Worldwide, 1 out of 3 women are experiencing a form of violence against women. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in reported cases of domestic violence. And it intensified negative effects on women and girls, deepening pre-existing disparities. This International Women‘s Day, we want to shed light on this growing global issue, that‘s why we‘re highlighting how three countries are dealing with it.
Violence against women in Turkey
In Turkey, between 2020 and 2022, 944 women were killed by men, and 632 women were found suspiciously dead. And close to 40% of women have suffered violence during their lives in Turkey, according to a 2022 government study.
Protesters in Turkey have tried to convince the government to sign the Istanbul Convention, to defend women‘s rights and stop femicide. Sadly, the government refused to sign this convention. The Turkish government is failing to promote women‘s rights or ensure gender equality, especially after pulling out of this international treaty that requires governments to adopt legislation prosecuting perpetrators of domestic violence and similar abuse as well as marital rape and female genital mutilation.
Because perpetrators are not being prosecuted, abusers are enabled to continue this behavior. The government and authorities are failing to undertake effective risk assessments, even if women have reported abuse, failing to handle violence against women.
Merve, a ONE Youth Ambassador in Germany, is concerned about violence against women in Turkey. “I was born in Turkey, and lived in Istanbul for 25 years. I saw so many examples of femicide and I know the fear of not feeling safe and heard.”
However, the We Will Stop Femicide Platform (KCDP) has been one of the most active players of the women‘s movement in Turkey for the last 12 years. By organizing regular monthly marches, they hope to combat femicide.
Fighting female genital mutilation in Sudan
Ongoing violence against women can also be seen with female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). At least 200 million women and girls alive today living in 31 countries have experienced FGM. As Sudan is considered a country with a very high FGM/C prevalence rate, it is an important case to explore further as cases are still present today with 86.6% of women in Sudan having undergone FGM/C. Unfortunately, for those who have experienced FGM/C, there has been an increase in both the short-term and long-term implications, often resulting in death. However, Sudan has entered a new era for girls’ rights through criminalizing FGM/C in 2020.
Millions of women and girls could be impacted by 2030 if we do not have accelerated progress in eradicating FGM/C and protecting those at risk. Unicef determines that to save millions of lives and eliminate FGM/C by 2030, we must, “strengthen collaboration and coordination among all key parties.”
Gender inequalities are one of the reasons why Diana, a ONE Youth Ambassador in the UK, finds it important to stand up for women‘s rights. “It‘s important that the international community commits to eradicating FGM, as it is vital that women‘s rights are not violated and this practice does not continue.”
Fighting femicide in Belgium
The Belgian law is the first in Europe to not only define femicide, but also to recognize different forms of violence against women and establish victims‘ rights to improve state support towards victims of gender-based violence. Femicide is defined by European Institute for Gender Equality as “the killing of a woman or girl because of her gender, and can take different forms, such as the murder of women as a result of intimate partner violence; the torture and misogynist slaying of women; killing of women and girls in the name of ’honor‘; etc.”
In fact, 24% of women in Belgium aged 18-74 have experienced intimate partner physical and/or sexual violence at least once in their lives, highlighting the seriousness of the problem. ONE Youth Ambassador Clementine hadn‘t experienced any major feminist advances in her country until Belgium passed its new law. “On October 29th, 2022, I was lucky enough to witness the adoption by the Belgian government of the first ever law on prevention and fight against femicides, gender-based homicides, and violence that precedes them,” she said.
Even if femicide has already been legally defined in several Latin American countries, in Spain, and Italy, the Belgian law is the first to permit the collection of data to do state statistics on violence against women in close collaboration with Belgian feminist associations gathered through the blog Stop Femicide.
With this new law, the Belgian State Secretary for the Equality of Chances, Sarah Schiltz, takes an important step towards the end of violence against women. She establishes the state liability in gender-based violence and ensures better protection and support of victims.
UN Women declares violence against women as one of the most systemic and widespread human rights violations. This highlights the need for action. Collaboration between the activist, non-profit sector, and governmental authorities is needed to tackle all forms of violence against women and ultimately achieve gender equality.
Governments are the most powerful actors to create the necessary rules to protect women and their rights. Therefore, we need to be as loud as we can about it. Defending our rights by activism and creating awareness about the issue pressures governments to act.