“Violence Against Women is Not Inevitable,” says UN Secretary-General, António Guterres.

Latest UN Women data confirms violence against women has worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The new report launch marks the start of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, from 25 November to 10 December, under the theme, “Orange the World: End Violence against Women Now!”

 By Maham Abbasi, Copy Edited By Adam Rizvi, USA: At least 155 countries have passed laws on domestic violence, and 140 have legislation on sexual harassment in the workplace. Still, one in three women worldwide experiences physical or sexual violence, often by an intimate partner. But enforcing these laws is the real challenge, restricting women and girls’ access to safety and justice. Not enough is done to prevent violence, and when it does occur, it often goes unpunished. It has become a major public health issue. Estimates published by WHO indicate that globally about 1 in 3 (30%) of women worldwide have been subjected to either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. Most of this violence is intimate partner violence. Worldwide, almost one third (27%) of women aged 15-49 years who have been in a relationship report that they have been subjected to some form of physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner.

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Globally as many as 38% of all murders of women are committed by intimate partners. In addition to intimate partner violence, globally 6% of women report having been sexually assaulted by someone other than a partner, although data for non-partner sexual violence are more limited. Intimate partner and sexual violence are mostly perpetrated by men against women. 

Violence against women and girls is a human rights violation. It directly has devastating effects on them. The physical, sexual, and mental consequences negatively affect women’s general well-being and restrict women from fully participating in society. Women are half of the population in the world, and violence directly impacts their families, their community, and the country at large.

WHO states that such violence can:

– Have fatal outcomes like homicide or suicide.

– Lead to injuries, with 42% of women who experience intimate partner violence reporting an injury as a consequence of this violence.

– Lead to unintended pregnancies, induced abortions, gynecological problems, and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. WHO’s 2013 study on the health burden associated with violence against women found that women who had been physically or sexually abused were 1.5 times more likely to have a sexually transmitted infection and, in some regions, HIV, compared to women who had not experienced partner violence. They are also twice as likely to have an abortion.

– Intimate partner violence in pregnancy also increases the likelihood of miscarriage, stillbirth, pre-term delivery, and low birth weight babies. The same 2013 study showed that women who experienced intimate partner violence were 16% more likely to suffer a miscarriage and 41% more likely to have a pre-term birth.

– These forms of violence can lead to depression, post-traumatic stress and other anxiety disorders, sleep difficulties, eating disorders, and suicide attempts. The 2013 analysis found that women who have experienced intimate partner violence were almost twice as likely to experience depression and problem drinking.

– Health effects can also include headaches, pain syndromes (back pain, abdominal pain, chronic pelvic pain) gastrointestinal disorders, limited mobility, and poor overall health.

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Today, the United Nations will kick off this year’s 16 days of activism against sexual and gender-based violence. These days of activism are celebrated every year to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls globally.

UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, said that “violence against women is not inevitable.” “The right policies and programs bring results,” including long-term strategies that tackle the root causes of violence, protecting the rights of women and girls, and promoting strong and autonomous women’s rights movements.

General Assembly President, Abdulla Shahid, said that one characteristic of gender-based violence is that it knows no social or economic boundaries and affects women and girls of all socio-economic backgrounds. “This issue needs to be addressed in both developing and developed countries,” he argued.

Violence against women and girls is rooted in gender-based discrimination, gender stereotypes, and socio-cultural norms. According to UN Women, the best way to end violence against women and girls is to prevent it from happening in the first place by addressing its root and structural causes and by educating young boys and girls to build respectful and healthy relationships. It is crucial to enforce legislation, develop and implement policies that promote gender equality, and allocate resources to prevention and response for a lasting change. Vanangana is one such organization that has been working for over two decades in the districts of Chitrakoot and Banda of Uttar Pradesh, India. They recently started a campaign to help and support rural domestic violence survivors. Invest in such women’s rights organizations. Many such organizations are working towards violence against women all across the globe. Get connected to them and do your bit. Use your social media accounts to talk about this issue and try to reach out to as many women and young girls as you can, listen to and believe survivors and be their safe spaces.

To anyone who has been a victim of sexual violence, we hear you, we believe you and we stand with you.

Curated by Maham Abbasi and Compiled By Humra Kidwai

Maham Abbasi

Maham Abbasi

Maham Abbasi recently completed her Masters in Women’s Studies from, The Advanced Centre for Women’s Studies, AMU, India. A feminist at heart who revels at critiquing gendered societal constructs, she has been working on women's menstrual health and hygiene through her project called The No Shame since past two years. She works as a freelance content developer and writes extensively for women’s rights and issues.

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