25th of November: International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

History of the Day

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women was first celebrated in 1999, as ruled by the United Nations General Assembly. The date was decided based on the brutal killing of the Mirabal sisters, which happened on November 25th, 1960.

The Mirabal sisters were political activists in the Dominican Republic (along with their husbands), which was then under the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo. When visiting their husbands in prison, they were stopped by military intelligence officers which then proceeded to brutally torture and massacre them. The Mirabal sisters were thrown off a cliff in their car to make their death look like an accident, but the public immediately saw through the ruse. A rebellion ensued which ultimately led to the death of dictator Trujillo in 1961.

Still today we commemorate this date in hopes of ending violence against women and femicide— more on that in the later section about recent action.

History of Feminism

The feminist movement was born in the late 19th century and, at first, its main goal was simply to give women legal rights, such as the right to vote and property rights. We call this period of time 1st wave of feminism, to differentiate it from the other waves of feminism that came afterwards. The 1st wave of feminism ended in the first part of the 20th century and, although it allowed many countries to extend the right to vote to women, the society of every country in the world remained fundamentally patriarchal.

The 2nd wave of feminism started in the early 1960s and lasted until the 1980s and was more focused on reproductive rights, sexuality, family and domesticity. Thanks to this movement more women started to use birth control and had the possibility to find help if they were victims of domestic violence.

In the early 1990s another wave of feminism started, the 3rd one, more focused on the individualism and diversity of women. This movement allowed many others to be born as well, like sex positivity, ecofeminism and intersectionality.

The 4th wave of feminism started during the late 2000s and its main focuses are the empowerment of women and the inclusion of people of marginalized groups, like POC and LGBTQIA+ people. A big part of this movement is also to speak out against the objectification and harassment of women.

Photographer: Ted Eytan

Data

Although feminist organisations have fought for decades and continue to fight, no country can still properly say to have completely reached gender equality. 

1 out of 3 women has been a victim of sexual or physical violence and 1 out of 5 has been a victim of stalking; of these cases, more than 60% remain unreported. Domestic violence against women (23%)  is also higher than domestic violence against men (19%) and, according to the United Nations, although women are only 20% of all murder victims, they are 80% of all murder victims caused by intimate partners. In Italy, according to Istat, 6,778,000 women (31.5% of all Italian women aged 16-70) have been victims of sexual or physical violence.

Infographic by: Margaret Jone Wollman

Recent Action

As of today, there are quite a number of organisations and groups which aim to raise awareness on violence against women. One of the most well-known is the #MeToo movement, which was created by activist Tarana Burke in 2006. #MeToo is centered primarily on women who are victims of sexual assault and harassment and urges the victims of such violence to share their stories on the media, since an outstandingly low number of these cases actually get reported to the police or even talked about. This campaign is particularly helpful since it’s created a safe platform for

these stories to be told and heightens both awareness and, most importantly, belief— out of the few women who end up reporting cases of harassment, it’s rare that any of these instances be taken seriously and/or end up in court.

Another way of expressing solidarity is through the #OnHerSide movement. To protest against violence towards women, you can create an orange origami tulip and set it out in public or post it on social media.

An international movement organized by the UN, the UNiTE campaign, also works towards ending gender-based violence. Its main aim is to completely eliminate this type of violence by 2030, and this year there will be 16 days of activism (Nov. 25 –  Dec. 10) to protest against it. The UN has a long history of working with women to end discrimination, and it keeps up this work through quite a number of groups, organisations and international protests.

On a local level, there’s a movement in Italy called #QuellaVoltaChe which raises awareness of the stories of women who have been victims of physical and sexual violence. This campaign works both through social media and books which tell these women’s stories of  how they were subjected to harassment and assault. This movement was begun by the Italian writer Giulia Blasi and has gained speed in recent years.

Conclusion

It’s important to remember that sexism and violence against women are issues of capital importance that need to be discussed, and that we should work to remove all prejudices that still remain in regard to gender since doing so can benefit both women and men that often cannot live their life fully because of the pressure put on them. A perfect example of this is that, often, sexual violence against women is caused by the culture of toxic masculinity which considers women inferior but also doesn’t allow men to express their emotions; this is the reason why  ¾ of all suicide victims are men.

The 25th of November is a day on which we reflect on these topics and remember that gender equality hasn’t yet been reached— a day on which, even if only a little bit, we strive to make the world a better place.

Poster by: Sara

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