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Violence against women is a problem that has been accepted and condoned all throughout human history. The notion that women were property that could be owned by a man during Ancient Roman times and even 18th century English laws that allowed a man to “discipline” his wife and children with a stick or whip are both examples of the tragedy of the ways women have been oppressed. 

It has been a fight for many centuries for women to be able to function in western society with equal rights in their homes and in the workplace, without being subjected to violent acts from men.

The 18th and 19th centuries were important times for the advancement of women’s rights. By 1920, the United States had made it illegal for a man to physically abuse his wife, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that society began to truly give attention to the problem. The 1994 Violence Against Women Act, signed by President Bill Clinton, was passed in the US to provide services and care for women who were victims, as well as funding for prosecution of perpetrators of domestic violence.

While many strides have been made in recent decades, it is important to remember that violence against women is prevalent all around the world. And in come countries where women have few rights, violence against them is still legal or often culturally condoned.

The International Day for the Elimination of the Violence Against Women was established with the purpose of raising awareness about the fact that women locally and around the world are subject to violence including domestic abuse, rape, stalking and more. The hope is that this day will bring the problem of violence against women to the forefront of people’s minds and continue to offer awareness, prevention, assistance and solutions all throughout the year.

History of International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

When the Mirabal sisters acted as resistance fighters and were willing to speak out against the abusive government of the Dominican Republic, they were brutally beaten and murdered on November 25, 1960. Then in 1981, when the observance of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women began, the date was set in honor and memory of these remarkable women.

Women’s activists began celebrating this day annually and the event grew throughout that 1980s. The purpose of the day was meant to raise awareness for and show opposition to the problem of violence against women, whether in their own homes as victims of domestic abuse, or in other situations.

By the 1990s, violence against women became an important part of initiatives of the United Nations. And in the year 2000, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women was declared as an official observance. 

International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women Timeline

1791

Women’s rights are declared in France

Some of the first women’s activists in France write the Declaration of the Rights of the Woman and the Female Citizen, with the basic foundation that a woman is free and has equal rights to a man. [1]

November 25, 1960

Mirabal sisters are murdered

Patricia, Minerva and Maria Teresa Mirabal are resistance fighters in their homeland of Dominican Republic and are brutally assassinated for their identity as women and activists. [2]

1981

Day for elimination of gender based violence is first celebrated

This day is celebrated by women’s activists, representing violence against all women, but particularly the assassination of the Mirabal sisters in Dominican Republic. [3]

1993

United Nations General Assembly adopts declaration

The Declaration of the Elimination of Violence Against Women is adopted by the United Nations through resolution 48/104.

2000

International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women becomes official

The General Assembly officially adopts the celebration of the day and encourages other governments and organizations to do the same. [4]

How to Celebrate International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

Considering ways to get involved and observe the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women? Check out some of these ideas on this day and all throughout the year:

Learn Important Facts About Violence Against Women

One of the most important ways to observe the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is to become more knowledgeable and educated about this issue that is pervasive all over the world.

  • Approximately 1 in 3 women (30%) around the world have experienced violence of a physical and/or sexual nature, usually at the hands of an intimate partner.

  • An average of 24 people per minute are victims of rape, stalking or physical violence, and a large percentage of these are women.

  • Women in the US have the legal right to receive assistance because of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994.

  • Women between the ages of 18 and 24 experience the highest rates of violence by an intimate partner.

Volunteer to Help Women

On a typical day, around 20,000 calls are placed to national hotlines that help women who are victims of violence. An excellent way to observe International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, not only on this day but all year round, might be to volunteer to help at such a hotline, women’s shelter or other space that helps women who are victims of violence. 

Those who work in law or medicine might consider donating some of their time to help women with legal or medical needs. Others who have counseling or social work expertise may find they can be of assistance with caring for women who have been victims of violence and abuse.

Understand Signs of Violence Against Women

Many times, domestic abuse is a quiet kind of violence that is difficult to detect. Friends, family members, neighbors and coworkers may be able to help if they know and understand the signs of violence and what would be the best way to respond. This can be a difficult situation since the majority of violence against women happens through an intimate partner, but when women are informed they are more able to see clearly and get help. 

Learn more through local women’s shelters or an online search, and consider some of these warning signs of violence or abuse: 

  • Limiting interactions with others by discouraging or preventing from going to work or school, or seeing friends and family
  • Insults, speaks down, calls names
  • Controlling behavior about things like spending money, what clothing is worn, where times is spent or even medicines that are taken
  • Angry or threatening behavior, especially when drinking alcohol or using drugs

Host an Educational Event

One of the most important parts of the International Day of Elimination of Violence Against Women is that men and women, boys and girls should all be educated to promote prevention first. Parents, teachers, school administrators, teen club leaders and many others with influence in the community may effectively work toward prevention by working together to host educational and awareness events in honor of International Day of Elimination of Violence Against Women. 

International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women FAQs

What is the Violence Against Women Act?

This federal law in the United States is meant to protect women against homelessness who have experienced domestic violence, sexual assault and other violent acts.[1]

Has violence against women increased?

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, studies show that violence against women has increased across the board, particularly domestic violence. [2]

How can we end violence against women?

This is a complicated issue, but some of the ways to end violence against women are to speak out, know signs of abuse, challenge masculinity, fund women’s organizations and push for stronger laws. [3]

How many women are victims of domestic violence?

Estimates show that more than 12 million women in the US experience severe physical violence, abuse or stalking from an intimate partner.[4]

How does gender based violence affect education?

Gender based violence in education causes absenteeism, reduced student health, detriments to psychological development, as well as perpetuation of cultural norms that degrade women. [5]

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