November 25 is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
Violence against women violates international human rights declarations. The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the Crime prevention and criminal justice measures to eliminate violence against women recognize that eliminating violence against women is crucial to the advancement of women. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment further recognize the harm done to women and girls by violence perpetrated by men.
The United Nations has recognized that violence against women is an obstacle to the achievement of equality, development and peace, as recognized in the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women and the Platform for Action of the Fourth World Conference on Women, which recommended a set of integral measures to prevent and eliminate violence against women, and to the full implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
Some groups of women, such as women belonging to minority groups, indigenous women, refugee women, migrant women, women living in rural or remote communities, destitute women, women in institutions or in detention, the girl child, women with disabilities, elderly women and women in situations of armed conflict, are especially vulnerable to violence.
Violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of their full advancement, and violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into subordinate positions, compared with men.
The human rights of women and of the girl child are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal human rights, and governments must promote and protect all human rights of women and girls, as women do not fully enjoy their human rights and fundamental freedoms. The United Nations has expressed concern about the long-standing failure to protect and promote those rights and freedoms in relation to violence against women.
According to Article 1 of the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, the term “violence against women” means any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.
Before November 25 was observed as International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, it was observed in Latin America and a growing number of other countries around the world as “International Day Against Violence Against Women.. With no standard title, it was also referred to as “No Violence Against Women Day” and the “Day to End Violence Against Women.. It was first declared by the first Feminist Encuentro for Latin America and the Caribbean held in Bogota, Colombia (18 to 21 July 1981). At that Encuentro women systematically denounced gender violence from domestic battery, to rape and sexual harassment, to state violence including torture and abuses of women political prisoners.
The date was chosen to commemorate the lives of the Mirabal sisters. It originally marked the day that the three Mirabal sisters from the Dominican Republic were violently assassinated in 1960 during the Trujillo dictatorship (Rafael Trujillo 1930-1961). The day was used to pay tribute to the Mirabal sisters, as well as global recognition of gender violence.
The three sisters, Patria, Minerva, and Maria Teresa became involved in activities against the Trujillo regime. The Mirabal sisters were political activists and highly visible symbols of resistance to Trujillo’s dictatorship. As a result, the sisters and their families were constantly persecuted for their outspoken as well as clandestine activities against the State. Over the course of their political activity, the women and their husbands were repeatedly imprisoned at different stages. Minerva herself was imprisoned on four occasions. Despite Trujillo’s persecution, the sisters still continued to actively participate in political activities against the leadership. In January 1960, Patria took charge of a meeting that eventually established the Clandestine Movement of 14 June 1960 of which all the sisters participated. When this plot against the tyranny failed, the sisters and their comrades in the Clandestine Resistance Movement were persecuted throughout the country.
In early November 1960, Trujillo declared that his two problems were the Church and the Mirabal sisters. On 25 November 1960, the sisters were assassinated in an “accident” as they were being driven to visit their husbands who were in prison. The accident caused much public outcry, and shocked and enraged the nation. The brutal assassination of the Mirabal sisters was one of the events that helped propel the anti-Trujillo movement, and within a year, the Trujillo dictatorship came to an end.
The sisters, referred to as the “Inolvidables Mariposas”, the “Unforgettable Butterflies” have become a symbol against victimization of women. They have become the symbol of both popular and feminist resistance. They have been commemorated in poems, songs and books. Their execution inspired a fictional account “In the Time of the Butterflies” on the young lives of the sisters written by Julia Alvarez. It describes their suffering and martyrdom in the last days of the Trujillo dictatorship. The memory of the Mirabal sisters and their struggle for freedom and respect for human rights for all has transformed them into symbols of dignity and inspiration. They are symbols against prejudice and stereotypes, and their lives raised the spirits of all those they encountered and later, after their death, not only those in the Dominican Republic but others around the world.
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence came out of the Global Campaign for Women’s Human Rights. The campaign highlights the connections between women, violence, and human rights from 25 November to 10 December. Over the years, the 16 Days network has multiplied and now includes participation from more than 800 organizations in over 90 countries. The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence has become an annual event in many towns, states and regions. Women’s human rights activists have used this 16-day period to create a solidarity movement that raises awareness around gender-based violence, works to ensure better protection for survivors of violence and calls for its elimination.