Today, November 25 is the UN International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women. It is also the first day that women and women’s groups worldwide begin the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence.
THE 16 DAYS OF ACTIVISM AGAINST GENDER VIOLENCE is an international campaign originating from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute sponsored by the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership in 1991. Participants chose the dates, November 25, International Day Against Violence Against Women and December 10, International Human Rights Day, in order to symbolically link violence against women and human rights and to emphasise that such violence is a violation of human rights. This 16-day period also highlights other significant dates including December 1, which is World AIDS Day, and December 6, which marks the Anniversary of the Montreal Massacre.
The 16 Days Campaign has been used as an organising strategy by individuals and groups around the world to call for the elimination of all forms of violence against women by:
- Raising awareness about gender-based violence as a human rights issue at the local, national, regional and international levels
Strengthening local work around violence against women
- Establishing a clear link between local and international work to end violence against women -providing a forum in which organizers can develop and share new and effective strategies
- Demonstrating the solidarity of women around the world organizing againstviolence against women
- Creating tools to pressure governments to implement promises made to eliminate violence against women
For more information on 16 Days of Activism, visit www.cwgl.rutgers.edu/16days/about.html
WHITE RIBBON DAY was started by Canadian men in 1989 as a response to the Montreal Massacre. For 45 minutes on Dec. 6, 1989 an enraged gunman roamed the corridors of Montreal’s École Polytechnique and killed 14 women. Marc Lepine, 25, separated the men from the women and before opening fire on the classroom of female engineering students he screamed, “I hate feminists.” Almost immediately, the Montreal Massacre became a galvanizing moment in which mourning turned into outrage about all violence against women.
WHO STUDY ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: The first-ever World Health Organization (WHO) study on domestic violence reveals that intimate partner violence is the most common form of violence in women’s lives – much more so than assault or rape by strangers or acquaintances. The study reports on the enormous toll physical and sexual violence by husbands and partners has on the health and well-being of women around the world and the extent to which partner violence is still largely hidden. The study is based on interviews with more than 24,000 women from rural and urban areas in 10 countries: Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia, Japan, Namibia, Peru, Samoa, Serbia and Montenegro, Thailand, and the United Republic of Tanzania. It finds that one quarter to one half of all women who had been physically assaulted by their partners said that they had suffered physical injuries as a direct result. The abused women were also twice as likely as non-abused women to have poor health and physical and mental problems, even if the violence occurred years before. This includes suicidal thoughts and attempts, mental distress, and physical symptoms like pain, dizziness and vaginal discharge. The study was carried out in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, PATH and national research institutions and women’s organizations in the participating countries. Domestic violence is known to affect women’s sexual and reproductive health and may contribute to increased risk of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. In this study, women who were in physically or sexually abusive relationships were more likely to report that their partner had multiple sexual partners and had refused to use a condom than women in non violent relationships. Women who reported physical or sexual violence by a partner were also more likely to report having had at least one induced abortion or miscarriage than those who did not report violence. Although pregnancy is often thought of as a time when women should be protected, in most study locations, between 4% and 12% of women who had been pregnant reported being beaten during pregnancy. More than 90% of these women had been abused by the father of the unborn child. The report recommends a range of vital interventions to change attitudes and challenge the inequities and social norms that perpetuate abuse. It further recommends integrating violence prevention programming into ongoing initiatives aimed at children, youth, HIV/AIDS, and sexual and reproductive health. Health service providers should be trained to identify women experiencing violence and to respond appropriately. Prenatal care, family planning or post abortion care are potential entry points to provide care, support, and referral to other services. Schools need to be safe places, support systems for victims must be strengthened and prevention programmes put in place. Raising awareness of the problem among the general public is critical. WHO’s Global Campaign for the Prevention of Violence supports governments to develop comprehensive violence prevention programmes to address domestic violence alongside other types of violence.