Violence against girls and women is a devastating detriment to our planet and on the human population. The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women – on 25th November 2019 – commemorates the impacts of this violence, and provides a chance to work towards the eradication of gender based violence in our world today.
Understanding Violence Against Women and Girls
“Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today.”(United Nations, 2019)
The crime of violence against women and girls (VAWG) continues to be amongst the most unreported crimes worldwide due to the rife impunity, stigma and overwhelming silence within which it finds itself embroiled. When crimes of VAWG are reported, this can lead to reprisals against the survivors, reactions of shaming or victim-blaming, and even rejection from their families or communities.
The following forms of violence comprise key areas to be addressed on the road to VAWG elimination: intimate partner violence, sexual violence and harassment, human trafficking, female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage (United Nations, 2019).
VAWG can, however, take on many forms apart from those afore-mentioned, as it continues to adapt and evolve itself, and resists any definitive definition. It is a violence which is personal as well as structural and institutional; cyber as well as physical and psychological. This patriarchal oppression manifested by diverse violence heightens the vulnerability of women and girls across the planet, so that the impacts of other human emergencies such as poverty, conflict and forced displacement are compounded by VAGW and gender-based oppression. Combatting this on a daily basis with our feminist actions, words and ideologies is a key aspect of resistance.
Statistical Overview of Violence Against Women (United Nations, 2019)
- 1 in 3 women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime;
- Only 52% of women married or in a union freely make their own decisions about sexual relations, contraceptive use and health care;
- Worldwide, almost 750 million women and girls alive today were married before their 18th birthday;
- 200 million women and girls have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM)
- 1 in 2 women killed worldwide were killed by their partners or family in 2012; while only 1 out of 20 men were killed under similar circumstances;
- 71% of all human trafficking victims worldwide are women and girls, and 3 out of 4 of these women and girls are sexually exploited;
Legal Mechanisms of Protection
“Violence against women is as serious a cause of death and incapacity among women of reproductive age as cancer, and a greater cause of ill health than traffic accidents and malaria combined.”(United Nations, 2019)
There are diverse legal frameworks which exist to protect women and girls from violence and discrimination. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and its Optional Protocol, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Social, Economic, and Cultural Rights form the core elements of this international framework.
The rights of children are upheld in particular by the Convention on the Rights of the Child – which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year – and which enshrines the rights of young girls and boys to not be discriminated against (art. 2), to not be subjected to violence (art. 19) or sexual abuse (art. 34), as well as their rights to life and wellbeing (arts. 3, 6). Humanium fervently believes that the protection of all such rights is a crucial step on the path to the absolute elimination of violence against women and girls. Said protection is, therefore, precisely what we are working to achieve.
Standing Together Against Gender Based Violence
Humanium exists to protect and fulfil the rights of children. At Humanium, we consider violence against women and girls to be an abuse of the utmost gravity and peril. We have thus chosen to highlight the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls, not only because of the crucial importance that combatting said violence poses to our global society now and going forward, but because of the painful under-acknowledgment of the crimes it entails and the ever-present, immeasurably damaging silence which persists around them.
Breaking the silence and declaring opposition not only in theory, but in practise, to VAWG is a key social responsibility for all global actors – Humanium included. This is part of the reason for which Humanium has established projects that actively work to combat such violence and abuse, as well as precarious economic and social circumstances which render young girls even more vulnerable.
Humanium is Working Towards Change
Humanium’s projects which are being carried out in Rwanda with local partner AVSI, and in Madhya Pradesh in India in partnership with Hand in Hand India are working hard towards the protection of young girls and boys. Our project in Madhya Pradesh, for example, has included the building of a Residential Special Training Centre for girls at risk of forced labour. This training centre is now successfully open and running with 60 girls safely housed and educated, protected from forced labour, and the loss of childhoods to dangerous and exploitative environments.
You can contribute towards the fulfilment of children’s rights around the world by participating in Humanium’s efforts to protect these rights. Please consider making a donation or becoming a Humanium member and joining the Humanium community, where we are working to make the world a better place.
CALL TO ACTION: Humanium runs an online helpline where we do our utmost to give tailored guidance and advice on children’s rights worldwide. We call on our devoted readers to dedicate some time and passion by joining our helpline volunteer team (internships are available). Please help make Humanium sustainable so we can continue the work we care about so much.
Written by Josie Thum
Stop Violence Against Women (SVAW), ‘UN Human Rights Treaties’ (2019), retrieved from: <http://www.stopvaw.org/un_treaties_on_violence_against_women>, accessed 01.11.2019.
United Nations, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women 25 November (2019), retrieved from: <https://www.un.org/en/events/endviolenceday/>, accessed 01.11.2019.
United Nations, ‘Background’, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women 25 November (2019), retrieved from: <https://www.un.org/en/events/endviolenceday/background.shtml>, accessed 01.11.2019.