“I welcome the chorus of voices calling for an end to the violence that affects an estimated one in three women in her lifetime. I applaud leaders who are helping to enact and enforce laws and change mindsets. And I pay tribute to all those heroes around the world who help victims to heal and to become agents of change.” – Ban-Ki Moon, UN Secretary-General For those of you who don’t know, this past Monday, November 25th, was International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women.
It is a day to celebrate the strides we’ve made, to recognize how far we have to go, and to spark much needed conversation.
The UN states that 1/3 of the world’s female population experience violence in their lifetime. Today approximately 125 million girls and women in the world have suffered female genital mutilation. Millions of females have been victims of trafficking. An estimated one in three girls will be married before the age of eighteen. Femicide, the murder of women simply because of their sex, has drastically increased over the years as a warfare tactic.
The most upsetting part about violence against women is its stigma; the majority of cases go unreported and unacknowledged.
We have shamed women into silence.
We have led them to believe that their pain is unwarranted or unimportant, and neither sentiment is acceptable.
The first way to challenge violence against women is to break the stigma; let females know that their pain is legitimate and significant. And let them know that the actions which caused their pain are unacceptable.
We have yet to do so, and women are suffering in silence:
- Today, 60% of all sexual assault cases are not reported to the police (RAINN, 2013).
- Only 22% of all domestic abuse cases in Canada are reported (Canadian Women, 2013).
- More than one in ten Canadian women say they have been stalked by someone in a way that made them fear for their life, yet almost no women speak of this publically (Canadian Women, 2013).
When brave women do speak out and express their pain, society dismisses them.
Of the forty (out of one hundred) rapists that are reported, only 10 of them are arrested. Of those 10, 8 get prosecuted. Of those 8, 4 lead to a felony conviction. And a mere THREE (out of 100) rapists will actually spend a day in jail (RAINN, 2013).
Domestic disputes will carry on, sexual assault will continue, and all forms of violence against women will persist unless we change the way our societies think and operate. The statistics will continue to rise unless we demand a dialogue.
We need more resources for women and girls to seek advice, advocacy, and support.
We need to properly educate children about human rights and mutual respect. We need to instill the understanding that all beings are equal. We need to encourage citizens to become agents of change and leaders of equality.
It starts with people making a fuss; voices which get louder and stronger. Soon enough, as more people join, these voices become so deafening in their unity that people begin to listen and perceptions begin to change. And eventually, institutions are transformed.
Violence against women is a violation of human rights. It is a violation to their bodies, to their families, and to their communities.
We must not just speak out against violence against women, but speak up. Speak until the world upholds the inherent dignity of all females and our rights are recognized as part of the collective consciousness.
We need to empower victims into conversation. We need to remind men and women to start discussions. We need to sanction support for women.
Nothing hurts us more than silence.