Marking Nov 25 the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women
The calendar is full of commemorative days. Dates of national or international significance set aside to help us remember victories, tragedies, or issues that impact our world. Each year on November the 25th, we mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. If we work hard enough, one day we won’t need to mark this day but we are far from that goal.
The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women was designated officially by the United Nations in the year 2000. The date November 25 was chosen because it is the anniversary of the murder of the Mirabal sisters. The three sisters were political activists from the Dominican Republic and their murders were ordered by the country’s leader in 1960. In 1981 at the first Latin American and Caribbean Feminist Conference, delegates committed to marking the day to denounce “gender violence from domestic battery, to rape and sexual harassment, to state violence including torture and abuses of women political prisoners”. Countries around the world have marked the day under various titles since that time.
No matter where you are in the world, women experience disproportionate rates of violence. That violence takes many forms including physical and sexual violence, harassment, exploitation, and murder. According to United Nations statistics from 2017:
- It is estimated that 35 per cent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner (not including sexual harassment) at some point in their lives .
- It is estimated that of the 87,000 women who were intentionally killed in 2017 globally, more than half (50,000- 58 per cent) were killed by intimate partners or family members, meaning that 137 women across the world are killed by a member of their own family every day. More than a third (30,000) of the women intentionally killed in 2017 were killed by their current or former intimate partner .
- Adult women account for nearly half (49 per cent) of all human trafficking victims detected globally. Women and girls together account for 72 per cent, with girls representing more than three out of every four child trafficking victims. More than four out of every five trafficked women and nearly three out of every four trafficked girls are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation .
- Eighty-two per cent of women parliamentarians who participated in a study conducted by the Inter-parliamentary Union in 39 countries across five regions reported having experienced some form of psychological violence (remarks, gestures and images of a sexist or humiliating sexual nature made against them or threats and/or mobbing) while serving their terms. They cited social media as the main channel through which such psychological violence is perpetrated; nearly half of those surveyed (44 per cent) reported having received death, rape, assault or abduction threats towards them or their families. Sixty-five per cent had been subjected to sexist remarks, primarily by male colleagues in parliament and from opposing parties as well as their own .
The international statistics produce a global picture and certainly violence against women is a problem around the world. Looking only at the global picture, it is tempting to think of violence against women as a foreign problem but it is not. Violence against women is a problem in Canada and in Grey and Bruce counties. Between April 1st 2018 and March 31st 2019, the crisis lines run by the Women’s Centre Grey and Bruce, Women’s House Serving Bruce Grey, and Kabaeshiwim received 9,871 calls. Between April 1st 2019 and March 31 2020, that number of calls rose to 11,836.
That’s 27 calls per day and 32 calls per day respectively. Each was literally a call for help. Some were calls for immediate support and safety, some for counselling to heal from historic violence.
It is essential that we support people who have experienced violence. Support can reduce suffering and the lifelong impacts that it brings. If we want to prevent the suffering in the first place, however, we need to acknowledge and address its causes.
Violence against women is a direct result of our societal beliefs. Beliefs in men’s superiority in particular encourage the use of power and control to extract physical, emotional, and sexual labour from women. Beliefs in the lesser value of women encourages not hiring or paying women equally or equitably in the workplace and across industries. Beliefs in women’s role as sexual objects and suppliers of sex encourages dehumanizing, harassing, or assaulting them.
As we mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on the 60th anniversary of the murder of the Mirabal Sisters, it is clear that we still have work to do to build a safe and just world. We have work to do in our homes and workplaces, in our places of learning and healing, and in the writing of our laws. There is a role for you in that work; a role for everyone of us.
As we mark this day, the crucial question is what will you do to eliminate the violence?
To learn more about efforts to address gender based violence in Grey Bruce, visit www.vpgb.ca