Within the space of eight days beginning last Monday, four Guyanese women lay dead at the hands of loved ones and former loved ones. This as the global community gears up for the annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.
Commencing on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and culminating on December 10, Human Rights Day, the 16 Days of Activism campaign has been a steadfast international initiative since 1991. Started by activists at the inauguration of the Women’s Global Leadership Institute, it is intended as a powerful strategy, uniting individuals and organisations worldwide in the shared mission to prevent and eradicate gender-based violence. But it is hard to see how effective this campaign has really been as violence against women continues to leave many scars and claim many lives, locally and around the globe.
The United Nations defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in physical, sexual, or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life”.
Estimates published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicate that globally about 1 in 3 (30 per cent) 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 per cent ) 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.
Globally, as many as 38 per cent of all murders of women are committed by intimate partners. In addition to intimate partner violence, globally, six per cent of women report having been sexually assaulted by someone other than a partner, although data for non-partner sexual violence is more limited. Intimate partner and sexual violence are mostly perpetrated by men against women.
The social and economic costs of intimate partner and sexual violence are enormous and have ripple effects throughout society. Women may suffer isolation, inability to work, loss of wages, lack of participation in regular activities and limited ability to care for themselves and their children.
And when the mental aspect and the impact this violence has on children are considered, humanity can ill-afford the havoc it wreaks. Children who grow up in families where there is violence may suffer a range of behavioural and emotional disturbances. These can also be associated with perpetrating or experiencing violence later in life. Intimate partner violence has also been associated with higher rates of infant and child mortality and morbidity.
So why have we not eliminated this monstrous malfeasance of human behaviour after 32 years of global effort, some may ask. The answer to that question is the problem lies rooted in human behaviour and human behaviour can be very difficult to change.
In support of the 16 Days of Activism, the United Nations Secretary General, in 2008, launched the campaign UNITE by 2030 to End Violence against Women, which runs parallel to the 16 Days of Activism.
The global theme of this year’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence is “UNITE! Invest to prevent violence against women and girls”.
Let us redouble our efforts to not only call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls but to achieve it. Let us UNITE to end violence against women. This year’s campaign calls on citizens to show how much they care about ending violence against women and girls by sharing the actions they are taking to create a world free from violence towards women. It also calls on Governments worldwide to share how they are investing in gender-based violence prevention.