Violence against women is a global problem, and yet hidden. A woman’s right to freedom from battering, sexual assault and threat of harassment is still a utopia in many countries. This is because violence against women has inculcated deep into our cultures and lives. According to reports, in a developed country like the United States of America, battering is the major cause of injury to women aged 15-44. A study estimates that around 683,000 women are being raped every year. Approximately 50% of homeless women in the U.S have faced domestic violence. 1/5th to ½ of U.S women have been sexually abused at least once as children.
Considering the facts, it is quite obvious that the issue of violence against women “remains one of the most pervasive forms of human rights violations worldwide,” regardless of years of involvement and advocacy of many feminist activist organizations against violence. The worst part is that violence against women has been woven into our society and cultures to such an extent that many women, who are victimized, feel that they are in fault. Many women are horrified by the threats of violence to an extent that it has a harmful impact on their lives, impeding them to exercise their human rights.
Right from sex-selective abortions to female infanticide, female genital mutilation, sexual and psychological abuse, child marriage, rape, sexual harassment, dating and courting violence, forced pornography and prostitution, women trafficking, marital rape, forced pregnancies, dowry abuse and murder and forced suicide are some forms of violence practiced against women around the world and across different ethnic groups, cultures and societies. Surprisingly, domestic violence is one of the most prevailing forms of violence against women. According to a study, women are more likely to be severely victimized by someone with whom they are intimate with, and this is known as “Intimate Partner Violence.” According to World Health Organization, around 38% of murders of women are committed by an intimate partner, globally.
Honor killing is also one of the most common forms of violence against women in many parts of the world. Herein, girls and women are killed by family members, which also include women, as they are considered to have brought dishonor and shame upon the family. Dowry violence, especially in India, is another form of domestic violence that is still a burning issue and need to be addressed on a serious platform. In 2011 in India, the National Crime Records Bureau reported around 8,618 dowry deaths, while unofficial reports suggest the numbers to be three times higher. On the other hand, sexual harassments in the public and at office are other common forms of violence against women, rape being number one in the list.
However, significant advancements towards the protection of women from violence have been made on international level. Governments, international organizations and civil society groups worldwide are actively combating violence against women through several programs. One of the major accomplishments is the “Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women,” implying political will addressing VAW. 25th November has been designated as International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women by the United Nations.