November 25 has been marked as the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women by women activists worldwide. This day is marked with the brutal assassination, in 1961, of the three Mirabal sisters who were political activists in the Dominican Republic. The Mirabal sisters are a symbol of resistance against the dictatorship in the Dominican Republic then. Since 1981 women's activists have celebrated this day as the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women to gain momentum and solidarity in their struggle against violence against women.
The Right to be free from violence has been recognised as a human right in several international human rights conventions and treaties. The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, 1993 asserts that violence against women is a manifestation of power relations and “is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men.” Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA), which was adopted in 1995 reiterates the responsibility of all governments to “take integrated measures to prevent and eliminate violence against women.” The 189 nations that adopted the Platform for Action committed themselves to developing comprehensive programmes to end gender-based violence.
However, violence against women continues to be the reality of women’s lives even today. It is an endemic problem that knows no national boundaries, no cultural boundaries, no class or caste boundaries and no religious boundaries. Violence against women continues to be perpetrated by men, by women, by trans-national actors and by the state. It continues unabated in situations of armed conflict and in times of peace. It continues to takes place outside and inside the home.
The current climate of repression and criminalisation of human rights work has increased violence against women and the threat of such violence. “Anti-terrorist legislation” is directly impacting on rights and liberties of people and is making the use of violence an acceptable culture, in the name of “national security”. There has been a strong trend in Asia Pacific for States to adopt militarised responses to counter legitimate demands of the people. Within this context, women have become more vulnerable to violence, especially in militarised areas, and as displaced persons and asylum seekers. At the same time, in this era of neo-liberal economic globalisation, private actors (including multinational and transnational corporations) are also becoming more unbridled in their war for profit, plundering natural resources and violating people’s rights in the process.
In terms of violence against women there are two challenges in Asia-Pacific being increasingly articulated by women from the region, including the previous UN Special Rapporteur on VAW. The first comes from the west and the second comes from our own cultures.
The framework developed by women from the south in the last decade to deal with women's human rights has largely been one where the state is responsible for due diligence to combat impunity of private actors and that it is the state that has the duty to prevent and punish the private actors. This position is being increasingly challenged by a belief that violence against women is an issue of criminal justice and not a human rights issue because the state is not the direct source of violence, in most of the cases. This is problematic since it takes away our handle on holding states accountable for violence by private actors.
The other challenge comes from the notion that “culture trumps women's human rights”. Radhika Coomaraswamy has located "the greatest challenge to women's rights" in the doctrine of cultural relativism.
Today, on 25 November 2004, the day for Eliminating Violence against Women, we are renewing our commitment to fight for our lives to be free from violence. We will continue to articulate zero tolerance to any form of violence—whether in the name of culture, by non-state actors or oppressively, by State actors. Today, we are calling for a world free of violence. We would like to commemorate all the women who have fought against this endemic violation of women’s human rights. We celebrate the survivors of violence against women and remember those who died as victims of VAW.
We call on women to join us in our struggle against violence and participate in our Campaigns.
The International Campaign on Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs)
is a global mobilisation on WHRDs to bring international attention to the concerns of WHRDs and their need for protection. It will involve women and human rights activists in different fields and sectors, grassroots groups, NGOs, social movements and other members of the civil society. The Campaign will emphasise that women fighting for human rights are in fact human rights defenders and that those working in human rights movement also have gender-specific protection concerns that need to be addressed. Under the slogan “Defending Women Defending Rights”, the campaign calls for recognising WHRDs, resisting state violence and restoring human rights for all. For more information, please visit www.defendingwomen-defendingrights.org
The Campaign on Ending Violence Against Domestic Women Migrant Workers:
The Labour and Migration Programme of APWLD calls for an end to violence against migrant domestic workers, particularly in Saudi Arabia and the whole of Middle East. A postcard campaign will be launched between Nov 25-Dec 18 calling for indemnification of victims and the families of those who died and prosecution of those who committed violence against women migrant workers. Other follow-up activities will also be organised.
The Signature Campaign for International Support and Solidarity against Military Sexual Slavery by Japan: In the year 2005, the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, women’s groups urge Japanese government to address the issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan before and during the WWII. Signatures will be sent to the UN and the ILO requesting them to strongly urge the Japanese government to finally comply with the international community's recommendations and come up with an official apology and legal compensation to the victims of sexual slavery. Japan's joining in the UN Security Council as a permanent member is also being opposed.
For more information, please visit http://www.womenandwar.net/english/sign_en.php