In the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, issued in 1993 by the United Nations General Assembly, “violence against women” is defined as "any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life." Until women are no longer threatened by physical, sexual, or mental harm, we better be learning this definition and reminding everyone we know of its existence.
What I loved about V-Day’s One Billion Rising campaign is that it used theater, dance, and music to raise awareness. Let’s face it: not many of us are going to sit down and Google the definition of “violence against women” on our Sunday afternoons. It’s a creative method of educating others on how critical this issue still is for women all over the world.
From February 14th through March 8th women’s equality and empowerment are celebrated by women’s rights activists worldwide. March 8th has been International Women’s Day (originally International Working Women’s Day) since the early 1900’s and February 14th is newly referred to as V-Day, in which the ‘V’ stands “Victory, Valentine, and Vagina.” The first International Women’s Day was celebrated in 1909. By 1911, over a million people demonstrated worldwide to promote equal rights for women. Nothing compared to that momentum of international scale until the One Billion Rising campaign organized by global movement V-Day on their 15th anniversary this year. V-Day is a global activist movement founded by playwright and activist Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues. The numbers aren’t out yet, but there were One Billion Rising events throughout the world on February 14, 2013, including several in Los Angeles. Women and men rose up to demand an end to violence against women through speaking, performing, dancing, and writing.
In marking the time between V-Day and International Women’s Day, I think it’s time to remind ourselves of the reasons why it’s still just as important as ever to demand an end to violence against women. According to UN Women:
• Up to 76% of women worldwide are targets of physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetimes.
• Most of the violence against women is perpetrated by intimate partners.
• Up to 50 percent of sexual assaults are committed against girls under 16.
• Around 30 percent of women were forced into their first sexual experience.
Here are some more statistics from the International Violence Against Women survey, a comparative survey of 30 countries from all continents whose findings were published in 2008.The survey clearly proves that violence against women occurs all over the world, against women of all ages and economic groups:
• Between 35-60% of women in the surveyed countries have experienced violence by a man during their lifetime.
• Between 22-40% have experienced intimate partner violence during their lifetime.
• Less than one third of women reported their experience of violence to the police, and women are more likely to report stranger violence than intimate partner violence.
• About one fourth of victimized women did not talk to anyone about their experiences.
The goals of commemorative days like International Women’s Day and V-Day are to remind us that women have yet to achieve full equality, respect, and freedom from violence and to promote the sharing of experiences between women and with men worldwide. I encourage you to use the time between now and March 8th to intentionally share these statistics and the definition of “violence against women” with people in your own community and to find your own creative ways to call for an end to violence against women.
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