International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls

VAWViolence constitutes one of the most widespread violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms of women. It also nullifies the enjoyment of rights by women. Male violence is also a form of discrimination against women. 

Male violence against women knows no geographical boundaries, no age limit, no class distinctions, no race, nor cultural differences. It manifests itself in multiple forms and involves a wide variety of perpetrators that range from intimate partners and family members, work colleagues and social or community acquaintances to strangers and institutional actors such as police, health, professional teachers, and soldiers. Yet male violence against women is still invisible and the voices of women victims are still silenced.

Although equality between women and men is guaranteed in the constitution of 139 countries and territories all too often women are denied justice and protection from violence.

Impunity concerning perpetrators of acts of violence is the norm, even if these acts have to do with Femicide. Femicide is an extreme manifestation of violence against women as it has to do with killing women only because they are women. Such acts an ultimate act of violence which is experienced on a continuum of violence, while a lack of accountability for such crimes is the norm.

The discrimination and violence that are reflected in gender-related killings of women encompass structural, institutional, interpersonal, and individual factors. Thus, an understanding of gender killing requires taking into account the political, social and economic context within which it takes place. This includes male responses to women’s empowerment, the political, legal and societal reaction to such killings, the principle of the continuum of violence and patterns of structural discrimination and inequality that continue to form part of the reality of women’s lives.

What is the most important concerning impunity to acts of violence, in particular, femicide which has become a global concern, is that it compounds the effects of this violence as a mechanism of control.

When the state fails to hold the perpetrators accountable, impunity not only intensifies the subordination and powerlessness of the targets of violence, but also sends a message to society that male violence against women is both acceptable and inevitable.

This explains the reasons why violence continues to be one of the most pervasive global problems in the world.

The most important reason why there is no progress in dealing with this global pandemic of alarming proportions is that violence against women as stated in the Beijing platform Action of 1995 is a manifestation of the historically unequal power relations between men and women which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of women’s full advancement.

Male violence against women refers to a structural system of patriarchal values by which violence against women and girls is tolerated, legitimized and even trivialized. It aims at ensuring men domination over women, through different forms and levels of violence, in order to control women and girls, their bodies and their sexuality. It is part of a broader system of patriarchy, where men establish and keep on developing strategies to control all sectors of society thus disempowering women.

The prevention and eradication of male violence against women rests on addressing women’s inequality and patriarchy. Women’s inequality is both cause and consequence of male violence against women and vice versa. Male violence against women shapes women’s place in society. At the same time, inequality between women and men creates the conditions for male violence against women and legitimizes it.

The structure of capitalism which brings different forms of exploitation and oppression also fuels patriarchal structures and men’s domination over women as it exacerbates economic inequalities and discrimination.

This situation is deplorable more so because, in recent years, we have had some very positive developments. We now have a powerful tool to combat this scourge. This is the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. This Convention is the first international legally binding instrument open to any country in the world to provide for a comprehensive set of measures to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence. It recognizes violence against women as a violation of human rights and as a form of discrimination.

We all know that despite having strong instruments and analyses, we do not see change on the ground. We all know why. What is really needed is political will which is difficult to find unless it is a feminist political will and democratic processes. We need political will to accelerate implementation, change mentalities and ensure women’s and girls’ rights. The world community has agreed on new SDG’s, which comprise again a commitment to end violence against women. To transform this declaration into action, the UN system needs to play a bigger role and to hold member states accountable. The women’s organizations should be consulted at all levels and all steps and funded in a sustainable way. They should lobby governments for accountability on measures and policies adopted by them to combat this scourge.

Let us all, affiliate and associate organisations, members of the IAW, as well as individual members, try to hold governments accountable on their will to end male violence against women and girls.