One Killed Every 11 Minutes
November 25 marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, a U.N. day designated to focus on the issue of violence against women and girls and to call for more and more effective action to combat it. Over time, the day has evolved into a global, widespread initiative that now incorporates 16 Days of Activism and the UNiTE campaigns. The 2023 campaign for the U.N. day is “Invest to Prevent Violence against Women and Girls” and calls on governments worldwide to share and re-consider how they are investing in the prevention of gender-based violence. Prevention is indeed key, although too often neglected. The responses to gender-based violence are predominately reactive, rather than proactive. This despite the fact that violence against women and girls remains one of the most prevalent and pervasive human rights violations in the world. Furthermore, according to a new report, no country is within reach of eradicating intimate partner violence.
Globally, an estimated 736 million women, one in three, have been subjected to some form of physical and/or sexual violence, at least once in their life. This includes 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. While gender-based violence can happen to anyone, anywhere, some women and girls are particularly vulnerable. This vulnerability is increased by several factors including age (with young girls and older women being particularly vulnerable), but also migration status, ethnic and religious identity (indigenous women and those belonging yo ethnic and/or religious minorities), disability, and many more.
The most recent global estimates from the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime show that, on average, more than 5 women or girls are killed every hour (or one every 11 minutes) by someone in their own family. In 2020, approximately 47,000 women and girls were killed worldwide by their intimate partners or other family members. Asia is the region with the highest number of victims in absolute terms, with an estimated 18,600 victims. Africa is the region with the highest level relative to the size of its female population.
The experiences of women and girls have been exacerbated by post-pandemic effects, conflicts, and climate change. While the impact of Covid-19 confinement measures on gender-related killings of women and girls is yet to be fully examined, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime reported the average annual number of killings showed an increase in several parts of the world.
Gender-based violence and abuse are also not foreign to online spaces. Economist Intelligence Unit, the research and analysis division of the Economist Group, found that 38% of women have had personal experiences of online violence, and 85% of women who spend time online have witnessed digital violence against other women. According to the research, the Covid-19 pandemic worsened this situation as women spend more time online, increasing their exposure to threats.
The consequences of gender-based violence and abuse are wide-ranging, including adverse psychological, sexual and reproductive health consequences, and often affect women and girls for the rest of their lives. This is also why it is crucial to focus on prevention, as any response post-abuse will never come close to being comprehensive.
With the new campaign, “Invest to Prevent Violence against Women and Girls”, the U.N. suggests that the solution lies in robust responses, including investment in prevention. However, as the U.N. emphasized, the investment nations are committing to counteract violence against women and girls remains glaringly sparse. Among others, the U.N. found that only 5% of government aid is focused on tackling violence against women and girls, and less than 0.2% is directed to its prevention. Hence, the U.N. is calling for more investment in women’s organizations and women-focused initiatives, in addition to better legislation, prosecution of perpetrators, more services for survivors, and training for law enforcement officials.
The current situation, the level and nature of gender-based violence cannot be accepted. A change will not come on its own. A change will only come when everyone in society realizes their important role in ending violence against women and girls. We all must work together to address the various aspects of this violence.