'16 Days Campaign’ - Exposing and eliminating violence in the home to violence on the streets!

According to a study by the World Health Organisation this year, 35% of women worldwide have experienced a form of violence. More than 64 million girls worldwide are child brides, and national violence studies show that up to 70 per cent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime from an intimate partner.

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence was set up to raise awareness of the endemic nature of gender-based violence, to strengthen work against it, and to demonstrate the solidarity of women throughout the world organising to eliminate such violence.  The dates November 25 - International Day Against Violence Against Women - and December 10 - International Human Rights Day - symbolically link violence against women and human rights to emphasize that such violence is a violation of human rights.

This year’s theme ‘Militarism – from peace in the home to peace in the world’ - chosen for the second consecutive time - speaks to its continued relevance. The last 12 months have seen escalated violence and instability:  political uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East; separatism, insurgency and intervention in Mali; the repression of civil society protest in Sudan; and devastating civil war in Syria, to name just some examples. 

In all contexts, violence against women has accompanied the escalating conflict in numerous forms.  As history testifies, at times of conflict, lawlessness and social vulnerability, women are at an even higher risk of being subjected to sexual violence.  In the common parlance of war, these crimes are made invisible – such forms of violence almost always go unnoticed, and rarely is there any redress. But we must state clearly that violence against women is a profound human rights violation

This year, we spoke out about the sexual violence and forced marriage inflicted upon women during the conflict in Syria.  We also came together to denounce the alarming increase in violence against women as highlighted by the tragic assassination of Sushmita Banerjee, and the disregard of international players to the plight of women and minorities in Afghanistan.

Moreover, militarized violence does not only occur during conflict. Societies deemed to be in periods of ‘peace’ are often experienced as far from peaceful by women, who incur sexual violence wherever violent forms of masculinity are privileged.  As our global campaign to stop stoning has highlighted, when violent corporal forms of punishment meet patriarchal definitions of morality, the effects on women can be disastrous, as augured by the recent events in Brunei.  Repressive responses to civil society action, such as internment and torture, also speak of the dangers of militarised societies, especially for women human rights defenders, as the situation in Sudan testifies.

In such a context, we hold dear the safe space of our network, which remains a place of solidarity from which to challenge all violence against women.  Together we push back against the varying regressive forces which seek to relegate women to secondary status and to sanction the continuation of gender-based violence.  Our Women’s Empowerment and Leadership Development for Democratization (WELDD) program gives women the tools to develop peace and security through feminist leadership, together with our partners from Indonesia, Pakistan, Senegal, Mali, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Tunisia, Libya, Sudan and Egypt.  Our Violence Is Not Our Culture (VNC) campaign raises awareness of culturally-justified violence against women in Muslim majority countries and within Muslim communities.

In order to shine a spotlight on the work of activists worldwide during this period, WLUML will share their stories. Every day, for sixteen days, we will share short stories of and about our networkers, brave women who, against all odds, and despite threats and acts of violence, survive and carry on working for social justice and equality.   It is with pride that we showcase these diverse but interrelated struggles.

In light of such individual and collective bravery, we call out to states to remember that they have clear and concrete obligations under international human rights law to prevent gender violence, punish perpetrators, and provide access to justice, relief and reparations for victims and survivors of violence. We stand together and call upon all states to:

- Support the proposed UN Resolution on the protection of Women Human Rights Defenders


- Respect, protect, promote and fulfil all human rights and take urgent and direct measures to secure gender equality;


- Take into account that a culture of militarism propagates and reinforces a culture of violence, and to take all necessary measures to facilitate disarmament and promote peace;


- Pursue without delay a policy of eliminating violence against women, strengthening the rule of law, and the capacities of justice systems to address gender violence;


- Prevent gender-based violence at its roots through urgent action on cultural paradigms that allow gender-based violence to continue, and ensure that women’s rights to dignity, privacy and integrity are upheld at all levels of society


We dedicate this 16 Days to all activists who work to eliminate violence against women, to combat militarism, and to strive for peace.  We take this moment to express particularly solidarity with our Syrian sisters in this trying time, who continue to envision a Syria that is a place of peace for women and men.