As you can see, the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is ending impunity for violence against women and girls. I read in the news yesterday that India has taken a step in this direction with the new Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act that enables women to leave abusive relationships and entitles them to financial support from their abusive husbands. The context for this is a society in which 70% of married women between the ages of 15 and 49 have been beaten and/or raped by their husbands.
Mexico has also brought in a new law against violence against women in (belated) response to the ongoing mass murder of women in Ciudad Juarez. Since 1993, about 400 women in that border town have been raped and murdered, and not a single man has been convicted of any of these crimes. It is thought that men are now travelling there from other countries to experience the thrill of raping and murdering without the risk of getting arrested.
Violence against women and girls is rampant in developing countries, and legal impunity encourages men to commit these crimes. Even in countries with democratic and civil rights, the rights of women and girls not to be beaten, raped, or murdered are not often respected by men nor defended by the authorities. Progress has been made in passing laws protecting women and girls, and now it’s time to enforce them. You can help by finding out more about the problem and then supporting organizations that are working on this issue. Here are some starting points:
- Ending Impunity for Violence Against Women and Girls: Backgrounder (pdf)
- UN Women Watch: Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender Equality
- Amnesty International: Justice Not Excuses
- Human Rights Watch: Women’s Rights
- MADRE: International Women’s Human Rights
- …and your elected representatives!