November 25 marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Every year several events are organised worldwide as part of the UN System-wide activities for the 16 days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. It is commemorated under the umbrella of the Secretary-General’s campaign UNiTE by 2030 to end violence against women in the world.

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On this day, UN and regional experts on violence against women call upon all States to close the gap between international and national laws on rape and sexual violence.

In 1981, activists at the Latin American and Caribbean Feminist Encuentros marked November 25 as a day to combat and raise awareness regarding violence against women. It was on December 17, 1999, that the date received its official United Nations (UN) resolution.

International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women: Theme

This year’s theme was “Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands Against Rape”, which uses orange colour to symbolise hope and a brighter future without violence against women.

The theme focuses on the dire need to end rape culture that is ingrained in society, whether in situations of peace or conflicts, in homes or streets.

The UN agency wants to make sure people understand that the violence against women and girls is one of the most disturbing human rights violations that currently exists in the world.

Deputy Executive Director of UN Women Anita Bhatia on “Elimination Violence Against Women”

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Deputy Executive Director of UN Women Anita Bhatia told PTI in an interview that the agency wants to focus on the world’s one of the biggest and the most grievous issues of rape and the culture of rape that prevails in society.

She added, “All of us are daily witnesses to this rape culture. Because we are facing the misogynistic language, the objectification of bodies, jokes and downplaying of the issue of consent that yes means yes and no means no. And, we see a lot of advertising and media, which glamorises violence against women.

Ms Bhatia said the agency also wants to convey the message that violence is not unavoidable and there are steps which the societies, governments and people can take to ensure that we are “doing something” to stop violence against women.

She emphasised that not just one single action but a comprehensive approach is required to deal with this severe issue.

“First of all, you need to change cultures, mindset and make it unacceptable for societies to accept violence against women,” she said, adding that “this isn’t an agenda that is just for women and girls. Men have to be involved too.

She stressed on the need to work with the police and to make them understand that victims of sexual abuse and violence must be taken seriously and their claims cannot be dismissed.

“We have to work with the court system also because justice delayed is justice denied,” she said, adding that it must also be ensured that influencers and media are not spreading violence.

And then clearly we need laws because so many countries still have laws that normalise rape within marriages and that allow rapists to erase the crime by marrying the victim,” she said.

Ms Bhatia emphasised that governments, societies and individuals must work with girls and women to give them the confidence to speak up.

She added that despite global movements such as #MeToo, #TimesUp, #Niunamenos, #NotOneMore, sexual violence continues to be normalised and embedded in social environments.

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According to UN Women, approximately 15 million adolescent girls from age between 15 and 19 worldwide have experienced an attempted or completed rape at some point in their life. Furthermore, three billion women and girls live in countries where rape within marriage is not clearly criminalised.

Rallies in Europe for the “Elimination of Violence Against Women”

Thousands of people rallied across Europe, with more than 30,000 turning out in Paris, on the eve of the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25.

Besides, several people in Rome protested violence against women on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

“The fight against violence against women is progressing daily but our society has a long way to go — everyone must act and fight as this is everybody’s business,” President Emmanuel Macron tweeted in offering his moral support.

In Spain, protesters took to the streets in Madrid, Sevilla, Valencia, Barcelona, and Bilbao, reflecting how the fight to stop violence against woman has become a national cause in the country.

Violence against women in India

According to the National Family Health Survey, 30 per cent women in India in the age group of 15-49 have experienced physical violence since the age of 15. The report further says that 6 per cent women in the same age group have experienced sexual violence at least once in their lifetime. Moreover, around 31 per cent of married women have experienced physical, sexual or emotional violence by their spouses.

 In addition, according to the National Crime Records Bureau of India, “reported incidents” of crime against women increased by 6.4% during 2012, and a crime against a woman is committed every three minutes. As per the records, in 2011, there were more than 228,650 reported incidents of crime against women, while in 2015, there were over 300,000 reported incidents.

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 65% of Indian men believe women should tolerate violence in order to keep the family together, and women sometimes deserve to be beaten. In January 2011, the International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES) Questionnaire reported that 24% of Indian men had committed sexual crimes at some point during their lives.

It is extremely difficult to obtain the exact number, as a large number of cases go unreported. Most of the women and girls in India avoid reporting rape or sexual assault cases due to our slow and complex judicial system and apathetic attitude of the police towards the victims of rape or sexual assault.

Status of Elimination of Violence Against Women in India

In India, police must be sensitised for dealing with rape victims or sexual assault survivors. If the victims do not feel at ease to approach a police station, public faith in the justice system of the country will be further battered. 

The Government of India should set up more fast track courts to get rid of pending rape cases and cases that come under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.

The step taken by the Telanga Police is applaudable. To combat violence and other abuses against women, the way Telanga Police have established SHE Teams to focus on the safety of women, we expect more such actions from our police to ensure the safety of women and girls in India and to put an end to violence against them.  

Violence against women and girls is a serious violation of their rights to dignity. It leads to long term mental and physical consequences, sometimes leading to death and disability among women and girls. 

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Violence against women is a violation of the basic human right to safety, security and life without discrimination. It must be stopped.      

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