International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

Violence against women and girls around the world is still a widespread human rights issue and a symptom of gender inequality and discrimination against women. In 1981, women's activists at the Feminist Encuentro in Bogota, Columbia, decided to mark November 25 as a day against violence perpetrated on women. The date was chosen because it marked the anniversary of the 1960 assassination of women political activists—three of the Mirabal sisters—under the orders of dictator Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic.

In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Women's rights activists brought a proposal for a day against women's violence to the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. In December 1999, the United Nations General Assembly designated November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and invited "governments, the relevant agencies, bodies, funds and programmes of the United Nations system, and other international organizations and non-governmental organizations, to organize on that day activities designed to raise public awareness of the problem of violence against women."

Gender inequality persists and must be fought. Gender equality helps lessen conflict, which helps lessen violence against women. Violence against women has many negative results beyond personal pain, as it slows down progress in many areas, such as fighting HIV/AIDS and poverty. According to a United Nations report, in 87 countries, between 2005 and 2016, 19 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 experienced physical and/or sexual violence at the hands of an intimate partner in the past year. The rate of female genital mutilation has been lowering in the past few decades, but still remains high in some countries. In 2012, data from 45 countries, 43 of which were developing, showed that only 52 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 can make their own decisions about consensual sexual relations and the use of contraceptives and health services.

All of these reasons illustrate why the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is important. Additionally, many initiatives are dedicated to combating violence against women, but they often find it difficult to be effective because they are many times underfunded. The United Nations has made goals and started some initiatives to combat violence against women as well, and the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women can be seen as a day to support them as well.

How to Observe

The day could be marked by looking for events and activities organized by governments, the United Nations, and international and non-governmental organizations. You could read the United Nation's goals on ending violence against women and achieving gender equality, and learn about their Spotlight Initiative to eliminate violence against women and girls, or their UNiTe to end violence against women initiative. They have other resources related to the day available as well. Other ideas for the day could be to look for places in your own community that are helping to effect change, such as a women's center or shelter, or to learn more about violence against women through books and films—either documentary or narrative.


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