Why we must eliminate violence against women

It feels unacceptable that in 2020 we are still having the conversation about eliminating violence against women and girls. For centuries, women have been mistreated and abused and have to fight harder for justice, equality and acceptance in a man’s world. Although vital steps have been made to eliminate the abuse, we are still a long way from resolution.

What the UN says

The United Nations states that: violence against women and girls (VAWG) is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today.

In general terms, it manifests itself in physical, sexual and psychological forms, encompassing:

  • 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
  • Child marriage

This is a global pandemic that affects women and girls in every corner of the earth. One in three women have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, it is estimated that up to 137,000 women and girls living in England and Wales have undergone FGM and only 52% of women married or in a union freely make their own decisions about sexual relations, contraceptive use and health care. Migrants, young girls, those living through humanitarian crises and ethnic minorities are even more vulnerable as equality continues to be an obstacle to their rights.

2020 challenges

This year’s challenges, with the COVID-19 pandemic, have meant that the fight to eliminate harmful practices and violence against women and girls has become a little further out of reach. FGM and child marriage is on the rise due to poverty and lockdown measures. Those at risk have been trapped at home with perpetrators and found it difficult to get support. 

The true figures of gender-based violence will never be known as many cases go unreported due to fear, stigma and shame. For some cultures, those challenges are entrenched within tradition. Compliance with these harmful practices are a cultural norm and those that go against them often suffer severe consequences.

Savera UK #OrangeTheWorld

Merseyside based charity Savera UK is speaking out and stands with the UN campaign to eliminate violence against women and girls. The practices Savera UK works with are still seen by many as “taboo” and are deep-rooted in communities across the world including the UK. Last year, 12% of referrals to Savera UK concerned forced marriage, 10% of referrals had been subjected to or were at risk of FGM and 64% of referrals were at risk of ‘honour’-based abuse. 

This is not just a global issue, prevention of these practices is needed on a local and regional level. The UN international Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is designed to raise public awareness of the problem on 25th November. Iconic buildings and landmarks across the Liverpool City Region will be illuminated bright orange as part of the campaign to tackle violence against women.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still at large, we must strive to continue the conversation around harmful traditional practices so that those at risk know that they are not alone and that we persist in making steps towards positive change.