For thousands of years, one of the world’s gravest crimes or scandals has been violence or discrimination against women especially those who are not well educated and come from what are thought to be mythical low classes of society. On Sunday, November 25 the United Nations marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and the world body in a statement says, violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations today. It remains largely unreported due to the impunity, silence, stigma and shame surrounding it.
According to the UN, in general terms, this violence manifests itself in physical, sexual and psychological forms, encompassing intimate partner violence or battering, psychological abuse, marital rape, femicide, sexual violence and harassment, rape, forced sexual acts, unwanted sexual advances, child sexual abuse, forced marriage, street harassment, stalking, cyber-harassment, human trafficking, slavery, sexual exploitation, female genital mutilation and child marriage.
For instance, a 16-year-old girl was reportedly auctioned for 500 cows, three cars and ten thousand dollars on Facebook in South Sudan. The auction reportedly began on October 25 and the post was taken down by Facebook on November 9. Facebook,which reportedly has about two billion users worldwide, came under fire for being used as a medium that allowed the sale of a child bride.
To further clarify, the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls issued by the UN General Assembly in 1993, defines violence against women as “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.”
In most western countries, we have seen powerful groups like the Me Too movement coming out strongly against violence or sexual harassment of women and girls though the United States President Donald Trump is not taking a tough line on this because of allegations that he also was involved in sexual harassment or violence
The adverse psychological, sexual and reproductive health consequences of violence against women and girls affect women at all stages of their life. For example, early-set educational disadvantages not only represent the primary obstacle to universal schooling and the right to education for girls, down the line they are also to blame for restricting access to higher education and even translate into limited opportunities for women in the labour market, the UN says.
November 25 has been designated as Orange Day by the UN Women campaign ‘Say No, Unite’ launched in 2009 to mobilize civil society activists, governments and the UN system to amplify the impact of the UN Secretary-General’s campaign, ‘Unite to End Violence against Women’. Participants the world over are encouraged to wear a touch of orange in solidarity with the cause; the colour symbolizes a brighter future and a world free from violence against women and girls.
The 2018 theme is Orange the World: #HearMeToo and like previous editions, the date marks the launch of 16 days of activism that will conclude on December 10, International Human Rights Day. A host of public events are being coordinated, among which iconic buildings and landmarks will be ‘oranged’ to recall the need for a violence-free future.
According to reports, in Sri Lanka, about 17 per cent of married women aged 15 to 49 have suffered from domestic violence from their intimate partner. Two per cent of married women who suffered from domestic violence, experience some form of domestic violence daily. Prevalence of domestic violence by an intimate partner increases with the age of the women. Urban residents also reported the highest percentage of domestic violence (20 per cent). Kilinochchi and Batticaloa districts have the highest level of domestic violence (50 per cent).
Married women who belong to the lowest wealth quin-tile and those with primary education reported the highest percentages in domestic violence (28 and 30 per cent respectively). Among women who suffered from domestic violence, only about one fourth or 28 per cent have sought help, three fourths or 75 per cent seek help from their family members, 27 per cent from friends or neighbours and only 18 per cent seekhelp from the police. Half of the married women age 15 to 49 or 50 per cent indicated to know about the Sri Lanka Women’s Bureau to combat violence, while 26 per cent mentioned the midwife and Women’s Help Line.