November 25 marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, a UN day set aside to focus on the issue of violence against women and girls and call for increasingly effective action to combat it. Over time, the day has grown into a global, widespread initiative that is now mainstreamed 16 Days of Activism and Join campaigns. The 2023 UN Day campaign is “Invest in preventing violence against women and girls” and calls on governments around the world to share and review how they invest in preventing gender-based violence. Prevention is indeed key, although it is too often neglected. Responses to gender-based violence are largely reactive rather than proactive. This is despite the fact that violence against women and girls remains one of the most widespread and pervasive human rights violations in the world. In addition, according to a new exhibitionno country can eliminate intimate partner violence.
Globally, it is appreciated 736 million women, one in three, has suffered some form of physical and/or sexual violence, at least once in his life. This includes intimate partner violence (battering, psychological abuse, spousal rape, femicide), sexual violence and harassment (rape, forced sexual acts, unwanted sexual intentions, child sexual abuse, forced marriage, street harassment, stalking, cyber harassment ), human trafficking (slavery, sexual exploitation), female genital mutilation and child marriage. While gender-based violence can happen to anyone, anywhere, some women and girls are particularly vulnerable. This vulnerability is increased by several factors, including age (with young girls and older women being particularly vulnerable), but also immigration status, ethnic and religious identity (indigenous women and those belonging to ethnic and/or religious minorities ), disability and many more.
The latest global calculates from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime show that, on average, more than 5 women or girls are killed every hour (or one every 11 minutes) by someone in their family. In 2020, approximately 47,000 women and girls were murdered worldwide by their intimate partners or other family members. Asia is the region with the highest number of victims in absolute numbers, with approximately 18,600 victims. Africa is the region with the highest level in relation to the size of its female population.
The experiences of women and girls have been exacerbated by post-pandemic impacts, conflict and climate change. While the impact of Covid-19 containment measures on gender-based killings of women and girls has yet to be fully examined, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime mentionted the average annual number of murders has increased in many parts of the world.
Gender-based violence and abuse is also no stranger to online spaces. Economist Intelligence Unit, the research and analysis division of the Economist Group, found that 38% of women have had personal experiences of online violence and 85% of women who spend time online have witnessed digital violence against other women. According to the research, the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated this situation as women spend more time online, increasing their exposure to threats.
The consequences of gender-based violence and abuse are wide-ranging, including adverse effects on psychological, sexual and reproductive health, and often affect women and girls for the rest of their lives. This is also why it is important to focus on prevention, as any post-abuse response will never come close to being complete.
With the new campaign, “Invest in preventing violence against women and girls”, the UN suggests that the solution lies in strong responses, including investments in prevention. However, as the United Nations has pointed out, investing countries committed to combating violence against women and girls remains extremely sparse. Among other things, the UN found that only 5% of government aid is focused on addressing violence against women and girls, and less than 0.2% is dedicated to preventing it. The UN is therefore calling for more investment in women’s organizations and women-focused initiatives, in addition to better law enforcement, prosecution of perpetrators, more services for survivors and training of law enforcement officials.
The current situation, level and nature of gender-based violence cannot be accepted. A change will not come by itself. A change will only come when everyone in society realizes their important role in ending violence against women and girls. We must all work together to address the various aspects of this violence.