Today marks the International Elimination of Violence Against Women Day 2017. Each year, this day is supported by politicians, charities, NGOs and activists across the world. But each winter as this day comes around, we are reminded of how much work we still have to do.
Sadly, when it comes to the fight to eliminate violence against women, progress is slow and frustrating. In the past 12 months, further dark clouds have gathered. As the digital revolution progresses, we are seeing a worryingly high increase in online abuse, the majority of which is directed at women. We have a US President who regularly objectifies women, and yet was still elected as President of the United States.
Globally, it is estimated that at least one in three women will be sexually or physically abused at some point in her life and in certain countries up to 70% of murdered women are killed by their partner. Almost 750 million women and girls alive today were married before their 18th birthday.
In recent months, we have read hundreds, if not thousands, of accounts of sexual abuse, harassment and assault from women working in Hollywood and far beyond, including in our own houses of parliament. Millions have rallied behind the hashtag #MeToo online, further exposing the sheer scale of sexual harassment and other forms of violence that women suffer, daily.
But these stories are only the stories that women can bear to tell, and are only the stories of those who have access to our online global community. So against this backdrop, the message of this year’s Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is ‘Leave No One Behind’.
This campaign aims to raise awareness and spark a global conversation on the need for inclusive and sustainable programmes, policies, and resources. No matter where violence against women happens, whether it be in the home or the workplace, in war zones or in times of peace, it must be stopped. The promise of the Sustainable Development Goals—to leave no one behind—cannot be fulfilled without ending violence against all women, including the most vulnerable and marginalized.
Despite periods of darkness over the past 12 months, there is hope for a brighter, equal future, highlighted by this global campaign. Although we are faced with distressing stories in the press, and many barriers remain in our way, we must rally together to break this culture of silence and continue to fight for gender equality in all sectors of our societies, and put an end to gender-based violence for good.