November 25 is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. What can be considered as violence against women? According to the United Nations, it is “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.” Clearly, violence against women is a violation of human rights. Based on the World Bank report, approximately 35% of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their life. Violence against women leads to death as dangerous as cancer and causes illness more often than the combination of traffic accidents and malaria. This is not only a life-threatening issue but also a problem for national development in general.
The statistic reports 124 countries in the world have higher percentage of the female population than the male population. Obviously, this fact shows women are crucial for country development. To eradicate poverty in our nation, we should ensure to leave no woman behind. Women empowerment actions should be implemented in social, economic, political and legal sectors. Women’s voices should be listened, and women should be actively involved in any decision-making process. These should be supported by laws and policies that are inclusive, however, we still hear about discriminatory laws, policies and practices against women are enacted. In some countries, women do not have equal rights as men. They cannot wear clothes as they like, drive vehicles, work at night, access education, marry anyone from a different faith or from a different nationality, inherit land and property, and many other limitations. For example, the Indonesian National Commission on Violence Against Women reports there are currently more than 400 discriminatory local legislations against women. I believe some countries also face a similar situation.
Prevention of violence against women needs transformative practice, habit, attitude, and beliefs. We can’t expect this to be changed in one night because there are powerful challenging norms and social cultures that have been accepted as “standard”. This change takes time and it takes a village to create an impact. We can’t do it alone.
So, what should we do to eliminate violence against women? How can we contribute to protect women’s rights? As much as we want to do something big, we should start from a simple step. Start from ourselves.
– Educate ourselves on this issue. Understand what actions could be considered violence.
– Set our boundaries (physical and emotional boundaries). If we see any red flag, do not wait until the red flag is as big as the flag of China. Do not tolerate any physical and emotional abuse, whatever the reason behind that, it is still NOT okay.
– Communicate. Some people do not understand body language. Tell them what makes us uncomfortable and ask them to respect our personal space.
– Ask, don’t assume. Always ensure we don’t cross over one’s boundaries.
– Report. Ask help if we see, hear or experience any violent behavior. Sometimes abusive behaviors can’t be stopped only by us, and we need law enforcement to help us.
– Spread the awareness, educate others.
– Lead by example. Be an activist on this issue. The movement will be more effective if it is participative. We should explain the benefit to society if violence against women is prevented.
Through this awareness-raising, societies will have a better understanding and will adopt best practices, then this will lead to policy reform. It is our role as global citizens to work together to eliminate violence against women, it can no longer be denied or ignored.