Monday, 25 January, 2021

16-Day Campaign: A Spark In Dark

Namrata Sharma


The advent of November brings mixed feelings in my mind. The first feeling is of depression that every year a 16-Day Campaign still needs to be launched to end all forms of violence against women and girls globally. The despair is because no matter how educated people are and how much the world is advancing in terms of science, technology and change of culture and traditions, the age-old violence against women and girls and the most vulnerable population continues to happen in old and new forms everywhere. This proves that education, awareness, wealth and advanced systems aren’t enough to end violence within homes and outside. The second feeling I get is that although this form of violence has not ended, commitment to ending this is increasing all around the world and the youths are getting more and more involved every year.
Heinous crime
While we observe this 16-day campaign, we need to ponder over why this heinous form of violence is continuing, and in some place increasing, no matter how much work is being done to end it globally. The more I ponder, the more I feel that maybe the way issues are being addressed is not appropriate to eradicate this crime.
COVID-19 has forced people all over the world to be confined to the safe seclusion of their homes. However, with data pouring from all over the world, it has been clear that this so-called “safe havens” have become a hell and a form of concentration camps for many who were forced to face violence every day by those who were meant to be their family in the form of guardians or partners or even friends. The UN Women states that the year before the COVID-19 pandemic, globally 243 million women and girls aged 15-49 faced sexual and physical violence by an intimate partner. The ratio was 1 in 3 women and girls facing this violence before the pandemic. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Violence Against Women & Girls (VAW&Gs), particularly domestic violence, has intensified.
WOREC, an NGO working on women’s rights in Nepal, has been monitoring VAW&Gs. A book Anbesi they recently released has unveiled data including VAW&G in Nepal during the last year and a focus on the cases during the current pandemic. It states that during B.S. Chaitra 11, 2076 till B.S. Shrawan 6, 2077 a total of 1042 women and girls faced violence of various forms. While analysing this data with the yearly data that WOREC has collected it is stated in Anbesi that more than 61 per cent of VAW&Gs has occurred during the pandemic so far.
A survey conducted among low-income communities in eight countries of Asia and Africa, including Nepal, gives alarming statistics that around 1 in 2 girls are at higher risk of not returning to school once they are safe to reopen. This research was conducted by Room to Read, an NGO working on Girls Education in low-income societies to help them be retained in school and improve their lives. This data implies that pulling girls out of education puts them more at risk of violence and this is also violation of their rights to education.
The 16-day campaign is an international campaign to challenge VAW&Gs which is observed every year since 1991 from November 25 to December 10. The beginning day marks the International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women and the last day marks the Human Rights Day. The campaign was first commenced by the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership, Rutgers University. Since then more than 6,000 organisations and approximately 187 countries have participated in this campaign. Governments, UN bodies and civil societies conduct several events and activities, together with commitments and pledges, to make this campaign a success.
Since 1991, the UN and governments of different countries chose a theme for the 16-days campaign every year. This year, the UN has chosen the theme of “Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!” The UN Women implements a Generation Equality Campaign. This is amplifying the call for global action to bridge funding gaps, ensure essential services for survivors of violence during the COVID-19 crisis, focus on prevention, and collection of data that can improve life-saving services for women and girls.
Campaigns like these are observed by formal institutions and informal groups every year during several occasions. However, it is now important to ask questions on why are people still oppressed all over the world based on their gender, class, caste, colour, religion, and wealth among others? Most of the time, excuses are given on lack of education, resources and awareness for various victimisation of people particularly women and girls. This is the age of very high education and awareness together with laws for access to equal rights, but why are women and girls still beaten, raped and tortured in different forms within the so-called safety of their homes, within public transportations, on the streets, in jungles, in work places, in entertainment area and shopping complexes?

During crises like the ongoing pandemic, it has been seen that girls and women are the first to be deprived of education, nutrition and safety. Data related to transgender and people under other minorities are not yet available, but can be estimated to be equally pathetic. Just having laws and campaigns doesn’t seem to be enough. A new methodology of criminalising the oppressors is required. It is important to end the practice of protecting the perpetrators and strengthening the community who still face the brunt of gender-based violence.

(Namrata Sharma is a senior journalist and women rights and can be reached at Twitter handle: NamrataSharmaP)

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