NEW YORK — One in three women faces sexual or physical violence in her lifetime. As women’s rights are a key part of every Millennium Development Goal, this major problem interferes with essential development in impoverished countries. “Gender-based violence is a problem that all of us need to address if we want our societies to look the way we would envision for our children,” says Anju Malhotra, UNICEF Principal Adviser on Gender Rights and Civic Engagement.
November 25 marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls. The day instructs organizations to raise awareness about violence toward women and increase advocacy to end it. The event has since been followed by 16 days of activism, ending on Human Rights Day, December 10.
During this period, the UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign launched. Developed by the UN Secretary-General, the campaign encourages people throughout the world to show support by wearing and using the color orange- the symbol of a brighter future without violence. According to the UN, as many as 603 million women reside in countries which do not regard domestic violence as a crime. An estimated 127 countries do not condemn rape within marriage. With over 60 million girls becoming married before the age of 18, UN officials believe this to be a major issue.
As part of the UNiTE campaign, the Independent Expert Review Group on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health (iERG) made a statement emphasizing the critical importance of eliminating violence against women. The report states, “This important dimension of women’s, adolescent’s and children’s health has for too long been overlooked and neglected.”The report highlights figures of violence, stating that in some areas sexual violence is ‘endemic.’ In addition, non-partner sexual violence has reached a surprising 21 percent in parts of sub-Saharan Africa.
iERG urges that in order to end violence against women, many organizations must collaborate with healthcare administrators. “Only when the health system is coordinated with the criminal justice system, education, civil society, and faith sectors will an effective response be sustained,” officials remarked.
WHO reports that there are several factors which make a person more likely to experience intimate partner and sexual violence. Lower education levels perpetuate sexual violence as well as previous experience with child maltreatment. Those who grow up in a violent family environment or around alcoholism are also more at risk. The biggest factor, however, that perpetuates violence against women is being exposed to attitudes that are accepting of violence and gender inequality. WHO stresses the importance of adapting attitudes which promote discrimination against women.
While WHO and iERG officials are hopeful, the recent report states that violence against women is, “a severe abuse of a woman’s human rights and a global health challenge of epidemic proportions.” Improvements must be made to reduce violence against women worldwide.
– Meagan Douches