Source: The Zimbabwean
November 25, 2011 to December 10, 2011, marks the 16 Days of Activism against gender violence global commemorations. The global theme for 2011 commemorations is: From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence against Women! The National Theme for Zimbabwe is “From peace in the home to peace in our nation; let’s challenge all forms of gender-based violence”.

Gender-based violence is one of the most common forms of violence in the world.

It takes various forms including physical violence, emotional violence, sexual violence and economic violence. Whilst perpetrators of GBV are found among both men and women, recent studies undertaken in many countries have found a high prevalence of physical and sexual violence against women by intimate male partners. Statistics from the United Nations Population Fund indicate that 95 percent of victims of domestic violence are women, while 99 percent of perpetrators are men.

GBV has devastating consequences, not only for victims, but also for society as a whole. It impacts women’s health, particularly reproductive health. GBV eats up earnings due to death and lost productivity, job loss, lost productivity of the abuser due to incarceration, and loss of tax revenue due to death and incarceration.

Disturbing trend

The upsurge of reported cases of violence in Zimbabwe shows a disturbing trend. The Financial Gazette (November 17-27, 2011) reports that 2 536 case have so far been reported in 2011, compared to the 1100 cases reported in the first half of 2010. Some of the cases reported by the media include: ‘Dad rapes, impregnates three daughters-Herald 12/01/11 p3; Hubby locks up wife-Herald 23/07/11 p.2; Man commits suicide over wife’s conduct-Herald 27/07/11 p.3; Woman gets 36 months for killing love rival-Newsday 2/07/11 p.3; Dad jailed 36 months for fondling daughter- Newsday 30/06/11 p.2; Man runs amok, stabs lover-Herald 18/07/11 p.3; Government official axes wife- Newsday 19/05/11 p.1. Masvingo province recorded the highest number of cases.

It is evident that the challenge of GBV cannot be resolved in 16 days. However, the 16 Days of Activism against GBV is a platform for a heightened response during which all efforts to curb GBV will be consolidated. This week we outline the structure of the global campaign framework, in order for our readership to understand the basis of the campaign. In the subsequent weeks, we will share developments around GBV issues in this column.

The significance of 16 days

These are the 16 days between International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (25 November) and International Human Rights Day (10 December) to reinforce the fact that eliminating all forms of violence against women is a human rights issue, and that the act of perpetrating violence against women is a human rights violation. The 16 day period marks various dates which have a strong link to GBV.

November 25 was declared International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women at the first Feminist Encuentro for Latin America and the Caribbean held in Bogota, Colombia, July 18-21, 1981. The “feminist encuentros” are conferences for feminists from Latin America who come together every two to three years in a different Latin American country to exchange experiences and reflect upon the state of the women’s movement.

At that first Encuentro, women systematically denounced all forms of gender violence, from domestic battery, rape and sexual harassment to state violence including torture and abuse of women political prisoners. November 25 was chosen to commemorate the violent assassination of the Mirabal sisters (Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa) in 1960 by the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. In 1999, the United Nations officially recognized November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The Mirabal sisters have become symbols of both popular and feminist resistance.

November 29 is International Women Human Rights Defenders Day. Defending Women Defending Rights is an international campaign launched in 2004 for the recognition and protection of women human rights defenders. The campaign asserts that women fighting for human rights and all activists defending women’s rights face specific violations as a result of their advocacy or their gender.

World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day is observed every year on December 1. This day marks the beginning of an annual campaign designed to encourage public support for, and development of, programmes to prevent the spread of HIV infection, and provide education and promote awareness of issues surrounding HIV/AIDS. It was first observed in 1988 after a summit of health ministers from around the world called for a spirit of social tolerance and a greater exchange of information on HIV/AIDS.

December 6 is commemoration of the Montreal Massacre. On December 6, 1989, a 25-year-old man named Marc Lepine walked into the University of Montreal’s School of Engineering Building with semi-automatic rifle. He began a shooting spree during which he murdered 14 women and injured 13 others: nine women and four men. Lepine blamed women students for his not being accepted to the engineering school. Before killing himself, he left an explanatory letter behind which contained a tirade against feminists as well as a list of 19 prominent women whom he particularly despised.

Tragic symbols

These women became symbols, tragic representatives, of the injustice against women.

Women’s groups across the country organized vigils, marches and memorials. There was an increase in support for educational programs and resources to reduce violence against women. Both federal and provincial governments made commitments to end violence against women. In 1991, the Canadian government proclaimed December 6th National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

The International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, December 2, recalls the date of the adoption by the General Assembly of the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others (resolution 317 (IV) of 2 December 1949). By resolution 57/195 of December 18, 2002, the Assembly proclaimed 2004 the international year to commemorate the struggle against slavery and its abolition.

The annual observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons, December 3, aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life. The theme of the day is based on the goal of full and equal enjoyment of human rights and participation in society by persons with disabilities, established by the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons, adopted by the General Assembly in 1982.

Volunteer Day

December 5, International Volunteer Day provides an opportunity for volunteer-involving organizations and individual volunteers to work together on projects and campaigns promoting their contributions to economic and social development at local,

national and international levels. By merging UN support with a grassroots mandate, IVD is a unique opportunity for government agencies, non-profit organizations, community groups, the private sector and volunteer-involving organizations to work together to attain common goals. IVD was established by the United Nations General Assembly through Resolution 40/212 on December 17, 1985.

On December 10, the world celebrates the 1948 adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On this landmark date in history, the nations of the world joined together to try to bury, once and for all, the spectre of genocide raised by the Second World War. The UDHR was one of the first major achievements of the United Nations and provided the basic philosophy for many legally-binding international instruments to follow.

Resolution 217A (III) by the General Assembly proclaims the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms...”


Gender-based violence has devastating consequences.
Gender-based violence has devastating consequences.

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