By Father John Waters
November 25 marks the International day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The day has been observed, in one form or another, since 1981. In 2000, the United Nations officially designated 25th November as the day for eliminating Violence against Women and invited governments and international organizations to raise awareness of the day, and the issues it challenges, through a series of events and activities.
This year the UN headquarters in New York hosted a conference to begin 16 days of activism aimed at combatting violence against women. The campaign will conclude on 10 December, which marks Human Rights day.
The 2019 campaign focuses particularly on the issue of rape and sexual violence against women, particularly within warzones and conflict areas. The UN notes that during the Rohingya refugee crisis, rape and other forms of sexual violence were used as part of efforts to displace populations. Horrific stories have also emerge from various warzones involving rape being used as a form of prisoner interrogation or as a means to coerce the relatives of prisoners into surrendering. Most recently, stories of this sort emerged from the civil war in Syria.
The campaign also aims to increase the amount of support and assistance given to women who are survivors of violence, particular in sexual forms such as rape.
"Migrant and refugee girls are today among the categories most at risk of violence, in particular linked to sexual exploitation, although it is difficult to mention exact numbers. The young people we come in contact with surprise us for their resilience, but we know that those who survived violence need support,” said Anna Riatti from UNICEF Italy. She is responsible for the response to children and migrant adolescents and refugees in Italy.
“This is why UNICEF accompanies them with interventions that focus on empowerment as well as access to useful services. We also want to ensure that the entire system of actors that come into contact with girls and women is prepared to adequately support them in the difficult path of overcoming traumatic experiences" she concluded
The UN has also issued guidelines for public authorities concerning how to interact with survivors of violence, advocating a “survivor centered approach,” where respect for the survivor and their dignity is kept at the center of all dealings with those in authority. It is hoped that this approach will help to end some of stigmas and shame still associated with women who have been victims of violence.