This article is written by a master student and reflects their individual perspectives and opinions. It does not constitute an official representation of the Raoul Wallenberg Institute. The content provided here is for educational and informational purposes only, and readers should be aware that it does not necessarily align with the official position of the institute. Readers are encouraged to independently verify information and seek guidance from appropriate academic authorities when necessary. The authors bear full responsibility for the content presented in this blog and any potential consequences resulting from it.
Isabelle comes from Växjö in the southern part of Sweden and she has studied law at Lund University. She is currently in the second year of the International Human Rights Law Master’s programme. Isabelle is especially interested in the connection between Environmental Law and International Humanitarian Law, but also women’s rights and the human rights approach to poverty reduction.
Today marks the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The 25th November has been commemorated by women’s rights activists since 1981 and adopted as an official United Nations Day since 2000. The day also marks the start of the annual international campaign, 16 days of Activism against Gender-Based violence, that ends on Human Rights Day 10th December. The importance of the day cannot be highlighted enough since violence against women is one of the most common human right violation today.
The 25th November was chosen by women’s rights activists to honour the Mirabal sisters. The Mirabal sisters were three political activists in the Dominican Republic who were assassinated by dictator Rafael Trujillo 25 November 1960 because of their resistance movement. After their death, the sisters became symbols of feminist resistance. More than 60 years later the day is commemorated to raise awareness of one of the most prevalent human rights violations today. In 2018 almost 1 in 3 women aged 15 years or older had experienced physical or sexual violence at least once in their lifetime. Furthermore, a survey made in the European Union revealed that over 40 percent of women in the European Union have at least once in their lifetime experienced psychological violence by a partner.
Consequences of violence against women and girls
First and foremost violence against women and girls affects the individual physically, mentally but also economically. Violence against women risks undermining a woman’s self-esteem with the risk of depression and self-harm. This in turn affects the woman’s productivity at work and in education with the risk of affecting the person’s economy. Medical costs, judicial costs, and costs of having to move from an abusive partner can also affect a person’s economy.
Violence against women also affect societies. Firstly, gender-based violence hinders advancement in gender equality. Secondly, gender-based violence affects state economies. A study made by the European Institute for Gender Equality shows that the costs of gender-based violence in the European Union in 2021 were 366 billion euro. The costs are lost economic output at work, and expenses for public services such as health services and justice systems. Thirdly, gender-based violence affects the development of states because of the above-mentioned consequences.
16 days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence and the UNITE campaign
To prevent and eliminate violence against women the Women’s Global Leadership Institute founded the campaign 16 days of activism against Gender-based Violence in 1991. Every year the campaign starts on 25th November and lasts 16 days until the United Nations Human Rights Day. The United Nations supports the campaign and to show its support it launched its parallel campaign UNITE by 2030 to End Violence Against Women. The UNITE initiative chooses different themes every year and this year the theme is “UNITE! Invest to prevent violence against women and girls”. This means that the United Nations calls on governments to invest in prevention and to eradicate violence against women and girls. Furthermore, the United Nations calls on all world’s citizens to show how they are taking action. The reason behind this theme is that to end the violence there is a need for investment in prevention. However, research shows that only 26 percent of states have systems to track budget allocation for gender equality and only 1 percent is gender-focused aid and goes to women’s organizations even though these are very important to prevent gender-based violence in societies.
What can you do?
As already mentioned, the United Nations calls for all citizens to show how they are taking action, but how can you take action? A person can take action by taking part in organizations working against gender-based violence. Citizens can also put pressure on politicians by using their democratic rights such as the possibility to demonstrate. Moreover, a person can also question stereotypes that contribute to gender-based violence both in offline and online environments.
Council of Europe portal. Why is gender-based violence a problem? https://www.coe.int/en/web/gender-matters/why-is-gender-based-violence-a-problem-
European Institute for Gender Equality. Gender-based violence Understanding Psychological violence against Women. https://eige.europa.eu/sites/default/files/documents/EIGE_Factsheet_PsychologicalViolence.pdf . 2023
European Institute for Gender Equality. The costs of gender-based violence in the European Union, https://eige.europa.eu/gender-based-violence/costs-of-gender-based-violence?language_content_entity=en 2021
United Nation General Assembly. Res A/RES/54/134. Feb 2000
United Nation, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women 25 November, https://www.un.org/en/observances/ending-violence-against-women-day/background
United Nation Women, UNITE! Invest to prevent violence against women and girls, https://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/unite/theme , 2023
United Nation Women, 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, https://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/unite/16-days-of-activism . 2022
Welsh Women´s Aid. The Mirabal Sisters- a history of International day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. https://welshwomensaid.org.uk/news/the-mirabal-sisters-a-history-of-international-day-for-the-elimination-of-violence-against-women/. 2020
World bank. Voice and Agency- Empowering women and Girls for Shared Prosperity. https://documents1.worldbank.org/curated/en/586221468335982164/pdf/Voice-and-agency-empowering-women-and-girls-for-shared-prosperity.pdf 2014
World Health Organization. Violence Against women Prevalence Estimates, 2018. https://iris.who.int/bitstream/handle/10665/341337/9789240022256-eng.pdf?sequence=1 . 2021