Gender-based violence is violence directed against women because they are women, or violence that affects primarily women and girls. They are human rights violations committed against women that stem from discrimination and gender inequality, and the failure of governments and societies to recognize the human rights of women and girls. Globally, over one third of women and girls experience some form of physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.
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 sexual violence in war zones, honor killings, 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, security, and true human progress.
The two weeks between November 25th, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and December 10th, Human Rights Day, are dedicated to 16 Days Of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence: 16 days of campaigning around the world to challenge and raise awareness of gender-based violence, and mobilizing people everywhere to bring about change. This year’s theme is “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Make Education Safe for All”.
The root causes of violence against women and girls include gender stereotypes, perceived gender roles and social norms. These perceptions are formed early in childhood. Only through education can we hope to change them. This means that girls and women must be able to obtain an education so they—and their children-- can lead better lives. It means creating a safe, hygienic school environment for them, and removing obstacles that cut their education short, such as domestic work or early marriage.
And it means that boys and men must be taught to engage in preventing violence against women and promoting gender equality.
Gender-based violence is not inevitable; it is a choice. It can and must be prevented. And the time is now.