© Illustration by INJECTION - Mia Hatch
UNESCO have declared November 25th the International Day For The Elimination Of Violence Against Women.
November 25th is the International Day For The Elimination of Violence Against Women. The date was so-chosen as on November 25th, 1960, the Mirabel sisters were assassinated. Patria, Minerva, and Maria Teresa Mirabel were political activists in the Dominican Republic, and their killings were ordered by Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo. The sisters were assassinated because of their identity as activists and women, after fighting for their rights.
This type of violence has since been defined by the UN as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life” (UNESCO), and in 1999 the 25th November became the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women to raise awareness and to highlight gender equality and non-violence.
If we want to achieve inclusive and sustainable societies, gender-based violence must end. UNESCO believe all forms of discrimination based on gender are violations of human rights, and that men and women should be afforded equal opportunities, choices, power, and knowledge as equal citizens, all across the globe.
Progress is constantly being made, but there is a long way to go before gender equality. Women make up more than two-thirds of the world’s 750 million adults lacking basic literacy skills; teaching women basic literary skills can open up a world of opportunities for women, from education to more career options. Furthermore, female journalists are more exposed to violence and assault than their male counterparts. Investigative journalism can often be risky, with journalists being exposed to danger and assault. Women journalists, however, face attacks both online and offline based on their gender. These attacks can include anything from violence, sexist hate speech, physical assault, trolling, to even sexual assault and rape. Female journalists are more targeted than their male counterparts, and attacks on these women are often highly sexualised and focus on their physical features rather than the contents of their work. Many women’s voices have been silenced because of these threats, threatening diversity in research and newsrooms, which then goes on to make media landscapes even more male-dominated.
There are many ways to start to prevent gender-based violence. One way is to address the root causes of violence against women: when facing such a large societal issue, it’s impossible to isolate one main reason as to why it occurs, but there are certainly contributing factors that we can begin to work on. The constant objectification and degradation of women in media, for example, has certainly had an impact on perceptions of women, as has the prevalence of rape culture in our society (songs like Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’ come to mind, as does the normalisation and frequency of sexual assault against women). Calling out media that promotes violence against women and gender inequality is something that anyone can do.
Additionally, UNESCO is working on improving gender equality in five key areas: Education, Natural Sciences, Social and Human Sciences, Culture, and Communication and Information. Gender Equality has been identified as a global priority, and by focusing on these areas UNESCO hopes to make a positive and lasting contribution to women’s empowerment across the globe.
This day is particularly important following the recent rise in movements such as #MeToo and the rise in media attention given to issues such as spiking and date-rape in nightclubs. Violence against women takes many forms and happens all across the world to millions of women of all backgrounds and ages. All forms of gendered violence, however, are preventing us from living in a truly inclusive society as “It is impossible for a society to blossom if half of the population lives in fear of being assaulted”.