Violence exists in society, and violence as such needs to be combated. But violence against women is especially disturbing. It attempts to subdue women and have us internalize that femaleness destines us to inferiority. It also shatters the lives of children who witness it and grow up under its direct and indirect influence. While some advance has been seen in recent decades in the criminalization and punishment of some forms of violence against women, we still have a long way to go, not only in developing countries and societies that subjugate women as a matter of ideology, but even in so-called developed countries, where woman’s shelters are over-run with clients and rape crisis hotlines ring off the hook.
The international day for the elimination of violence against women – 25th November – White Ribbon Day – is a time to raise awareness about the reality of rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment and the many forms that this violence takes. We need to speak about problems like the fact that most women and girls who are hurt and raped are done so in their homes, by men whom they know. It is a time to scream in one voice “No More!” and ask for government funding for awareness, prevention, police and civil protection and for punishment of the perpetrators and rehabilitation of the victims.
This date, the 25th of November, was designated following an event that occurred in the Dominican Republic in 1960. The three Mirabal sisters, who were political activists in that country, were brutally assassinated on orders of Dominican ruler Rafael Trujillo, who was himself assassinated the following year. Since 1981, women activists have marked this as a day against violence against women. More recently the activists have welcomed males into the forefront of the struggle, an important step which is necessary before society can really begin to change.
Other issues that need to be discussed on this day include:
- So-called “Honour Killings”
- Rape as a war crime
- Female genital mutilation
- Men’s involvement in the struggle against violence
- Human trafficking for the sex industry
- Whether legalization of prostitution is progress or deterioration