Posts Tagged ‘16 Days Campaign’

Protestors of the New Delhi gang rape gather on December 30 in Bangalore, India.

Less than a week after the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence Campaign — which included hundreds of events demonstrating the solidarity of women around the world — ended, an all too frequent event happened in India — a rape. I’ve blogged about rape before, but this attack captured the attention and outrage of the world.

For more than two weeks, thousands of citizens in India and around the world have protested the brutal gang rape and torture of a 23-year-old Indian woman (called “braveheart” in many news stories) while she and her male companion were riding a bus in New Delhi after leaving a movie theater. She ultimately died from injuries suffered during the brutal assault.

We’ve all heard the tragic story but are unable to comprehend the horrific details. And we can’t avoid the ugly truth — violence against women is a horrendous, appalling, and pervasive reality that has placed an indelible stain on the world. The crime sparked national and international outrage, vigils, and demands to end the culture of rape. It empowered people to stand up and demand action and change from the Indian government and police.

And now, weeks after the horrific event, the men accused of the gang rape have been formally charged with rape, murder, and kidnapping.

Unfortunately, rape is a systemic problem throughout India. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, in India, a woman is raped every 20 minutes, and in 2010, more than 24,000 rapes were reported. And there are undoubtedly many rapes that go unreported — mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, aunts, or friends who become the targets of violence that can end in murder or suicide.

Who can grasp the inexplicable violence directed at women and girls worldwide and the state- and government-sanctioned evasion of protection, responsibility, and justice? India, like many nations, has vowed to take action to make women safer and provide better protection against violence — a daunting challenge in a culture and world that do not value women.

In the United States, nearly 1 in 5 women surveyed said they had been raped or had experienced an attempted rape at some point. And survivors of violence need support. This year, one of AAUW’s Community Action Grantees is Safe Connections, which provides counseling and support services to women and teens in the St. Louis metropolitan area who have experienced domestic violence, sexual assault, or childhood sexual abuse. Another grantee, the African Services Committee’s Project Aimée, serves low-income African immigrant survivors of domestic and gender-based violence in New York City with a combination of legal services, education, and advocacy.

The need for these kinds of programs has grown as violence against women becomes more visible throughout the world. But the shocking tragedy in India could be a turning point. In order to stop this ever-increasing trend of violence, women need action, not empty promises.

We all need to keep the pressure on governments to put into action promises made to eliminate violence against women. Do it for yourself. Do it for a mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, or friend. You can make your voice heard on Capitol Hill by urging your legislators to support the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. It’s long overdue. But laws can’t change hearts or minds. That must come from within. What can you do in your community to stop violence against women?

Going to a movie and riding a bus should not cost a woman her life — a woman known as “braveheart.” May her death not be in vain.

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During the March 1999 U.N. video conference A World Free of Violence against Women, Kofi Annan, former secretary-general of the United Nations, proclaimed:

Violence against women is perhaps the most shameful human rights violation. And it is perhaps the most pervasive. It knows no boundaries of geography, culture, or wealth. As long as it continues, we cannot claim to be making real progress towards equality, development, and peace.

My Voice Counts human rights dayToday, Human Rights Day, is the end of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence campaign. This year’s initiative began on November 25th, International Day for the Elimination of Gender-Based Violence. This critical campaign shines a light on the activism of thousands of organizations and millions of women worldwide who are committed to ending violence against women. There were many positive acts during the campaign; they defied the myth that negotiating war and peace is men’s domain and emphasized the need for women and men to join together to create a world free from gender violence:

  • During the 16 Days campaign, young activists in China who call themselves the Volunteers “staged playful but pointed public protests for greater rights for women.”
  • Vietnamese musician and gender-rights advocate Pham Anh Khoa was selected as a member of the U.N. secretary-general’s Network of Men Leaders to End Violence against Women, an initiative that supports the work of women around the world to defy destructive stereotypes, embrace equality, and inspire men and boys everywhere to speak out against violence.
  • At the United Nations, attention was on the first draft resolution aimed at ending the practice of female genital mutilation. The resolution was introduced by the representative from Burkina Faso on behalf of the Africa Group and was subsequently approved by the necessary General Assembly committee.

Globally, individuals spoke out and made their voices count during the 16 Days campaign. Now we end the “official” effort but not the activism of millions of women and men. On December 10, we recognize Human Rights Day in honor of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which was adopted on this day in 1948 and “sets out a broad range of fundamental human rights and freedoms to which all men and women, everywhere in the world, are entitled, without any distinction.”

