16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence

gender-based violence

What is 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence?

The 25th of November marks the start of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. The campaign begins on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and concludes on the 10th of December on Human Rights Day.

16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign calling for the end of all forms of violence against women and girls. The campaign seeks to challenge the structures and narratives that enforce inequality and misogyny and allow violence against women and girls to thrive with impunity. 

Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence, irrespective of gender, ethnicity, age, race, religion, sexuality, or socioeconomic status. That being said, domestic violence is an inherently gendered issue. Around the world, women are significantly more likely than men to be the victims of physical, psychological, and sexual abuse. 

It is estimated that 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence and 95% of people who seek medical attention for domestic violence are women. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen an unprecedented rise in violence against women and girls. The social and economic impact of the pandemic has not only increased women’s exposure to abusive partners, but also limited their access to domestic abuse support services.  

The MeToo Movement and the recent murders of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa have undoubtedly brought different forms of violence toward women to the forefront of public discourse. However, changing the way we view and tackle gender-based violence remains an uphill battle. 

Against this backdrop, a huge pushback against women’s rights is taking place. We are seeing continuous attacks on women’s fundamental human rights, as well as the violent crackdown on women’s rights activists, play out in institutions, courthouses, and streets around the world. 

This campaign against gender-based violence stresses that we need to view violence against women and girls as a pandemic in its own right and tackle it accordingly. This includes increasing awareness, improving the global coordination and leadership of women’s rights groups, adequately funding women’s support services, improving the law, and changing the language we use to speak about gender-based violence. 

What are the different types of gender-based violence? 

In order to tackle gender-based violence, we must first recognise and understand the different types of abuse.

Physical Abuse 

This is the most obvious form of gender-based violence. This may include women being hit, slapped, punched, kicked, choked, or burned. In some cases, weapons such as sharp objects or heavy appliances are used to hurt women. 

Financial Abuse

Financial abuse is common method perpetrators use to make it difficult for women to leave an abusive relationship. Tactics of financial abuse include: 

  • Preventing a woman from working.
  • Taking control of a woman’s bank account.
  • Accruing debt in her name.
  • Misusing money through activities like gambling or excessive spending. 

Financial abuse may not only leave a woman with little money for basic essentials, but also have a long-term impact on her credit or her ability to pay back debts in her name. Often, a woman’s lack of financial independence may make her feel it is impossible to leave an abusive partner. This prolongs her exposure to violence, injuries, psychological abuse, and homicide. 

Psychological Abuse

Psychological abuse is the most common form of gender-based violence. Psychological abuse is when the perpetrator engages in non-physical behaviours to demean, belittle, degrade, and humiliate the victim. 

In many cases of physically abusive relationships, there is an overriding element of psychological abuse. 

A perpetrator will often use psychologically abusive tactics to control the victim by distorting their perceptions of reality, attacking their self-esteem, and isolating them from their friends and family. 

Psychological abuse can take place in private and in public. 

Some forms of psychological abuse include:

  • Abusive language and name-calling. 
  • Using threats and intimidation. 
  • Attacking a person’s physical appearance. 
  • Isolating someone from friends and family. 
  • Monitoring a person’s communication via calls and messages.  
  • Monitoring a person’s time.
  • Prolonged interrogation and making demands for answers. 
  • Controlling aspects of a person’s everyday life, including what they wear, who they can see, and where they can go. 

Online abuse 

Online abuse is becoming one of the most pervasive forms of gender-based violence. Online abuse can affect people of all genders, races, sexualities, and ages. However, the online abuse experienced by women is often of a sexist and misogynistic nature. 

Women are frequently subjected to sexist name-calling, rape threats, and unsolicited images. In the UK alone, it is estimated that around 40% of women have received unsolicited photos of male genitalia. 

A growing problem for women in the digital age is the phenomenon of revenge porn. Revenge porn is defined as the sharing of intimate photos without a person’s consent. Revenge porn is intended to embarrass, shame, and even coerce the victim. 

Although revenge porn has been a crime in the UK since 2015, cases rose by 60% in 2020. Cases are projected to rise steadily in the coming decade. 

Another issue that disproportionately affects women is doxxing. Doxxing is a privacy violation that makes public a person’s home address, phone number, or workplace address. Doxxing puts victims and their families in harm’s way. 

Stalking

Stalking is less common than physical abuse, but it can be just as emotionally scarring. Stalking is when a person receives threatening and unwanted letters, text messages, emails, and phone calls. Stalking may also involve being followed in public to places such as work or home. Other forms of stalking include: 

  • Monitoring a person’s use of the internet.
  • Interfering with a person’s property. 
  • Watching or spying on a person without their knowledge. 
  • Identity theft.
  • Committing cyber theft. 

Sexual abuse 

Unfortunately, sexual abuse is extremely prevalent in society. Sexual abuse is defined as forcing a person to engage in activities of a sexual nature without consent. 

In 2021, the charity, Rape Crisis, reported that 1 in 4 women had been the victim of either rape or sexual assault. 

Although we frequently define sexual abuse as rape, assault, or unwanted sexual advances, it can take many other forms. Other forms of sexual abuse include: 

  • Forced marriage. 
  • Virginity testing. 
  • Hymenoplasty. 
  • Female genital mutilation (FGM).

Sexual abuse not only causes psychological trauma, but can also have severe physical implications. 

What are the effects of gender-based violence against women?

Gender-based violence carries a range of physical and emotional implications. 

Victims of gender-based violence may sustain physical injuries. These injuries might leave physical marks or cause pain that may make it difficult for the victim to do everyday activities or go to work. The victims may feel they have to withdraw from family and friends because they feel shame and embarrassment. Others may not feel ready to leave the perpetrator. 

Many victims of gender-based violence suffer from mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. Substance abuse is also common among victims of abuse. 

Victims of abuse often feel they have no choice but to relocate frequently to avoid the perpetrator. The constant moving adds to their financial burden. 

Victims of financial abuse sometimes find themselves crippled by debts they did not accrue. This can have a negative long term impact on a victim’s credit score, which can impact their future ability to rent, buy property, and own a car. 

After experiencing physical, mental, and psychological abuse, survivors of gender-based violence often continue to face ongoing challenges and trauma. A survivor of gender-based violence will sometimes need some time to get used to living in a safe environment, particularly if the perpetrator was extremely violent or they were in an abusive relationship for a long time. 

Why do women remain in an abusive relationship?

Instead of criticising victims of gender-based violence for staying in abusive relationships, we should try to understand the obstacles that make it so difficult to leave. 

Understanding the numerous challenges of leaving an abusive relationship will help us empower women to make the best choices for themselves while also holding abusers completely responsible for their actions. 

Some reasons why women stay in abusive relationships include: 

  • Fear of danger and revenge.
  • Shame and embarrassment. 
  • Damaged self-esteem. 
  • Trauma.
  • Having children.
  • Financial constraints.
  • Isolation.
  • Family expectations and experiences.

How can I get involved?

  • Increase your understanding of different types of gender-based violence. 
  • Attend a training event. 
  • Make a pledge to support victims and survivors of gender-based violence. 
  • Sign the white ribbon pledge. 
  • Talk to your children about the culture of violence against women and young girls.  
  • Hold an event- film, talk, exhibition or play about gender-based violence.
  • Light up your social media and online meeting background.