The Violence is Not our Culture (VNC) Campaign was founded in 2007 and created a global network of organisations and individuals committed to end all forms of discrimination and violence against women (VAW) being justified in the name of culture and/or religion. Such forms of gender-based violence include stoning, whipping/lashing, forced marriage, child marriage, female genital mutilation and “honour” killings.
Recognizing that culture and religion can be empowering for, and central to, both individual and collective identities, the focus of the VNC Campaign was to challenge the misuse of culture and religion to control women and girls, especially their bodies, their sexuality, their choice of who to love, who to marry, how to express themselves, and what to believe, as well as the exercise of their own free will.
Both state and non-state actors increasingly cite to culture to justify carrying out violence against women. When these acts are thus given legitimacy, it promotes the idea that there is an inherent cultural right to execute violence amongst certain communities. This is unacceptable and must be rejected. When such conservative forces claim ownership over an ‘authentic’ interpretation of culture, tradition and/or religion, women are not only told to accept violence, they are denied the fulfilment of their potential as equal and active contributors to the development and production of culture.
Between 2007 and 2012, the VNC campaign carried out a number of advocacy, research, solidarity and capacity and knowledge-building activities to further its objectives, including:
- Organizing delegations and side events at the UN Commission on the Status of Women;
- Co-organizing a side event with IWRAW-AP, PLD-India and AWID on ‘Cultures, Traditions and VAW: Human Rights Challenges’ at the 16th session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), presenting a statement on ‘traditional values’ to the HRC, and engaging with the annual meeting of the UN Special Procedures (see more);
- Issuing and disseminating over 30 public statements and urgent appeals;
- Launching its research-based publication, ‘Control and Sexuality: The Revival of Zina Laws in Muslim Contexts’ to draw attention to how laws around extra-marital sex have become embedded in the legal system in some Muslim contexts, and can be used to justify human rights violations against women and sexual minorities;
- Developing a series of VNC Policy Papers, translated into a number of languages. and creating a multimedia video compilation, widely distributed to allies and networkers, and at the CSW and HRC;
- Organizing a series of actions across multiple countries – including Pakistan, Indonesia, Sudan and Senegal – for the 16 Days Campaign against Gender-Based Violence in 2010;
- Together with APC’s Take Back the Tech campaign, developed and launched an open-source online campaigning space for VNC campaign partners, and a widely distributed ICT Toolkit for Feminist Activists;
- Launching a dedicated campaign website and mailing list;
- Publishing a number of research papers, including ‘The Piety of Public Participation: The Revolutionary Muslim Women in the Islamic Republic of Iran’, and ‘To Specify or Single Out: Should We Use the Term Honor-Killing?’
The Campaign was active in Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and Africa through 2013, and also engaged in global advocacy at the UN in Geneva and New York to counter culturally-justified violence against women (CVAW).