November 25 – International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

November 25 marks the first day of the ‘16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence’ campaign. Designated as the ‘International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women’ by the United Nations General Assembly, this day aims to raise awareness about the fact that women are subject to abuse, torture and other such acts in every part of the world, and that it needs to end!

Violence Against Women (VAW) comes in different forms, depending on the geographical area and context. But commonly, it is the mental and/or physical trauma that women face all over the world everyday that cause disastrous effects for them.. Violence in sexual forms are known to come from not only strangers, but also from family members and partners of girls and women.

According to the 1993 ‘Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women’ issued by the UN General Assembly, ‘Violence Against Women’ means “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”

Unfortunately, even today, in many societies VAW is considered a norm, and go unrecognised. Wife beating, dowry, female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage have been part of some societies for hundreds of years. Eliminating such practices from the roots can be very challenging. The forms of violence that are prevalent in many parts of the world are FGM, forced feeding, dowry, domestic violence and much more. The forms of violence that we see in Bangladesh are: child marriage, dowry, acid attacks, rape, sexual harassment, eve teasing, and so much more.

According to the Acid Survivors Foundation, the number of acid attacks on women in Bangladesh has remarkably reduced. The recorded number of incidents was 165 from 1999 to 16 on October 2018. With this, the hope that number of acid attacks on women, and even men, will ‘reduce to zero’ will grow stronger.

The National Plan of Action launched by the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs and UNICEF Bangladesh has a goal of ending marriage of girls below 15 years of age by the year 2021, and to completely eliminate child marriage by 2041.Changing laws alone won’t eradicate the plague of child marriage in one sweep, but this can be done when the mindset of people is changed through the intervention of awareness programs and campaigns. Some reasons to why children are being married off early are: girls not being seen as children when they start to menstruate; the misconception that if girls are not married off quickly they might develop a relationship with someone and bring shame and dishonour to the family; lack of social security when a girl faces harassment etc..

Young school and college going girls are vulnerable to stalking and eve teasing by men who are known or unknown to them. Dhaka Tribune on Nov 4 reported that a 22-year-old man was stabbed to death by his sister’s stalker for standing up to the perpetrator. Another report from January 21 wrote, “Family members of Fahmid Tanvir Razim, a seventh grader who was stabbed to death on Saturday night in Khulna, have alleged that he was killed because he protested teasing of his female friends.”

VAW can have major long term physical and psychological impact on both victims and their families. The purpose of of this day is ‘to mobilize civil society, activists, governments and the UN system in order amplify the impact of the UN Secretary-General’s campaign, UNiTE to End Violence against Women.’ People around the world. Bangladesh participates each year for the cause through various campaign that align with the #OrangetheWorld theme. Orange symbolises ‘a brighter future and a world free from violence against women and girls.’ (United Nations)

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