surprised that I didn’t hear anything. UN Women only just formed itself last year. Many people think that violence against women is so widespread and inevitable that it’s almost become normalized. Or that we can’t do anything about it. To that I say, NO. Violence against women is and never should be considered acceptable or inevitable. It is a humans rights violation and it is the responsiblity of the government to protect women from such crimes. It is also the responsibility of humans everywhere to treat each other equally. While UN Women just established itself, I really admire its many goals and concrete plans, and especially its Executive Director, Michelle Bachelet. I quote her speech to commemorate (albeit, belatedly) the day:

As a young girl in Chile, I heard a common saying, quien te quiere te aporrea, or who loves you beats you. I recall a woman say, “That’s just the way it is.” Today as societies become more just, democratic and egalitarian, there is growing awareness that violence against women is neither inevitable nor acceptable. Such violence is increasingly recognized and condemned for what it is: a human rights violation, a threat to democracy, peace and security, and a heavy burden on national economies.

…. the hopes to live free of discrimination and violence are a long way from being realized. Globally, 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not yet considered a crime. Sexual violence remains rampant in times of both peace and conflict. Femicide claims far too many women’s lives. Worldwide, up to six in ten women have suffered physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime. Over 60 million girls are child brides and some 100 to 140 million girls and women have experienced female genital mutilation/cutting. More than 100 million girls are “missing” due to prenatal sex selection and a preference for sons. More than 600,000 women and girls are trafficked across borders each year, the vast majority for sexual exploitation.

Violence against women remains one of the most widespread human rights violations yet one of the least prosecuted crimes. Although equality between women and men is guaranteed in the Constitutions of 139 countries and territories, all too often women are denied justice and protection from violence. This failure does not stem from a lack of knowledge but rather a lack of investment and political will to meet women’s needs and protect their fundamental rights. It is time for governments to take responsibility.

Let us move forward. I propose a policy agenda of 16 concrete steps for decisive action to prevent, protect and provide essential services to end violence against women. Protecting our mothers, sisters and daughters requires leadership and sufficient resources, effective laws and the prosecution of perpetrators to end impunity. Critical to success is the strong engagement of men and boys as partners in equality, taking a stand of zero tolerance of violence against women. Violence can be prevented by changing norms through education and public awareness campaigns, engaging adolescents and young people as agents of change, and promoting the empowerment and leadership of women and girls. There is also an urgent need to provide women and girl survivors with the support and services that they deserve and require.

… Violence against women is not solely a woman’s issue. It diminishes each and every one of us. We need to come together to end it. By coming together, by standing up against violence against women, we will come closer to peace, justice and equality.

Find the full press release here.

Do you know of any violence against women in your community? How do you think that governments can be more involved in ending this violence? How do you think that humans can change their relationships and condemn violence against women? Do you agree with Bachelet about her 16 steps or do you think she should change some/add more?

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