November 23, 2009

Say No to Violence against Women.

November 25 is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, designated by the UN in 1999 (though marked by women's activists since 1981) to raise awareness of the violence, abuse, and mistreatment women and girls around the world are subjected to. The date was chosen to commemorate the murder of three of the Mirabal sisters, political activists in the Dominican Republic. It also marks the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women, and is part of the UN Secretary-General's 2008 - 2015 campaign to intensify action to end violence against women and girls.

Today, violence directed at women is
one of the most common violations of human rights.
One in three women will be beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime, most likely by a man she knows. One in five women will be the victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime. Half of the women murdered around the world each year are killed by their current or former husbands or partners. Women aged 15 – 44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, malaria, traffic accidents, and war.

In Canada, 51% of women over the age 16 will be subjected to an act of physical violence in their life time. They are five times more likely than Canadian men to be
seriously injured or killed by their partner, and hundreds are murdered each year. Aboriginal women in Canada are five times more likely to die as the result of violence than other women their age. In the EU, between 40% and 50% of women report some form of sexual harassment in the workplace. Between 500.000 and 2 million people – the majority of them women and children – are sold annually into prostitution, forced labour, slavery and servitude.

According to Amnesty International, an estimated 130 million women and girls alive today have been subjected to
female genital mutilation, while 2 million girls are at risk each year. This particularly sadistic practice is common worldwide, not merely confined to ingrained pockets of ignorance and superstition, as are the thousands of “honour” and dowry killings committed each year by some of the world’s most ignorant and uneducated inhabitants.

The easiest way to demonstrate your support is adding your name to the Say NO - UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign, a web-based initiative of the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) that's seen 5,066,549 people sign on since November 2007 to a global call to make ending violence against women a top priority worldwide.

Though Canada's Minister of State for the Status of Women officially signed on our government's behalf in November 2008, commenting that “Canada is a world leader in advancing equality for women,” the Conservative government she's a member of meanwhile cut the Status of Women Canada budget, closed twelve of sixteen Status of Women Canada regional offices, eliminated the Court Challenges Program and the Law Commission, and refused to fund women's groups that engage in advocacy, lobbying, or general research.

The day may therefore also be spent inquiring of the minister how preciesly that brand of leadership - eradicating independent organisations that defend citizen's rights, question, analyze, and provide different perspectives to government - has advanced women's equality in Canada and elsewhere. It should be apparent to everyone that this kind of "leadership" Canada's - and the world's - women can do without.

Note: this is an updated version of the article originally posted on November 24, 2008.

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