November 25 marks the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The theme of this year’s event is “Leave No One Behind: End Violence Against Women And Girls.”
The physical, emotional and sexual abuse of women and girls is one of the most widespread human-rights violations in the world today. It is a global problem which affects females of all ages. At least one out of every three women worldwide has been physically assaulted, emotionally abused or forced into sex in her lifetime.
Violence against women occurs in domestic, cultural and judicial spheres. The second half of the 20th century saw moves to tackle gender-based discrimination. In the past few decades, women have challenged many social norms and patriarchal attitudes. They have excelled in the public and private sector, and achieved political and economic power. It could be argued that the social, cultural and economic empowerment of women has, to some degree, curtailed domestic violence.
Violence against women is more rampant in patriarchal societies and developing countries, where they are treated as second-class citizens. The legal system in developing countries either refuses to recognize women’s basic human rights or simply ignores laws that address gender-based discrimination.
However, recent allegations of widespread sexual misconduct by powerful male Hollywood celebrities is irrefutable proof that women are objectified even in advanced cultures. It is clear that even a robust legal system that aims to tackle gender-discrimination does not protect women and girls against persistent the cultural bias that continues to victimize them.
It is, therefore, important to advocate social and cultural changes that will ensure gender equality and the human rights of women and girls all over the world. Violence against women and girls will only end when a society becomes aware of its power to change the status quo, and when women stand up for their own rights.