U.N. Day Recognizes Violence Against Women

I think it’s better to be a man because a woman always hears inappropriate comments from men. It happened to me at school. Teachers won’t give out your grades if you don’t sleep with them. When my friends apply for a job, if the employers are men, when they don’t give in to their advances they’re not hired.

A young woman from Ethiopia is speaking in a video commemorating the 14th annual U.N.’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Another woman in the video, slightly older and from Lebanon, tells about her husband ignoring her completely. A third, from Bangladesh, explains how her husband plans to leave her on the streets if their next child is a daughter. The voices blend together.

November 25 was chosen for this day of remembrance because it marks the date in 1960 when three activist sisters in the Dominican Republic were assassinated under orders from the country’s dictator. Sadly, how little times have changed. Last week in Ethiopia, soldiers gang-raped three girls, nearly killing them, and this weekend in the U.S., a Nebraska husband stabbed his spouse repeatedly a month after she filed a protection order.

The statistics are terrifying. UN Women estimates that up to 70 percent of women and girls worldwide face some form of violence in their lifetime, which Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., calls a “global scourge.” The most common violence: an intimate partner instigates beatings, sexual coercion and other abuses, alongside psychological or emotional abuses. Sexual exploitation by others is also common: One in five women are victims of rape or attempted rape, and millions are trafficked for labor and prostitution. Women also face “honor” murders, dowry killings and genital mutilation (which victimizes 140 million women and girls per year globally). Sexual harassment, too, can be considered an act of violence; in the United States, 83 percent of public school girls ages 12 to 16  report being victimized.

Says U.N. Ambassador Power:

Violence against women isn’t cultural, it’s criminal. Equality cannot come eventually, it’s something we must fight for now. If we don’t we not only reject the inalienable human rights of all women and girls, but also threaten the fundamental stability, security and prosperity of our societies. … Our efforts cannot stop now, as the work is far from finished.

Watch the UN awareness video here:

Photo from Flickr user DFAT photo library under license from Creative Commons 2.0