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To Eliminate Violence Against Women: Educate, Empower and Eradicate

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The United Nations marks November 25 every year as International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which also begins the "16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence" campaign counting down to Human Rights Day on December 10.

 

“Break the silence. When you witness violence against women and girls, do not sit back. Act.” - Ban Ki-moon, Secretary – General, United Nations

 

Admit it, we were all equally shocked when the “Queen of Pop,” Madonna revealed that she was raped at knifepoint in New York as a young starry-eyed singer.   Oprah Winfrey, Teri Hatcher, Tori Amos, Charlize Theron, Christina Aguilera, Ashley Judd, and many other famous women have also come forward with heartbreaking stories of either rape or domestic violence.  These are but a few of thousands of stories about rape, domestic abuse, marital rape, sex trafficking, work place harassment and other forms of violence against women that we are confronted with in the news every day, around the globe.   In fact, statistics indicate that 35%– or more than 1 in 3 women–  worldwide have experienced either intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.

 

November 25 is marked every year as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, a day to shed light on the scale of the problem of violence against women as well as discuss ways to confront it.   Designated by the United Nations, this day also marks the start of the “16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence" leading up to Human Rights Day on December 10 each year.

 

This video released by the UN in 2011 captures youth voices and focuses on solutions for the escalating issue.

 

 

Volence against women is a universal problem, and World Health Organization (WHO) has found the biggest risk factors leading to intimate partner and sexual violence to be: low education, witnessing violence between parents, exposure to abuse during childhood, and attitudes accepting violence and gender inequality.  It also found that areas in conflict, post-conflict, and areas where people are displaced are likely to "exacerbate existing violence and present new forms of violence against women."  A study based on Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) in nine developing countries found that women who shared the bulk of household decisions with their male partners were at a lower risk of abuse—regardless of their household’s income levels.

 

In recent times, the extent of violence of crime against women in India has caught the attention of the world. Amidst the whirlwind of whodunits, police reports, court cases and judgments, shockingly many political and religious leaders stated that women are the top cause for rape.  Some of the misguided reasons given for what appears to be a rise in reported rape cases include: Westernization, technology, women’s empowerment and the fact that Indian women no longer refer to men as bhaiya (elder brother).

 

This video, which went viral in India, satirically highlights the misconceptions about rapes in India and drives home the point that the system in India should stop blaming the victim:

 

 

To tackle crimes against women, we need to educate and spread awareness about the real causes gender-based violence, while simultaneously empowering women. The ‘You’re Not A Princess’ campaign is an example of a great female empowerment initiative. Merci Academy for Women in Louisville, Kentucky explains why not being a princess is actually a blessing in disguise:

 

 

In addition to education and empowerment, lasting change must come through changes to the legal system.  To this end, the World Health Organization recommends enacting legislation and policies that:

  • address discrimination against women;
  • promote gender equality;
  • support women; and
  • help to move towards more peaceful cultural norms.

 

World leaders also need to push for tougher laws and punishments for perpetrators, such as those enacted under the US Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which strengthened federal penalties for repeat sex offenders and created a federal “rape shield law,”intended to prevent offenders from using victims’ past sexual conduct against them during a rape trial.

 

What You Can Do