Orange The World: End Violence Against Women

By Dr. Rousy K Baruah

Since 1999, 25th November marks the ‘International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women’, a U.N. day designated to highlight the issue of violence against women and girls across the globe and to call for more action to combat this evil. Over a period of time, the day has evolved into a global, widespread initiative rather than just a designated day.

Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today that ironically remains largely unreported due to the impunity, silence, stigma and shame surrounding it. This is justified by several highly concerning facts about the occurrence of the issues ranging from psychological or physical or sexual violence, early marriage, human trafficking, witch hunting and such endless facts going to the extremity of even loss of their lives.  

The 2019 theme for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is ‘Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands Against Rape’, placing rape in the center of the inquiry. Rape is often followed by “victim-blaming, sexual objectification, trivializing rape, refusing to acknowledge the harm of sexual harassment or assault.” They are the ultimate denial of crimes perpetrated against the victim and the victim’s human dignity. 

Campaigns such as #MeToo, #TimesUp, #Niunamenos, #NotOneMore, and others, have shed more light on the issue of rape and sexual violence and the response to them. Rural Development flagship programmes like Assam State Rural Livelihoods Mission (ASRLM) under the aegis of National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM) have brought a sea change and have been able to empower more than 2.5 lakh rural women to an extent both psychologically and financially. However, with all these efforts underway, we are still far behind a change that is needed to give hope to the victims.

Violence against women continues to be an obstacle to achieving equality, development, peace as well as to the fulfillment of women and girls’ human rights. All in all, the promise of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – to leave no one behind – cannot be fulfilled without putting an end to violence against women and girls.

Alarming Facts : 1 in 3 women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, most frequently by an intimate partner• Only 52% of women married or in a union freely make their own decisions about sexual relations, contraceptive use and health care• Worldwide, almost 750 million women and girls alive today were married before their 18th birthday; while 200 million women and girls have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM)• 1 in 2 women killed worldwide were killed by their partners or family in 2017; while only 1 out of 20 men were killed under similar circumstances• 71% of all human trafficking victims worldwide are women and girls, and 3 out of 4 of these women and girls are sexually exploited• Violence against women is as serious a cause of death and incapacity among women of reproductive age as cancer, and a greater cause of ill health than traffic accidents and malaria combined.

The plight of women is not unaware by us, their inability to inherit property owing to prevailing customary laws, the criticisms, obligations and compromises that comes along while filing FIRs to redress their grievances as subtle intimidation and psychological subjugation persists in the society.

The status of women in Assam too, generally has always been determined by ancient customs and practices in society, especially in the vital issues of marriage, divorce, decision making and inheritance. Especially since 5-6 years, there is no sign of decline in crime against women in Assam. Instead, according to the Government data of 2018, the number of cases of crime against women has been steadily increasing over the last two years. As per the latest data of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), Assam has recorded the second highest crime rate against women in India in the year 2016. Almost 29,223 incidents of violence against women were reported from various parts of the state from 2016 to 2018. As per the report concerns, till January 6, 2018, complaints have been filed for 8,335  physical assault cases, 1,457 rape incidents & 4,314  kidnappings in the state. However, we must remember that most of the cases of violence against women are not even reported!

If we are to celebrate and commemorate the theme “Orange the World”, we must join our hands together so that we ourselves and then our society is educated, trained and nourished on gender justices. Break the silence and always raise your voice against any sort of violence against any woman.

A balanced intervention of State authorities and legal services in order to create awareness in both men and women that men and women have the same legal rights under the Constitution is of utmost important. Though in a phased manner and gradually, we together have to empower women which include land and property rights, political participation of women, equal employment opportunities and entrepreneurial empowerment of women. 

In doing so, we can ensure that women enjoy the most fundamental of human rights: the right to live a life free from violence.

Note: The Author is a Social Columnist and State Project Manager, ASRLM and based out of Guwahati, Assam.