As U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon notes in his 2012 address for Human Rights Day,

Over the past century, we have made undeniable progress along the path of inclusion. Yet far too many groups and individuals face far too many obstacles. Women have the right to vote almost everywhere but remain hugely underrepresented in parliaments and peace processes, in senior government posts and corporate boardrooms, and in other decision-making positions. Indigenous people frequently face discrimination that denies them the opportunity to make full use of their guaranteed rights or fails to take account of their circumstances. Religious and ethnic minorities — as well as people with disabilities or those with a different sexual orientation or political opinion — are often hampered from taking part in key institutions and processes. Institutions and public discourse need to represent societies in all their diversity.

In order to end gender violence and support the rights of women, and indeed all people, the 16 Days campaign spirit must continue beyond December 10. Violence against women violates human rights, and women’s rights are human rights.

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16 Days bannerWhile devastating, high-profile acts of violence against women — like the reported murder of 22-year-old Kasandra Perkins by NFL player Jovan Belcher — continue to stun the world and receive lots of media attention, women around the world have made a commitment to do something about it. They have come boldly alive through the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence campaign, which encourages participants to raise awareness, speak out, and demand change.

The 16 Days campaign is hosting an amazing array of powerful, transformative events based on the theme From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence against Women. The theme aims to challenge abuses committed by state agents and explore the deep socioeconomic structures that perpetuate gender-based violence.

Events are being held everywhere from Armenia to Washington, D.C., and range from art exhibitions to radio programs, walks, candlelight vigils, film and documentary screenings, debates, theater performances, lobbying meetings with government officials, personal testimonies of violence survivors, interactive forums, and televised roundtables.

Selected events from the 16 Days website include

  • The seventh annual March against Violence, a street demonstration in downtown Yerevan, Armenia. Many organizations, including a group of women with disabilities, joined the march to raise awareness about the specific issues they face regarding violence.
  • The 10th annual Shoe Memorial in Vancouver, British Columbia. Pairs of shoes will be displayed to remember women who have been killed by violence in the province. Sadly, this year the list contains 869 women and girls.
  • A debate on gender-based violence at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. The event also includes a special performance by Uganda’s Rafiki Theatre, famous throughout Kampala and beyond for confronting difficult but pertinent issues in Ugandan society and culture. Partner organizations will also display works on gender-based violence.
  • The Home is Where Our He-ART Is exhibition at the Haven Wolverhampton and the Haven Way in the United Kingdom. The anti-domestic violence organizations will present a unique and inspiring art collection produced by women survivors of domestic violence.
  • A moderated panel event in Washington, D.C., Ending the Dual Epidemics of HIV and Gender-Based Violence, to commemorate World AIDS Day and the 16 Days of Activism. The event will feature a keynote address by Melanne Verveer, U.S. ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues.
  • The SpeakUP Say NO to Violence against Women social media campaign and the Say NO to Violence against Women Seminar and photo exhibit, sponsored by the Philippine Senate.

Have you found your 16 Days activity yet? The campaign runs until December 10. Follow #16Days on Twitter, visit Women and Girls Lead or the official 16 Days campaign website, or post and search for events on the 16 Days campaign calendar.

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When the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence campaign began on November 25 — the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women — one of the first (of many) stories that astounded me concerned the pervasive and disturbing practice of securing “brides” at Syrian refugee camps in Jordan. An article in the Washington Post described how older men from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait, Bahrain, and even as far as Canada are brokering marriages with vulnerable Syrian women.

“U.N. officials said that most of the marriages are brokered and that many are not consensual. The results, they said, include increasing numbers of child brides and marriages that, in some cases, end in abandonment or forced prostitution. U.N. and Jordanian relief agencies estimate that some 500 underage Syrians have been wed this year.”

This is just one of many examples of injustices against women — which are often disguised as “humanitarian” efforts in response to war — and it highlights the challenges of sexual violence after conflict.

This year’s 16 Days campaign, which is based on the theme “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence against Women,” aims to continue the work done in 2011 to challenge militarism and explore the deep socioeconomic structures that perpetuate gender-based violence. More than 4,000 organizations from 172 countries have participated in the campaign since it launched at the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers in 1991. The campaign ends on December 10 — Human Rights Day. These dates were chosen to emphasize that gender-based violence is a violation of human rights. The campaign is successful because of the activism of millions of women and tens of thousands of organizations worldwide that are committed to ending gender-based violence.

