International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

By Emily Miller, Writing Intern

November 25th is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Around the world, women and girls suffer from disproportionate amounts of violence. Violence against women and girls (VAWG) is one of the most prevalent and harmful human rights violations that includes intimate partner violence, sexual violence and harassment, human trafficking, female genital mutilation, child marriage, and more.[i] VAWG is defined by the United Nations General Assembly  as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or psychological harm to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.” [ii]

In 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) found that globally, nearly 1 out of every 3 women has experienced physical or sexual violence[iii]. Most violence against women is domestic; the WHO also found in a 2018 study that   According to the United Nations Global Study on Homicide in 2019, 137 women are killed by a family member every day.[iv] The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these issues by trapping and isolating women and girls with their abuser. The pandemic has also caused women and girls to struggle financially and lose opportunities for their education and career, which leaves them more vulnerable to abuse, violence, and exploitation.[v] During the pandemic, with more people at home and less access to mandated reporters, VAWG significantly increased. One United States sheriff’s office in Jefferson County, Alabama noticed a 27% increase in domestic violence calls in March 2020 (when pandemic measures were first enacted) compared to calls in March 2019.[vi] In Jordan, the number of women reporting violence committed against them during COVID-19 quadrupled from the amount the year before, and China had a 278% increase in domestic violence calls to the police during the pandemic.[vii] In some countries, calls reporting domestic violence against women have increased five-fold.[viii]

This intensification of VAWG during the COVID-19 pandemic is known as the shadow pandemic.[ix] The most vulnerable populations to the shadow pandemic include those who identify as lesbian, transgender, bisexual, or intersex; migrant, refugee, and immigrant women; indigenous women and women from ethnic minorities; and those living with HIV or a disability.[x] VAWG is one of the most widespread and persistent human rights violations due to the impunity, silence, stigma, and shame surrounding it, causing fewer than 40% of women who experience violence to seek out any kind of help.[xi] The adverse effects of VAWG on the psychological, emotional, and physical health of women often holds them back from advancing in their education and careers. Physical health effects of violence against women include injuries, STDs, and unwanted pregnancy; mental and emotional health effects include PTSD, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, self-harm, suicidal behavior, and sleep disturbances.[xii] Because of this, VAWG continues to be an obstacle to achieving equality, development, and fulfillment of human rights.[xiii]

It is time to take action against the shadow pandemic. To do so, educate yourself on all forms of VAWG, know and share hotlines and resources, and check on the people you know. Women and girls are people, not statistics. Wear orange on November 25th for International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women to stand for a future free from violence against women and girls.





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