25th November 2020
Today the MHREC chose to spotlight the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, an international day celebrated every 25th November.
Despite the adoption of the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) by the UN General Assembly in 1979, violence against women and girls (VAWG) is one of the most persistent and devastating human rights violations across the globe that remains largely unreported due to the stigma, shame and impunity attached to it.
The UN General Assembly has since issued resolution 48/104 which sought to lay down a path towards a world free of gender-based violence. Otherwise, in 2018 UNiTE to End Violence against Women was launched with the express aim to raise and improve public awareness on VAWG as well as increase both policymaking and resources dedicated to ending violence against women and girls worldwide. Similarly, in 2017, the European Union (EU) and the UN launched the Spotlight Initiative. This ambitiously seeks to eliminate all forms of such violence through awareness, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Despite these efforts there is still a way to go in terms of legislation… only two out of three countries have outlawed domestic violence. Shockingly, 37 countries worldwide still exempt rape perpetrators from prosecution if they are married to or eventually marry the victim. And furthermore, 49 countries currently have no laws protecting women from domestic violence.
Examples of how VAW can manifest:
In general terms, the violence can be physical, sexual and psychological forms. Some examples:
- intimate partner violence (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.
It is important to note that abuse is not only perpetrated by an intimate partner but also by any family member, eg to elderly, or by a child to his/her parents. Culture can also play a factor in eg how males are brought up. The social stigma that men face for being perceived as ‘sensitive’ when expressing their emotions because that is not ‘manly’ has deep repercussions. Pent up emotions can manifest themselves later on in life, and can pressure men into acting in a way just because it is what they have been taught all their lives.
“These abuses are among the world’s most horrific, persistent and widespread human rights violations, affecting one in every three women in the world. That means someone around you. A family member, a co-worker, a friend. Or even you yourself.”António Guterres UN SG 2019
What is the world doing today?
On June 24th 2020, the UN Chief’s call for action was supported by the publishing of the Inter- Agency Statement on Violence against Women and Girls in the Context of COVID-19. The statement highlighted the six critical areas for action, providing the UN system with the common set of key advocacy messages and coordination for action:
- Make urgent and flexible funding available for women’s rights organizations and recognize their role as first responders.
- Support health and social services to continue their duty of care to violence against women survivors and to remain accessible, especially to those most likely to be left behind.
- Ensure that services for violence against women and girl survivors are regarded as essential, remain open and are resourced and made accessible especially to those most likely to be left behind.
- Place a high priority on police and justice responses.
- Put preventative measures in place.
- Collect data only if it is clear that it is needed, it will be used to improve services/programmes and ethical and safety standards can be met.
What about Malta?
In 2017, Malta launched its first national strategy – Society’s concern: Gender-based violence and domestic violence strategy and action plan vision 2020. It was the first national framework to ensure that legislation, policies and services address victims’ needs with a holistical approach. This Strategy adhered to the policy recommendations laid out in the Council of Europe Convention on prevention and combating violence against women and domestic violence (also referred to as the Istanbul Convention) . Malta had ratified this convention in 2014. This Strategy is based on the four pillars of the Istanbul Convention of prevention; protection; prosecution and integrated policies.
In 2018 the Gender-Based Violence and Domestic Violence Act was introduced with the express purpose to make provision for the substantive articles of the Council of Europe Convention on the prevention and combating of violence against women and domestic violence to become, and be, enforceable and included in the Laws of Malta. It also seeks to promote and protect the right of everyone, particularly of persons at risk of domestic violence to live free from violence in both the public and private sphere.
The Act defines “gender-based violence” as “all acts or omissions that are directed against a person because of their gender, that result in, or are likely to result in, physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm or suffering, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life”.
Snippets of data
- 1 in 3 women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, most frequently by an intimate partner
- Almost 750 million women and girls alive today were married before their 18th birthday
- 200 million women and girls have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM)
- 71% of all human trafficking victims worldwide are women and girls
- 3 out of 4 of human trafficked women and girls are sexually exploited
- As the world retreated inside houses due to the lockdown measures introduced to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, reports from around the world showed an alarming increase in domestic abuse.
- VAWG should be taken and treated as serious a cause of death and incapacity among women of reproductive age as cancer, and a greater cause of ill health than traffic accidents and malaria combined.
Why 25th November?
Women’s rights activists have observed today as a day against gender-based violence since 1981. Why this date in particular? It was to honour the Mirabal sisters. Three political activists from the Dominican Republic who were brutally murdered in 1960 by order of the country’s ruler, Rafael Trujillo (1930-1961).
Important information for those in Malta
If you or anyone you know feel like you should seek help, if only ask for advice about your current situation and explore your options, please do not hesitate to call Malta’s Domestic abuse helpline – 179.
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