This year is like no other. Even before COVID-19 hit, violence against women and girls had reached pandemic proportions. Globally, 243 million women and girls were abused by an intimate partner in the past year. Meanwhile, less than 40 per cent of women who experience violence report it or seek help.
As countries implemented lockdown measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus, violence against women, especially domestic violence, intensified – in some countries, calls to helplines have increased five-fold. In others, formal reports of domestic violence have decreased as survivors find it harder to seek help and access support through the regular channels. School closures and economic strains left women and girls poorer, out of school and out of jobs, and more vulnerable to exploitation, abuse, forced marriage, and harassment.
In April 2020, as the pandemic spread across the world, the UN Secretary-General called for “peace at home”, and 146 Member States responded with their strong statement of commitment. In recent months 135 countries have strengthened actions and resources to address violence against women as part of the response to COVID-19. Yet, much more is needed.
Today, although the voices of activists and survivors have reached a crescendo that cannot be silenced or ignored, ending violence against women will require more investment, leadership and action. It cannot be sidelined; it must be part of every country’s national response, especially during the unfolding COVID-19 crisis. (see Infographic details HERE )
Orange the World
This year’s theme for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is “Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!” As in previous years, these 16 days of activism will commence on the 25th November and conclude on 10 December 2020, which is International Human Rights Day.
For the 16 Days of Activism, UN Women handed over the mic to survivors, activists and UN partners on the ground, to tell the story of what happened after COVID-19 hit. Read and share stories, get inspired by activists who are making a difference every single day, and find out how you can take action. See UNwomen.org
Action in Ireland
Each day, commencing on 25th November Act To Prevent Trafficking (APT) and Association of Leaders of Missionaries and Religious of Ireland (AMRI) will upload a daily resource page, prepared by ‘Future We Need’ (FWN), a faith-based group with members from the Columbans, Franciscans, Josephites, Mercy, Presentation and Salesian congregations. We hope you will join us in helping to end violence against women and girls. See links APT Ireland HERE
Today (25 November) President Michael D. Higgins addressed a Women’s Aid seminar marking this International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the following are some extracts from this address, which you can read or listen to in full at the link below:
Violence against women in Ireland remains shockingly prevalent, with one-in-four women having been abused by a current or former partner according to recent statistics. We know from research that domestic violence tends to form a pattern of behaviour rather than an isolated event; that domestic abuse can also be linked with incidents of child abuse; that, in its extreme form, domestic abuse can and does result in female homicide – since 1996, approximately 250 women have died violently in Ireland, with two-thirds killed in their own homes.
Domestic violence remains a problem at elevated risk for women who are part of a minority. According to the Women’s Health Council, non-indigenous minority ethnic women are over two-and-a-half times more likely to seek services from gender-based violence organisations. – (President Michael D. Higgins – addressing a Women’s Aid seminar (marking International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women, 25 Nov. 2020)
The President continued:
One of the darkest consequences, at the level of the person, of COVID-19 has been its impact on levels of domestic violence. Calls to gardaí regarding domestic violence increased by one-fifth this year, and I understand that calls to your organisation have risen by 43 percent.
Violence and abuse impoverishes lives. It is often inflicted by those to whom victims are intimately related or connected, thus making their homes not the places of safety and security they should be, but spaces defined by angst, fear and uncertainty. Internationally, violence has become a weapon of war, with rape of women and men reported in several recent accounts, such as that which occurred in Sudan in June last year.
Violence is not inherent in the human being. It is learned, copied, imitated, and absorbed in an insidious acculturation process. Such violence is often now, correctly, considered a form of hate crime, committed against women or girls specifically because they are female. Such violence may be sourced in ignorance and even invoked, as I have said, with an abuse of power, as a tradition or part of a culture.
We must assert – I cannot repeat it often enough – and in the strongest possible terms, that there can never be any cultural rationalisation for gender violence, and such violence needs to be called out for what it is: an abuse of rights formed from a sense of entitlement, superiority, misogyny or similar attitudes in the perpetrator, or because of a violent nature. This is a discussion which must be kept ongoing at the United Nations at every level. – (President Michael D. Higgins, 25 Nov 2020)
Women’s rights, for all of us – women, men and children – remain one of the great ethical challenges of our time. The international community has failed women for too long, and by failing women, failed humanity.
SDG: Goal 5 – Gender Equality
As part of the 2030 Agenda, the UN Sustainable Development Goals – constantly on display at Áras an Uachtaráin at Sabina’s request – are the blueprint to achieve a better, more sustainable future for all. They represent a moment of global solidarity and empathy which address our international contemporary challenges, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, peace and justice.
Goal Number 5 – how wonderful if it were on the lips of every schoolchild and teacher – calls on all nations to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.” The assertion is that the Goals can deliver transformative change for girls only if girls are consulted. Their priorities and needs must be taken into account. Girls should not be viewed, in any simplistic sense, as mere beneficiaries of change, but rather be acknowledged, respected and heard as agents of change. Engaging women and girls in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals is therefore crucial.
In conclusion, we must here at home and abroad and at every level continue to raise public awareness about the issue, as well as increase both policy-making and resources dedicated to ending violence against women and girls worldwide.
Let us all commit to vindication of what has been agreed at the United Nations, call out nations and institutions who covertly or overtly make gender violence acceptable, walk in solidarity with those in our society who suffer from emotional and physical abuse, and do all we can to raise awareness of this most important rights issue. This would be such an essential step towards true democracy, towards an Ireland defined by equality and a spirit of shared humanity. ~ (President Michael D. Higgins, 25 Nov, 2020)
Useful resource links