November 25 was the International Day to End Violence Against Women but this is a never ending battle. This is not news. However, we are tackling this today on Impakter because for the next 16 days, UN organisations such as UN Women and Unicef are asking people to rise to the challenge and bring this issue to the forefront. In fact, the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, has issued a global call to action to end violence against women, by launching the UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign. They also have created two hashtags for it: #16 and #orangeurhood.
The overall community is starting to respond well. Instagram and Twitter are getting a wave of photos depicting public figures and people wearing orange wristbands, shirts and pictures using a filter that turns them orange, all adding up to a big call for action. Some have criticized it, pointing out, in particular, to the lack of focus on male abuse. Recently, not only women are subjected to abuse but so are men. We agree with the comments and soon we will follow with a take on that. We must.
Today we will focus on women. What is “violence against woment”? This subject touches various points. Firstly we must think of violence as that perpetrated by an intimate partner (intimate partner violence). The next step is rape/sexual assault and other forms of sexual violence perpetrated by someone other than a partner (non-partner sexual violence). Other gruesome acts are female genital mutilation, honour killings and the trafficking of women.
UN Women is the agency that looks after them around the globe and has collected the following data in 2013:
- 35% of women worldwide have experienced violence, either physical and/or sexual violence with either an intimate partner or non-partner; some national data show that this number rises to 70%;
- Of 42,000 women victims interviewed across the 28 Member States of the European Union, only 14 per cent reported to the police incidents of intimate partner violence; and 13% reported their most serious incidents of non-partner violence to the police;
- 700 million women alive today were married as children (below 18 years of age); 120 million girls worldwide have experienced forced intercourse, that’s slightly more than 1 in 10 worldwide;
- female genital mutilation (FGM) affects 133 million girls and women in some form in 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East.
The magnitude of this issue clearly is something that cannot be solved overnight. The scars left behind are both damaging and long-lasting and can easily be quantified financially. In the developed world, the cost of dealing with violence against women has risen to staggering figures; in the US alone, over $5.8bn were spent last year. The situation is dire in developing countries. Many women that are the object of sexual violence in Africa contract HIV. This means that medical attention is required. A major side effect is that the vast majority of these women are the family breadwinner. Their kids depend on them for food and shelter. Thus, looking after them becomes also a significant part of the fight against women violence.
Cost to society is only one aspect. Beyond the numbers lie deep personal wounds, broken families, hurt children and women that are handicapped for life. Raising awareness of the problem among the general public is only a first step, but an essential one in a society that for far too long has swiped this issue under the rug. Now it is in the open, we need to act on it. Wear orange!