The 16 Days campaign is an opportunity to reflect on what everyone can do to hold governments accountable and challenge the structures that allow gender-based violence to continue. Participation in the campaign is a chance to join other advocates to raise awareness about gender-based violence and to add your voice to those of women in other countries and regions who refuse to be silent. Gender-based violence is an issue that impacts all of us at multiple levels, and our governments have a responsibility to respond, protect, and prevent.

AAUW joins Women and Girls LEAD in promoting Women, War, and Peace; Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide; and The Invisible War — films showcased in this year’s campaign that amplify the stories of survivors and educate the public about the factors that contribute to violence. Be part of the global movement to end gender-based violence by watching the films, sharing the facts, and taking action.

Want to stay connected and learn more? Visit Women and Girls LEAD, the official 16 Days campaign website, or post and search for events on the campaign calendar.

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This song, first sung on a mountaintop by a group of teenagers more than half a century ago, still rings true. If we choose, we can each play a role in promoting peace, and technology has the power to break down the physical barriers that separate women globally and to enlighten us about the conditions and connections that link us all. Recently, AAUW sponsored a virtual event in support of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence Campaign. In continuation of my initial blog post announcing the campaign, I’m checking in at the midpoint to highlight ways that individuals and organizations have embraced the goals of this campaign and this year’s theme.

The 2011 theme, From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence against Women!, focuses on the “intersection between violence against women and militarism.”

Hosted in the online virtual world Second Life by Ellie Brewster (also known as Sharon Collingwood of Ohio State University), the AAUW event — Alexjo Magic on the Women of Palestine and Israel — took place on Minerva, the research and study space maintained in Second Life by Ohio State’s Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. This event was part of a two-year AAUW Community Action Grant to build “a sustainable women’s community” online. The project has been discussed in Outlook magazine and in previous blog posts. This is the third year that events have been held in Second Life to support the 16 Days campaign.

After getting the hang of manipulating my wayward and weirdly dressed avatar (my online alter ego), whom I had not seen in a long time, I joined participants from California, Belgium, Wisconsin, Australia, and beyond. It’s a small virtual world — I even met a former AAUW fellowship recipient. The featured speaker, Alexjo Magic (a Second Life persona), is a member of the Coalition of Women for Peace, an organization that brings together independent women and 10 feminist peace organizations and works relentlessly for peace and justice. She spoke from her perspective as a Jewish, Israeli, lesbian, feminist human rights activist about how overt and institutional violence affects the lives of Palestinian and Israeli women.

There is a clear and present connection between militarism and violence against women. As Magic said, “In the military, they are desensitizing young people to institutional abuse, and they convey it back to society” so that “people perpetuating the crimes no longer see them as wrong.”

Though the campaign officially ends on December 10, international Human Rights Day, there is no real end until institutional and societal violence against women and girls has been eliminated. What are you doing to take virtual or physical action during the campaign and beyond? Let peace begin with you.

Want to take virtual action? The Violence against Women Act is due for reauthorization by Congress. Tell your senators to co-sponsor the bill!

Need more ideas? Campaign tools include a take action kit, a Facebook page, a calendar of activities, a Listserv, and a Flickr stream.

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Perhaps you have heard about Hiram Monserrate, the New York state senator recently convicted of brutally assaulting his live-in girlfriend? According to reports and video surveillance footage, he cut her face with broken glass then violently dragged her through their building while she called for help. The laceration near her eye required 40 stitches. For these acts Monserrate has been sentenced to three months probation and will not serve time in jail.

Monserrate must be relieved that he wasn’t convicted of a felony and won’t have to spend time in prison thinking critically about the night he cut his girlfriend’s face. After all, as he explains, “A terrible accident occurred to my girlfriend.”

Yes, you read that correctly. He contends that what happened that night was an accident. He speaks of it almost as if he wasn’t present when it occurred, as if his hand was not the one that wielded the broken glass that slashed her face. He describes it as if what he did wasn’t that big of a deal because, ya know, accidents happen.

But here’s the thing. This was a big deal, it was not an accident, and he is to blame. Domestic violence is, in fact, a really big deal. The CDC estimates that a quarter of all women in the United States are abused or battered by their intimate partners. Attacks against women are a big deal, and they don’t happen by accident.

Right now, advocacy groups across the globe are organizing and bringing attention to the rampant problem of gender violence. The 16 Days Campaign is working to shed light on an issue that is often brushed under the rug or dismissed quietly. One huge way that we can help stop violence against women is to speak about it honestly and call it by name. Assaults aren’t accidents. So, Hiram Monserrate, please stop talking about your attack on your girlfriend as if it were something over which you had no control.

To learn more about the 16 Days Campaign, check out this website.

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