An Analysis by Busayo Onijala, News Agency of Nigeria
From physical and sexual abuse, to emotional and economic control, women are subjected to a range of violent behaviours that can have long-lasting physical and psychological effects on them.
Violence against women has been a pervasive global problem affecting women, regardless of age, race, and socio-economic background.
The United Nations General Assembly, in its 1993 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, gave a definition of violence against women.
“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.
UN Women lists types of violence against women to include intimate-partner violence, sexual violence, femicide, human trafficking, female genital mutilation, child, early and forced marriage, and online or technology-facilitated violence.
Meanwhile, some of the biggest challenges in addressing violence against women are the persistence of harmful attitudes and beliefs that perpetuate it and the lack of investment towards eliminating the menace.
In addition, many cultures have deeply ingrained patriarchal norms that perpetuate gender inequality and contribute to violence against women.
More often than not, survivors of violence lack adequate support systems and also find it hard to speak up for reasons ranging from victim-blaming to the normalisation of violence in intimate relationships.
According to a report by the United Nations Economic and Social Affairs, less than 40 per cent of the women who experience violence seek help of any sort.
A UN Women data shows that more than five women or girls are killed every hour by someone in their own family and almost one in three women have been subjected to physical and/ or sexual violence at least once in their life.
This issue has been brought to the forefront of public discourse in recent years, with various movements shedding light on the widespread nature of gender-based violence.
In spite the challenges, there have been some promising developments in the effort to eliminate violence against women.
While progress has been made in some areas, with many countries implementing laws and policies aimed at preventing and responding to violence against women, the road ahead, to eliminate the menace, is a long one.
Ultimately, the elimination of violence against women requires a global commitment to gender equality and human rights.
It will require challenging harmful beliefs and behaviours, supporting survivors, and holding perpetrators accountable.
While the road ahead is long, progress is possible if stakeholders work together towards this important goal.
Every year, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is marked on November 25 to raise awareness and promote action to end it.
For 2023, the Day has the theme, “UNiTE! Invest to Prevent Violence against Women & Girls.
In commemoration of the Day, UN Women organised an event to shine a spotlight on the importance of financing prevention strategies to stop violence from occurring in the first place, galvanise action to secure increased investments and kickstart the activities of the 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence.
Commending UN Secretary-General and UN Women for spearheading the UNiTE! campaign, Dennis Francis, President of the 78th Session of the General Assembly said the history behind the international day for the elimination of violence against women was not a celebratory one but rather, recalled the assassination of the Mirabal sisters.
These sisters, he said, displayed exemplary bravery in the fight against political oppression.
He said the campaign would spur political will and critically, the availability of resources to prevent and to end the scourge in all its forms and in all parts of the world.
“Globally, an estimated 736 million women have experienced physical or sexual violence at least once in their lifetime.
86 per cent of women and girls live in countries that lack robust legal protections against violence.
“Violence against women is a devastating experience visited upon one in three women whose dignity and rights we men so whimsically deny and treat dishonorably.
“They are our mothers, sisters, daughters, granddaughters, and cherished loved ones, the overwhelming majority of whom guide and nurture us as we advance sometimes with great respect that commands the admiration and respect of the community through our lives.
According to Francis, investments are crucial for the advancement of gender equality and yet, global investments to prevent gender- based violence are still low.
He said that aside from being a flagrant violation of human rights, violence against women resulted in significant costs that were borne by everyone, particularly by the victims and survivors.
The 78th UNGA president noted that governments had a multidimensional duty to take robust measures to prevent violence and protect women from it, among other things.
This, he said, can be done by enforcing laws, allocating adequate resources through gender sensitive budgeting and fostering strategic partnerships, especially with the private sector, to fill the funding gaps which impede effective interventions.
“Everyone has a responsibility to repudiate this abuse and commit to working to prevent it.
“We must certainly do more to bolster international cooperation to match our commitments,” he said.
Speaking on root causes and drivers of violence, UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina J.
Mohammed , said it was important to invest in data collection and analysis and use it to inform policy and programming.
On her part, the day serves as a stark reminder of one of the most pervasive human rights violations and a global public health problem with negative multiplier effects across economies, politics and societies.
She said the rates of violence against women were alarmingly high and further aggravated by conflicts, crisis and emergencies, adding that women rights defenders and activists were facing more risks than ever before, including in the digital sphere.
“Investment in prevention is to invest in our collective well being.
It means creating conditions where women and girls can thrive, unburdened by the fear of violence.
“To tackle discriminatory norms and practices, legal reform to enhance equality and advocacy towards behavioral change is needed.
“Prevention policies and programmes must be multisectoral, coordinated and well resourced with a long term vision,”she said.
In her remarks, UN Women Executive Director, Sima Bahous, said investment in the elimination of violence against women and girls was pitiful, “a mere 0.
2% of overall aid in 2022.
Speaking on the failure to invest, Bahous stressed that it was more frustrating because stakeholders knew what to do.
This, according to her, includes reforming and implementing laws and multi sectoral policies, ensuring survivors have access to the services they need, scaling up evidence- based prevention interventions and holding perpetrators to account.
However, she said these would not happen by themselves and called for the allocation of serious resources.
“It is indeed time to get serious, unlock financing across different sectors to track budget allocations, do more gender responsive budgeting and resource the crucial efforts of women’s rights organisations who are at the frontline of response and are crucial partners for policy change.
She said that in 2022, UN Women mobilised $167 million for programmes to end violence against women, including supporting 16 countries to advance policies and 44 programmes targeting norms change.
Bahous called for an end to the menace, describing it as “a stain on our humanity, a hindrance to peace, a hindrance to security and a hindrance to sustainable development.
Violence against women is a complex issue that requires a multifaceted approach, and with a sustained effort, increased investments, and a global commitment to gender equality and human rights, near-perfect progress towards its elimination is attainable.
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