In 1981, the 25th of November was designated International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. This day was chosen by the United Nations in honour of the Mirabal sisters, political activists who were assassinated by the president of the Dominican Republic in 1960. Since then thousands of acts of violence have been committed against women and continue to be committed to this very day.
I write these words with the painful realization that at this very moment hundreds of young girls and women are being beaten, raped and murdered, which makes these letters all the more heavier on my page. Sadly, staggering figures show that violence against women is a common thread that cuts through all races and nations. It’s absurd that people cannot agree on many issues, yet are unanimously comfortable with committing crimes based on gender discrimination.
Just like all evils, violence against women has many faces and takes many forms. Iraqi poet Ibn Nabatah Al Saadi said, “causes are many but death is one” and nowhere is this saying more potent than in the discrimination and violence against women. When a woman is abused death is inevitable, be it physical or emotional, a part of her dies and can never be revived.
Domestic violence is one that seems to span the globe, statistics show that reasons as trivial as ‘burning dinner’ is enough to warrant aggression. Being abused by a loved one is the greatest of all pains for it shatters trust in people and diminishes self-worth.
Throughout history societies have managed to either legitimise or belittle the abuse of women in the name of one thing or another. Religious, economical and political issues continue to be abused in order to diminish a woman’s role in society, and keep its boundaries that of the backyard’s fence. For every woman who breaks out of that fence there are hundreds who live and die within it.
The figures are shocking, many of which have left me dumbfounded. In many parts of the world young girls are forbidden education for no reason other than that they are girls. As a result two-thirds of the world’s illiterate adults are women. Instead they are married off as children in return for a meagre price as if they are a commodity of sorts; the number of these child brides has reached 60 million worldwide. The UN estimates that 700,000 young girls and women are trafficked and subjected to the most horrendous acts of exploitation every year. In the Middle East, what is known by ‘honour’ killing has taken many women’s lives. If a man feels that a woman has been dishonourable in any way he is not only allowed, but also expected, to kill her and end the so-called “shame” she has brought to the family. In Asia a growing trend of acid attacks have left many women maimed and disfigured. Since 1999 there were about 3000 acid attacks in Bangladesh alone. If these reports show anything, it is that no matter what the circumstance men seem to take a chance at abusing women. Even during the revolutions in Egypt random groups and policemen alike were sexually assaulting women, leaving nowhere for these women to seek justice. It is nauseating to say the least that women cannot feel safe in their own skin.
So why do many men around the world act so blatantly on their aggression towards women?
Inequality is at the core of such aggression. When one gender, race or group thinks itself supreme then crimes will be aplenty and aggression will be the norm. Only when women are seen, as equal to men will these injustices be a thing of the past, remembered only as a black mark on mankind’s history that shall not be repeated. Until then, every aspect of society remains hinged to these scales and as long as they remain tipped the law will lean as well.
Governing laws in most countries are not put in place or implemented to fight crimes that violate women’s rights. For example, most cases of rape go undocumented because women are afraid that they would either be implicated in the process or that their case would be dismissed as another statistic. Women believe that the law, society and the media are unsympathetic to rape victims, it is no wonder then that women choose silence over protest. All laws must be amended and others put in place to ensure the safety of all human beings especially those whose rights are infringed upon daily and for the most ludicrous of reasons.
Today is a day for the world to understand these crimes and know that they are still being committed. We women must remember our fallen sisters and keep upright those who are about to fall. Today is a day where we lend our voices to those who have lost theirs in fear of flying fists and bloodied faces. The 25th of November is a day chosen to speak against violence on women and I say each and every day should be the 25th of November.
This article was written as a contribution to the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office in honour of International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Published on their blog on 25th November, 2012.
Here is the official link to the article: http://bit.ly/UlIFPQ