Ready to take a stand on violence against women?
The world celebrates a lot of weird holidays: Cereal Day, Coffee Day, National Pig Day. But for all those days we find time to celebrate with a meme or IG Story, let’s celebrate something worthwhile on November 25 a.k.a International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Because despite being issued back in 1993, it still slips our minds (but for some reason, October 3rd is forever associated with Mean Girls).
The United Nations has named violence against women and girls (VAWG) as “one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations” there is. Even the Philippine Commission on Women describes it as “one of the country’s pervasive social problems.” And yet, despite all these big words, it remains largely unreported (let alone discussed). You can blame it on the victim’s silence, blame it on society’s stigma or you can rightfully blame it on the people actually doing the crime. Whatever your opinion, the point is that it’s there.
In fear of going on a feminist rant (and consequently being bashed for said rant), let’s stick to the facts:
1 in 3
According to the World Health Organization, physical or sexual abuse against women happens in one out of three females. That’s either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence at least once in a woman’s life. And before you start throwing out a “I have three female friends and they’ve experienced nothing; WHO is wrong,” think of this: 1) There is a group of girls out there of which most (if not all of them) have experienced abuse, 2) Your friends might simply be too ashamed to admit it or 3) It just hasn’t happened to them yet.
Locally, the National Statistics Office noted in 2008 that one in five Filipino women aged 15 to 49 experienced violence from when they were 15. My question is: How many of cases involving girls under 15 are reported, counted and looked into?
30% of partners
Most of the above mentioned instances are actually intimate partner violence. Worldwide, some 30% of women in relationships have reported experiencing some sort of violence, whether physical or sexual. Again, the keyword is reported.
650 million underage marriages. 3 in 4 trafficking victims. 200 million mutilated.
UN Women estimates that there are 650 million women and girls around the world that are married before they turn 18. Girls represent three out of four child trafficking victims. And there are 200 million women and girls aged 15 to 49 that have undergone female genital mutilation.
Only 1% seek help
Around the world, there are 15 million girls between the ages of 15 and 19 that have experienced forced intercourse or have been forced into any other sexual act. Among these rape cases, data presents that only one percent of victims ever sought professional help.
Generally speaking, only 40% of VAWG victims seek help of any sort—though mostly just to friends and family. Less than 10% go to the police.
It goes beyond
Naturally, physical and sexual assault does more than bruise, break and batter. So yes, cuts, scraps and black-and-blues can heal, but there is also the possibility of harming a woman’s mental and reproductive health. We aren’t talking about a week’s worth of pain here; we’re talking years of possible substance abuse, depression, eating disorders and anxiety. And, of course, there is the very possible outcome of spreading the violence. You act how you’re taught, after all. If you’re taught that love is a firm hand and force, you might end up living it out.
For the record
Just in case there’s any confusion, let us make it clear. Violence against women and girls is defined 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.”
So before the stones are thrown, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women does not—in any damn way—negate or ignore the fact that men experience abuses too. The Guardian reports that two in five victims of domestic abuse are, after all, men. Get off that horse; if you think that’s what we’re saying, you need to listen harder.
This year, the theme of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is “#OrangeTheWorld: Generation Equality Stands Against Rape.” And from November 25 to December 10 (International Human Rights Day), there is a call to activism. So if you’re going to support an entire month of no shaving, then join this damn movement, too.
Art Alexandra Lara