HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol of Thailand, UNIFEM Goodwill Ambassador, speaks against violence to women
The UNiTE’s 16 Days to end violence against women is winding down, but the anti-violence Tweets, messages of solidarity and campaigns against gender-based abuse are still going strong. Unfortunately, though, in many areas, so is the violence.
The days began on November 25, the official International Day of Opposing Violence Against Women. It was the start of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, an initiative sparked by The UNiTE campaign, launched in 2008, which works to raise awareness and gather resources to prevent gender-based violence worldwide.
The date was chosen in memoriam of four Dominican and political dissidents – the Mirabel sisters – murdered during dictator Rafael Trujillo’s reign. Several NGOs and policy groups were inspired by the challenge to get the word out on violence and sparked their own parallel initiatives.
Save Darfur offered a suggestion to act for each day, including writing a letter to editors to encourage more coverage of violence against women in the media, or organizing a book club to read and discuss stories of oppressed victims and survivors.
Make Every Woman Count, an NGO to empower the women and girls of Africa, took the opportunity to expose the horror stories that occur when militarism and gender-based violence co-exist. Under the theme ‘From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women!’ the group invited writers, aid workers and victims of violence to tell their stories of coping with violence in war-torn areas such as Sudan, Ivory Coast, and Sierra Leone.
Most of the initiatives were met with bold calls to action, an outpouring of responses on social media outlets, and a rejuvenation of the fight against gender-based violence, but that’s not to say there isn’t a long way to go.
A UN report released in tandem with the 16 Days initiative showed that efforts to stop violence against women in Afghanistan leave room for improvement.
Judges and law enforcement officials have slowly started to enforce the 2009 Elimination of Violence against Women (EVAW) law, which criminalizes child marriage, forced marriage, selling and buying women intended for marriage, rape, and beating a woman, along with other acts of violence. In addition, it names punishments for the abusers of the law.
Unfortunately, the calls to action have gone mostly unheeded. Of the 2,229 incidents the UN human rights officials looked at, 594, about 26 percent of the cases, were ever opened. Of those, indictments were filed in only 7 percent.
In 101 cases, about 4 percent, the EVAW law was the basis for the judgment. The low percentage is especially troubling because, according to the report, many cases of violence against women in Afghanistan are crimes such as murder or violent rape that required premeditation.
In other justice systems, the crimes would be worthy of serious punishment, but the report noted that in many instances the judge will revert to Sharia law for sentencing, resulting in acquittal, lighter sentences, and a lifelong stigma that the victimized woman will have to carry with her.
The report recommended finding means to apply and enforce the law consistently.
In order to help with those efforts, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is asking governments to step up donations to the UN Trust Fund, a global network of monetary gifts that help local initiatives in development. In its 15 years, it’s given more than $78 million across the globe, but in this year alone it’s received nearly $1.2 billion in requests – a reminder of the uphill battle UNiTE, its partners, and women worldwide continue to fight.