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International Day of the Elimination of Violence Against Women

HerCanberra Team

Trigger warning: Discussion of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Today, Saturday 25 November is the International Day of the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the commencement of the Global 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign.

Since 1981, women’s activists have marked 25 November as a day against violence. On 20 December 1993 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Declaration of the Elimination of Violence Against Women and in 1999 the United Nations General Assembly designated 25 November as the International Day of the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

On 25 November 1960, three sisters, Patria, Minerva and Maria were murdered in the Dominican Republic as a result of orders made by then President Rafael Trujillo. Read more about their story over the next 16 days on the Domestic Violence Crisis Service Facebook page.

UN Women encourage the world to unite and campaign against violence against women and children during the Global 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence which runs from 25 November to 10 December, which is International Human Rights Day – noting that violence against women and children is a human rights violation. This year’s theme is Leave No One Behind: End Violence Against Women and Children.  We are also encouraged to ‘orange the world’ to draw attention to the end of violence against women. 

Violence against women and children is not ok, in fact, it is a crime and a human rights violation.

Extensive research tells us that violence against women impacts on and impedes the progress of communities and indeed, nations.  We know that gender inequality leads to violence and that this happens worldwide, no group of people is immune.  

According to the United Nations Economic and Social Council: Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (11 May 2017), just over one-half of women who are intentionally murdered worldwide are murdered at the hands of a current or former partner, compared to just 6% of males. 

In 2015 one in three girls aged between 15 and 19 years have undergone female genital mutilation/cutting, although this has reduced from one in two in 2000. Additionally, in 2012 just over one-half of women from some 45 countries (43 are from developing regions) aged 15 to 49 years who are married or in a relationship, do not make their own choices when it comes to sex within those relationships or contraception. This is sexual assault. Higher rates of inequality also correlate with higher conflict within those regions.  

Here in Australia, things aren’t that much better either.

According to the ABS Personal Safety Survey 2016 (during their lifetime and from the age of 15 years), 3 in 10 women will experience physical violence and 1 in 5 women will experience sexual violence. 1 in 3 women will experience intimate partner, domestic or family violence, compared to 1 in 13 men. Men are more likely to experience violence at the hands of another male in a place of entertainment or recreation, compared to women who are more likely to experience violence at the hands of a male known to them in their own home.  1 in 4 women will experience emotional abuse, compared to 1 in 6 men. 1 in 2 women will experience sexual harassment compared to 1 in 4 men and 1 in 6 women will be stalked compared to just 1 in 15 men. 

Here in the ACT, the Domestic Violence Crisis Service responded to over 26,000 incoming contacts in 2016/17, initiated over 24,500 outgoing contacts and met face-to-face with over 2,600 people. Overall, they supported 7,593 people of which 89% were female, with 48% of their clients being aged between 26 and 45 years. This only accounts for the women who are engaging with DVCS and not everyone engages with them, we also know there are plenty of women out there experiencing violence that doesn’t fit under the intimate partner, domestic or family violence umbrella and some people who don’t seek help at all.

Mirjana Wilson, CEO of the Domestic Violence Crisis Service (DVCS) says that “Men’s violence against women remains a serious and pervasive issue that affects individuals, families, communities and the social fabric of our society as a whole. Men’s violence against women is widespread, systematic and culturally entrenched and is recognised as one of the world’s most pervasive human rights violations which is why it is so important we recognise this problem not just on this International Day of the Elimination of Violence Against Women, but every day and into the future.”

This year, DVCS and DVPC joined forces and hosted a lunch and panel discussion at The Deck on Friday 24 November to discuss how to promote the International Day of the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the Global 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign which featured Ms Wilson, Justine Saunders Chief Police Officer from ACT Police, Amanda Whitley Founder of HerCanberra, Chrystina Stanford from Canberra Rape Crisis Centre and Robyn Martin from Beryl Women Inc. This was a fantastic opportunity for members from the ACT community, including corporate, community and government sectors to come together to talk more about ways to shine a spotlight on the day and it’s true meaning. The Domestic Violence Prevention Council will be sharing ACT based initiatives on their Facebook page over the 16 days from 25 November to 10 December. 

Marcia Williams, Chair of the Domestic Violence Prevention Council (DVPC) says, “International Day of the Elimination of Violence Against Women is a reminder that violence against women is still occurring and that it does happen here in Canberra, despite the fact that so many of our local residents don’t see that.  We need widespread awareness that our local women do experience violence, so that the stigma associated with it is reduced and victims feel more able to seek help.”

Please be part of the change and help us to turn the world orange.

Upload your photos and messages of support to social media using the hash tag #16days. Get involved in other ways by supporting some of our local organisations that support women who experience violence including the Domestic Violence Crisis Service, Canberra Rape Crisis Centre and Beryl Women Inc by volunteering, making a cash donation or just share their details on your social media pages. 

With the number of people we are linked in with on social media, it is pretty much guaranteed you are connected to someone who is currently experiencing violence or abuse in one form or another, so share websites such as Domestic Violence Crisis Service, Canberra Rape Crisis Centre, Help Stop DV and What To Say. Most importantly, talk to your children, spouses and friends about ways they can get involved, about what is ok and what is not. The websites of the before mentioned organisations are a great place to start your research.

Please help those already working in this space to continue to spread the message that violence, in whatever form, is not ok. Ever. Encourage each other to be part of the change for good. And then be that change.

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