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2021 theme – Orange the World : End Violence against Women Now!

BHAWNA ATMARAM

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Historical Background

Established in 1999 by the General Assembly of the United Nations, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (November 25) is also known as ‘Orange Day.’ This colour has been judiciously chosen by UN Women, which is the United Nations  Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. The brightness of the colour orange symbolises optimism and the possibility of a world without violence against women.

As per Sustainable Development Goal 5, out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals instituted by the United Nations in 2015, there is the urgency to ‘Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls’. By this we mean that all forms of discrimination, violence and harmful practices against women and girls, whether in the public or private domains have to be ended. Through reforms, women should be given all opportunities to become key decision-makers in terms of economic autonomy as well as political leadership.

Why November 25?

Looking back at the history, the Mirabal sisters who were political activists in the Dominican Republic, were brutally murdered by the regime in place. They had been stopped by military intelligence officers while they were on their way to visit their husbands in prison and their gruesome fates later led to rebellion and the assassination of the country’s dictator.

As from November 25, there is a 16-day period of activism till December 10, which is fittingly the International Human Rights Day. The campaign is known as ‘Orange the World’ where awareness is raised on the need to bring an end to violence against women, to stand up with victims and initiate measures to achieve change.

Statistics

Figures are very telling. The statistics are still not very encouraging regarding the fates of millions of women and young girls around the world. The list is lengthy and some notable figures are listed below:

• According to UN Women, around 736 million women (nearly one in three) have been subjected to ‘intimate partner violence, non-partner sexual violence or both, at least once in their life.’

• The reports of violence against women mostly stem from husbands, former husbands or intimate partners. More than 640 million women aged 15 or above have been subjected to intimate partner violence.

• Chillingly, it is estimated that about 137 women are killed every day by members of their own family. Women and girls account for 72% of human trafficking victims, mostly for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

• 6% of women have formally reported sexual violence from people other than their husbands or partners.

• Nearly 200 million women and girls (aged between 15-49) have been subjected to female genital mutilation in 31 countries.

• With technological progress, new forms of violence are ironically emerging. One in ten women in the European Union has reported cyber-harassment since the age of 15. This encompasses receiving unsolicited messages/pictures/sexually explicit content, online stalking or advances via social media platforms.

Mauritius

As per Gender Statistics for the year 2020 and figures obtained from the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family Welfare, among victims of domestic violence, 87.3% were women and 12.7% were men. Physical, sexual and verbal assault, harassment, humiliation all fall under the umbrella term of domestic abuse.

91.6% of victims of reported sexual violence and sexual exploitation are women.

Regarding child abuse cases, 57% of the victims are females.

The Global Gender Gap Index (2020) has ranked Mauritius 115 out of 153 countries. This clearly entails that we have a lot to do in order to close the gender disparity.

An overview of the Causes of Violence against Women

Deeply rooted in gender inequality, violence against women is one of the most significant human rights violations everywhere in the world. Physical, verbal and /or sexual violence, sexual harassment, rape, stalking, sexual exploitation constitute a living nightmare for millions. The unequal power distribution, whether implicitly or explicitly, is the common contributor of violence against women across all spheres of the world.

Heise’s (1998) ecological model of factors is widely used to understand the interplay of ‘personal, situational and sociocultural’ aspects that generate gender-based violence. An inherent comprehension of these factors can lead to devising solutions that have to be implemented to curb the trend of violence. Firstly, most societies still ascribe to norms pertaining to rigid gender roles entrenched in the strong assertion of male dominance or using violence as conflict resolution. Then, within the community, the low socio-economic position of women, social isolation or latent acceptance put them at risk. Furthermore, within the relationship realm, marital conflict and decision-making centred on male dominance in the family bubble aggravate the situation. Finally, at the individual level, factors like child abuse, alcohol abuse or internalising marital violence constitute the personal history that can escalate violence.

What we can do

Educate, educate and educate! Constantly raising awareness, from the microcosmic level of the family to the macrocosmic levels of political decision-making is vital. Values such as mutual respect, tolerance, using peaceful means in conflict resolution should be taught to each and everyone. Working hand in hand with all stakeholders to gather data, allocate resources, train and recruit personnel for the protection of victims and the setting-up of structures (shelters, hotlines, victim protection systems) with law-enforcement authorities on a 24/7 basis have to be reinforced.  Individual empowerment of women through sexual and reproductive health education, particularly in low-income communities, is essential. Policy-makers should focus on further consolidating the economic and political opportunities for women.

End Note

There is no miracle solution to end violence against girls and women. Rather, the note of hope is that the millions of men and women in the world have to work together in mutual understanding with a common vision of a safe and peaceful society for all.

Citations

http://hrlibrary.umn.edu/svaw/advocacy/modelsessions/causes_effects.PDF

https://statsmauritius.govmu.org/Pages/Statistics/By_Subject/Gender/Gender_Yr20.aspx

https://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/facts-and-figures

https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/WHO-SRH-20.04

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