Today, 25 November, is the United Nation’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Today also marks the start of Amnesty International’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign to challenge violence and discrimination against women and girls, including the denial of sexual and reproductive rights: “The campaign also aims to celebrate heroes–women human rights defenders–in region of the world who fight discrimination and call on governments to prevent, investigate and prosecute discrimination and violence against women and girls.”
“The root causes of gender-based violence and restrictions of women and girls’ sexual and reproductive rights are the same – systematic gender discrimination rooted in patriarchal structures that control women and girls’ choices and freedoms.” (Lucy Freeman, Director of Amnesty International’s Gender, Sexuality and Identity Programme, Tue, 25/11/2014.)
The date of 25 November was chosen to commemorate the Mirabal sisters. This date and attempt to promote global recognition of gender violence has been observed in Latin America since the 1980s, but it was just in December 1999, at the 54th session of the United Nations General Assembly, that Resolution 54/134 was adopted. This resolution declared 25 November the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women. The Mirabal sisters had been and continue to be symbols of the crisis of violence experienced by women in the world.
The four Mirabal sisters were political activists and human rights defenders in the Dominican Republic. Three of the sisters were brutally murdered on 25 November 1960 by Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, the dictator in Dominican Republic, who, during his 30-year reign, oversaw consistent raping of women and the killing of over 50,000 Haitians and Dominicans. Minerva, María Teresa, Dedé, and Patria, also known by their code name, Las Mariposas/the Butterflies, joined the underground resistance movement that attempted to rid the island of Trujillo. Only Dedé survived and went on to fight for human rights and the end of violence against women. Dominican American author, Julia Alvarez, immortalized these sisters in her historical novel, In the Time of the Butterflies, published in 1994 and adapted into a feature film in 2001.
Facts, Figures and Information (from the UN website)
- 35% of women and girls globally experience some form of physical and or sexual violence in their lifetime with up to seven in ten women facing this abuse in some countries.
- It is estimated that up to 30 million girls under the age of 15 remain at risk from FGM/C, and more than 130 million girls and women have undergone the procedure worldwide.
- Worldwide, more than 700 million women alive today were married as children, 250 million of whom were married before the age of 15. Girls who marry before the age of 18 are less likely to complete their education and more likely to experience domestic violence and complications in childbirth.
- The costs and consequence of violence against women last for generations.
- Violence against women is a human rights violation
- Violence against women is a consequence of discrimination against women, in law and also in practice, and of persisting inequalities between men and women
- Violence against women impacts on, and impedes, progress in many areas, including poverty eradication, combating HIV/AIDS, and peace and security
- Violence against women and girls is not inevitable. Prevention is possible and essential
- Violence against women continues to be a global pandemic.