Girls in Haiti who walk to fetch water wear five pairs of jeans to avoid being raped. Nearly half of all sexual assaults worldwide are against girls 15 years or younger. In every country, females take extraordinary precautions to avoid attack, simply because of their gender.
Domestic violence by a family member or intimate partner is the most common form of violence worldwide. In 53 countries, there is no legal protection for women against domestic violence, and marital rape is not prosecutable. Rape and domestic violence are a higher risk for females aged 15 to 44 than cancer, traffic accidents or malaria.
School is not always safe for girls. Not only do girls face the threat of sexual harassment and assault, especially from teachers and fellow male students, but many have to walk miles to get to school every day, leaving them vulnerable to attack. Girls’ schools in Afghanistan are among the most dangerous where at least 172 violent attacks on schools took place in the first six months of 2006. In this war-torn country, men on motorcycles attacked 15 girls with acid on their way to school. Throughout the world many girls are kept home from school to avoid violence.
So-called ‘honor killings’ are another form of violence where girls and women are often killed by their families or in-laws if they are suspected of being a rape victim, engaging in premarital sex, or committing adultery, because the violation of a daughter’s chastity dishonors the family. The U.N. Population Fund estimates there are 5,000 honor killings a year, almost all in the Muslim cultures but Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn write in “Half the Sky” that this figure is too low because so many of the executions are disguised as accidents or suicides.
Female genital mutilation is the cause of much pain and suffering, but is still viewed in many countries as a traditional practice rather than a form of gender-based violence. This human rights violation has already affected 140 million women and girls alive today.
Forced marriage represents another harmful tradition in which young girls are powerless to stop the abuse and assault they frequently experience from their husbands. One in seven girls in the world become child brides. The leading cause of death for girls between 15-24 is pregnancy and childbirth.
Violence against girls and women, especially rape, is used as a weapon of war. Women as old as grandmothers and as young as toddlers have routinely suffered violent sexual abuse at the hands of military and rebel forces. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, over 1,000 rapes are reported each month and, of course, many girls and women remain silent about being raped.
Human trafficking is rampant everywhere in the world. Girls and women comprise 80 percent of the estimated 800,000 people trafficked annually, with the majority (79 percent) trafficked for sexual exploitation.
Another form of gender-based violence happens before birth. Female infanticide is the practice of selective abortion once the sex of the child is determined. In India, where boys are valued over girls, according to the latest census, there is a dramatic decline in the number of girls under the age of seven and some estimates project as many as 8 million female fetuses may have been aborted in the last decade.
Call to Action
- Take the UN Women Say NO quiz and find out how much you really know about gender-based violence around the world.
- UNiTE to End Violence Against Women
- UN Women
- Tahirih Justice Center
- Watch these videos:
- No is No in Any Language
- UNiTE Artist Debi Nova on Ending Violence against Women and Girls
- UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon
- Violence Against Women and Girls in Haiti
- It’s A Girl! Forthcoming documentary about female infanticide in India and China
Talk to your friends and schoolmates, including boys. Organize a workshop and teach-in. Do they know that 90 percent of rape victims are females, 95 percent of domestic violence are females, and that in South Carolina cock fighting is a felony, but domestic violence isn’t? These discussions that involve boys and men will encourage a mentality that violence against girls and women is unacceptable in any home or community anywhere in the world. There’s so much you can do to take this further, look below for resources, organizations and ideas.
Participate in the Center for Global Women’s Leadership’s project, “What does security mean to you?” The goal is to collect short videos and written statements responding to that question, which will guide their future advocacy.
Join with over 2 million others who have signed the global call for action petition on www.saynotoviolence.org sponsored by U.N. Women to tell governments around the world that you want them to make ending violence against women and girls a top priority.
Join the efforts of Amnesty International (PDF), Futures Without Violence, and Women Thrive Worldwide in seeking support from people of all ages to urge greater international involvement by the U.S. government in stopping unthinkable acts of violence against females young and old. This coalition that includes many other organizations want to make ending violence a top priority, including requiring the U.S. government to respond to gender-based violence in armed conflicts such as the mass rapes in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Haiti.
Women Thrive Worldwide is conducting a “31 Days of Action” campaign in October in recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This campaign will feature survivor stories as well as a daily call to action.
Center for Global Women’s Leadership leads “16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign” with the theme, “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women!” Activists in over 100 countries will be involved in this campaign from November 25 – December 10.