Today, November 25th, is International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls, which is followed by the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, through to 10 December.
The 25th November was first designated a day to end Violence Against Women in 1981, by women of colour, at the Feminist Conference for Latin American and Caribbean Women in Colombia. It originated to commemorate the murder in 1960 of three political activist sisters in the Dominican Republic – Patria, Maria Teresa and Minerva Mirabel. At that conference, women linked and denounced all forms men’s violence against women from domestic violence, rape and sexual harassment to state violence including torture and abuse of women political prisoners.
The theme of this year’s global campaign – stand against rape and sexual violence – is a stark reminder of how much we still need to achieve to end violence against women and girls, if as a society we still need to raise awareness that rape and sexual violence is widespread and must be stopped.
Violence against women and girls is among the most widespread and devastating human rights violations we face. A third of all women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, and half of all women killed worldwide are killed by their partners or family members. Violence against women is as common a cause of death and incapacity for women of reproductive age as cancer.
Over the next 16 days you will hear more about the network of specialist support services in Wales that last year received referrals for help from over 21,599 survivors of abuse – a 61% increase from the previous year.
Last year in Wales, at least 20,405 survivors were supported by our members, including 2,482 survivors in refuge-based support. Our dedicated rape crisis and specialist sexual violence services supported 1332 survivors.
Yet demand for support far outweighs capacity.
Although numbers supported increased by 68% compared with the previous year, in 2018-19 512 survivors were unable to be supported in refuges where and when they needed help because of lack of resources and capacity, and at the end of the year 251 survivors were on sexual violence service waiting lists for support from 3 sexual violence services in Wales.
We still have a long way to go, in Wales and the UK, to end rape and sexual violence as a specific form of life-changing, long-lasting and devastating harm against women and girls.
Every day we are reminded of the rape culture that permeates our daily lives. Rape and sexual violence is rooted in male domination supported by victim-blaming, under-reporting and a legal system that fails to prosecute rape effectively and fails to hold rapists to account.
Rape and sexual violence is a cause and consequence of the unequal position of women and girls in society, and women who are migrants, refugees or of other minoritised communities are particularly vulnerable to such abuse and to being denied access to justice
We join many other organisations in calling for a change in the law to address the rise of the misogynistic courtroom defence for men who claim women consented to “rough sex” when they murder women and believe they can get away with it.
To find out more about our priorities for change and how we plan to work together to end violence and abuse, take a look at our 5 Year Plan (Still We Rise) to create change that lasts, in our communities. If you believe no woman should be raped or sexually abused, that no one should be turned away from the vital support they need, and if you support our demands for justice and for freedom from abuse, join us today.
Help us speak out against gender inequality, against male violence against women as the most extreme form of discrimination, and to create a world where all women and children live free from fear of violence and abuse.