16 Days of Activism: The Fight Against Gender-Based Violence in 2020

As part of She’s Right’s participation in 16 days of activism to end violence against women, each article will be dedicated to a woman who has lost her life due to gender-based violence. This article is dedicated to Patrycja Wyrebek, killed by a man on or around 2nd August 2020, at the age of 20.

By Jessica Sutton.

Each day, almost 240 women are killed because of their gender.[1]
35% of women globally have experienced domestic violence or sexual violence.[2]
200 million women and girls have suffered female genital mutilation.
Less than 10% of gender-based violence victims report the harm to Police.

Today marks the first of a series of 16 articles dedicated to raising awareness of gender-based violence, stretching from International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on the 25th November, to International Human Rights Day on the 10th December.

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is celebrated each year to recognise the ongoing harm experienced by women and girls worldwide through gender-based violence. Gender-based violence is violence directed against a person because of their gender identity, or violence that is disproportionately experienced by people of a certain gender identity. The most common type of gender-based violence is violence against women and girls, which includes physical, psychological, and sexual violence.

Women’s rights activists have observed 25 November as an international day dedicated to eradicating gender-based violence since 1981. On 7 February 2000, the General Assembly of the United Nations, six years after their December 1993 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, officially designated 25 November as the International day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. 

The 2020 theme for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is “Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!” This theme recognises the importance of funding services for gender-based violence survivors, responding to gendered consequences of crises such as COVID-19, taking preventative action to stop violence, and collecting sex disaggregated data to provide better services for women and girls.  The United Nations uses the colour orange as a means to emphasise the daily struggles of women and girls against gender-based violence.

Why is this activism important in 2020?

2020 has been inescapably marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the pandemic has had a startling impact on women’s rights globally, particularly in the field of gender-based violence. The pandemic has increased key risk factors for gender-based violence, such as economic insecurity, school closures, lack of funding for services, mental health problems, and enforced close contact between abusers and victims through lockdowns.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has recognised that “for many women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be safest – in their own homes”.[3] Domestic violence has been described as a “shadow pandemic” – increasing in parallel with COVID-19 lockdowns. Some countries have seen calls to domestic helplines triple, and femicide rates dramatically increase.[4] Yet, most COVID-19 responses globally have been carried out in a gender-blind manner, leaving women and girls vulnerable to increased harm.[5]

And while COVID-19 rages, women and girls are still suffering sexual violence in conflict and peacetime, sex trafficking, forced marriage, honour killings, sexual harassment at work, reduction in reproductive rights, and other violations of fundamental human rights. Lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women are exposed to higher relative rates of gender-based violence. The situation for women and girls has become so dire in 2020, that United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, has described the current climate as a general backslide and backlash to women’s rights.[6] The rights of women and girls “cannot be an optional policy, subject to the changing winds of politics”, Ms Bachelet warned. Women and girls have inalienable human rights which must be protected.

What are we doing?

For the 16 days from 25th November to 10th December, She’s Right will be publishing one new piece of material every day, starting with this article and ending with an article on United Nation’s International Human Rights Day. Each article or podcast will be dedicated to a woman or girl who has lost her life to gendered violence, recognising the human cost of the shadow pandemic of gender-based violence. Like us on Facebook to receive updates on every new piece. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram to join our conversation as we fill our social media with messages of love, hope, and absolute rejection of the hatred inherent in gender-based violence. We invite everyone to share these messages. Take action, get involved any way you can, from headline grabbing activism, to simple acts of kindness. Listen to survivors. Share your stories. Let’s turn the world orange.

[1] United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Global Study on Homicide: Gender-related killing of women and girls (2019) at 10.

[2] https://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/facts-and-figures

[3] https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/04/06/827908402/global-lockdowns-resulting-in-horrifying-surge-in-domestic-violence-u-n-warns

[4] https://reliefweb.int/report/mexico/pandemic-violence-protecting-women-during-covid-19; https://shesright.co.nz/2020/04/13/physical-and-psychological-violence-during-covid-19-the-shadow-pandemic.

[5] https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=26369&LangID=E

[6] https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/02/1058021

Image from UN Women.

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