Why do we need an International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women? This UN holiday, falling on November 25 each year, recognizes the continuing violence women and girls face worldwide purely because of their gender and calls for a collective effort to end this pandemic.
The Ugly Fact of Violence Against Women
Virtually every woman I know can name an incident in her life when she herself or someone she knew had been a victim of an act of violence. I have too many friends, or friends of friends, who have been physically or sexually abused, sexually harassed, or assaulted by a stranger, a relative, or a “friend.”
As early as 7th grade, I remember my girlfriend in art class, who matter-of-factly told me that her older boyfriend “only sometimes” hit her when he was upset. In my college days, a co-worker in her early 20s showed up to work one day with bluish fingertip-shaped marks along her neck, courtesy of her husband. “Oh, it’s just a bruise,” she said with a shrug. “Your mother? Your brothers? What do they say?” I asked, appalled. “They say don’t get him angry,” she replied. A friend in her 30’s is still haunted by images from the past of being violated as a child in an uncle’s bedroom. And so is my sister-in-law, who decades ago was stabbed repeatedly in her neck and back in a public parking lot by someone she barely knew.
Sadly, I could go on. So many women—too many—have openly shared similar incidents with me, retelling their tales with a weariness that makes my heart ache. Some wonder what it was that they did wrong, to elicit such a response, when in fact they did absolutely nothing wrong. Others have just recently revealed their experiences, quietly posting “#MeToo” on Twitter or Facebook. Such violence is so commonplace, it seems, that we wonder if it’s just the way of the world.
I myself have been freakishly lucky—knock on wood—I haven’t had any run-ins with bosses or boyfriends or even complete strangers who tried to take advantage of their power over me. I’ve always lived and worked in relatively safe communities—which, granted, is no guarantee of immunity—and have never faced the kind of danger that so many around the world who live amidst political or religious turmoil do in their day-to-day existence.
But what a sad statement it is that I consider myself “lucky” for having escaped such ugliness.
The statistics say it all. 1 in 3 women across the globe will personally face some kind of violence in her lifetime.
It’s hard to imagine a world in which “luck” has absolutely nothing to do with being free from this horror. For some women, gender-based violence is a way of life, whether they are in war-ravaged Nigeria, or religiously divided Nepal, or within America’s inner cities, its neighborhood suburbs, or even glamorous Hollywood offices.
But this isn’t the way of the world. And we must imagine a world free of such violence, because it’s the only way that we can actually achieve it.
What is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women?
This November 25, I’ll join women and men from around the world to observe the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. In 1999, the United Nations officially designated this day as one in which the world would unite against gendered violence. The day itself is just the beginning of 16-days of activism, culminating on December 10, Human Rights Day. It’s a time for paying tribute to those who work to stop such violence and to raise awareness of gender-based violence for what it is—a “global pandemic.”
I’ve read that it’s in the interest of foreign policy, that it’s better for the economy, and that it’s important for our communities to stop women and girls from being victim to violence. But the main reason to end this violence, I think, is simply because every individual deserves to live a secure, peaceful life. It is a basic human right.
It’s time to stop making excuses for men who hurt women, to stop accepting gender-based violence as inevitable, and to start changing the world in which we live. We owe it to women around the world who silently suffer every day, we owe it our daughters and our sons, and we owe it to ourselves.
Lynn Ink is a university-level educator, writer, editor, women’s rights advocate and mom to three teens and a Border Collie. She loves Netflix binge-watching, blueberry pancakes and researching everything from historical events to remote places. She squirrels away most of her writing for no one to read, but is happy to share her work with LiveYourDream.org to help women and girls achieve their fullest potential. Currently, she’s working on a novel about a caregiver who chucks it all for an epic road trip and an In-N-Out burger. Maybe she’ll share it one day.