The United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is an occasion for international institutions and non-governmental organizations to raise awareness about violence against women. It has been observed on 25th November each year since 2000.
O 25th November , 1960, three sisters, Patria Mercedes Mirabal, María Argentina Minerva Mirabal and Antonia María Teresa Mirabal, were assassinated in the Dominican Republic, on the orders of the then Dominican ruler Rafael Trujillo. The Mirabel sisters faced this only because they fought hard to end the dictatorship. Activists on women’s rights have since observed a day against violence on the anniversary of the deaths of these women, from 1981. 25th November was designated as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women by the UN General Assembly in 1999. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) lists various forms of violence against women: rape and sexual harassment, child marriage, wife-beating, prostitution, female genital cutting/mutilation, dowry-related violence, trafficking, sexual violence during wars, forced sterilisation, and bride kidnapping. Violence against women also takes many forms of psychological abuse, intimidation, and harassment.
However, long after the Beijing Declaration in 1995 and many years after the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women was embraced, some countries like Iran still don’t recognise feminist organisations, India denies armed conflict and caste, and everyone is disinclined to respect sexual rights for women, differences in sexual orientation, and gender identities.
Has violence against women become so run-of-the-mill in India that we have ceased to take note of it? Do we need anniversaries, like 16th December, to remind us of something that happens every day? Gender violence happens every day, everywhere in every form. Yet, we only take note when something horrific, like the gang rape in Delhi, happens, which reeks with barbarity. It mobilised people, who had never before been out on the streets, to shout that this culture of violence must end. That was five years ago. Today, that culture of violence remains ingrained still. It is terrifying to think that women will get beaten up on the pretext of being witches, and that girls, no matter how many years old, will be assaulted physically. It includes crimes that we don’t read about in the newspapers. Violence has been normalised in India and elsewhere, because it takes place behind closed doors where there are no eyes and no cameras.
Meanwhile, as women and historically suppressed communities have (just about) started to gain a toehold into the mainstream through political representation, ‘hyper chauvinism’ has reached newer heights, still. The increase in violence against women and minorities and attempts to criminalise alternate sexualities orientations and vehement moral policing and discourses on ‘love-jihad‘ are all part of a backlash against discerned threats to male supremacy. What is to be done, then? Feminism is not a challenge to the men of the society; it is a challenge against patriarchy.
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, a global campaign spanning from 25th November through 10th December (UN Human Rights Day), is taking place this year against the backdrop of global outcry. Millions have marched as part of the #MeToo campaign and have exposed the sheer quantum of sexual harassment and other forms of violence that women everywhere suffer, each day. At the center of this year’s theme, “Leave No One Behind – End Violence against Women”, for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25 November), it is the imperative to support those who are particularly vulnerable, and to even reach out to the last woman. This November 25, break the silence on gender violence. Women need to thrive, not survive.
Feature Image Credits: UN