One of the most pervasive human rights violations is violence against women. The UN recognizes this as a major challenge confronting humanity on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women that falls on November 25 every year. The annual 16 days of activism against gender-based violence have kicked off. When nearly half of humanity becomes a target of discrimination, it is hard to not consider the other half at least partially responsible for the violence that is meted out to women across the world. These 16 days remind the international community to calculate the steep cost that women pay for this treatment. According to the latest UN report, every 11 minutes a girl or woman loses her life in violence perpetrated by family members or intimate partners.
The data shows that over one in three women experiences gender-based violence in their lifetime. The figures of 2021 confirm that nearly one in five women in the early 20s had to get married before turning 18. Even more disturbing is the finding that less than 40 per cent women victims of violence had any access to help of some sort. These are not simple statistics; they display a callous saga of failure on their male counterparts to do something concrete to change this situation for the better. The stories of these women are countless and each story has a long trail of abuses. Gender empowerment should now be a primary task if the world is to see some noticeable improvement in the status of women around the world in coming years. Without gender equality women will remain marginalized as has been the case for the past many centuries. The deaths of women resulting from violence are preventable if there is adequate knowledge among men and women to work side by side for its prevention.
Societies all over the world need effective tools to raise awareness about violence against women. Only concerted actions using pertinent mechanisms for redress will fulfil the rights of girls and women. Unless they feel safe everywhere all the time no society can claim to be based on gender justice. The UN is working on updates but in the absence of national planning in all countries just updates are of limited use. To utilize these updates, all countries need an action-oriented approach to prioritize elimination of – or at least substantial decrease in – gender-based violence. Mitigation of such violence is possible if there is commitment from governments and other stakeholders to work in tandem to eradicate this terror of violence that haunts women around the world. Even during humanitarian emergencies, women become victims of abuse and violence. The recent reports of such incidents in the flood-affected areas in Pakistan are a testimony to such abuse. Protection of survivors of such abuse and violence should be a priority.