Throughout the 16 days between November 25th, International Day to End Violence Against Women, and December 10th, International Human Rights Day, the United Nations Population Fund conducts its annual Sixteen Days of Activism Campaign against Gender Violence. The 16 Days highlight the critical principle that women’s rights are human rights. This year's theme, "Structures of Violence: Defining the Intersections of Militarism and Violence Against Women," looks beyond specific forms of violence to underlying societal structures that permit gender-based violence to exist and persist. As well, the Department of State hosted an event entitled "Changing Attitudes: What Men and Boys Can Do to Address and Prevent Violence against Women" with the objective of engaging more men and boys in taking action on this global scourge.
Violence against women takes many forms, and goes far beyond rape and physical intimidation. Every girl who is married off too young, every wife who is beaten by her husband or in-laws, every woman or girl who is trafficked into sexual exploitation, is a victim of gender-based violence. Girls and women who are subjected to female genital mutilation; dowry-related violence, trafficking; sexual violence in war zones; femicide, honor killings, forced sterilization, pornography and bride kidnapping; or psychological abuse such as harassment and intimidation, are victims of gender-based violence. All forms of gender-based violence are unacceptable violations of human rights, but together, they form an enormous obstacle to gender equality, economic development, and true human progress.
"Around the globe, violence against women is an epidemic," said U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden in a written statement. "Violence robs women and girls of their full potential and causes untold human suffering. Violence against women impedes economic development, threatens peace and prosperity, and inhibits full participation in civic life," he said.
We all pay the price for gender-based violence, said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice: "The World Health Organization has shown that sexual violence and abuse inflicts irreparable damage to the mental health of victims, unmoors individuals from civic society, and carries lasting economic and social costs – limiting, for example, victims' ability to earn wages or care for their families."
"Our Global Development Plan recognizes that investing in sustainable development outcomes – programs that bring women closer to markets, schools and clean water – improves lives, but it also makes us more secure," said Ambassador Rice.
"The United States is deeply committed to ending the scourge of gender-based and sexual violence." While this process will not take a month or even a year, the 16 Days of Activism Campaign offers an opportunity to renew our commitment to prevent and address violence against women worldwide.