International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

25 November each year is the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and is the start of 16 days of activism to end violence against women and girls. It ends with Human Rights Day on 10 December.

On the actual day people are asked to wear orange. #orangetheworld

Globally one in three women experience violence during their lives.

It's important to set out what we define as gender violence. Brutal physical violence experienced by women is quite rightly recognised, but gender or gendered violence also refers to societal and institutional structures, systems and cultures that exist which allow gender violence to occur and also for threats of violence, including misogyny and harassment, to thrive.

Frances O’Grady, chair of the TUC, wrote a blog on sexual harassment at work earlier this year, agreeing that it constitutes violence against women.

Over recent years, with the growth of social media and electronic communications, threats of violence or calls for others to physically target and attack women has increased and allows those carrying out threats or inciting gender violence to cloak themselves in anonymity.

The failure to call out, challenge and expose such attacks on women creates a climate where it is normalised. In addition women, including activists, campaigners and politicians who are often, but not exclusively, the targets for such threats, are told they shouldn't be in the public domain, that they are putting themselves out there so should accept it comes with the territory.

I have experienced this first hand, receiving death threats and racist, misogynistic abuse and threats. One man told the police when they arrested him that he 'was just having a bad day'.

We see this response time and time again. It is wrong and such a premise must be stamped on. We should not tolerate a position where men feel that when things go wrong for them they can unleash their anger and frustration on women. Studies have shown a correlation between violence to women and football in the UK with domestic abuse increasing when England wins or loses a football match.

Stopping gender violence cannot just be achieved through legislative changes but through culture change including challenging patriarchal societal systems. Women’s movements both formal and informal are responding and speaking out, organising actions and setting up organisations to respond, such as Glitch, which was established by campaigner Seyi Akiwowo to end online abuse.

Women throughout the world are also taking action ranging from rural communities coming together to organise self-defence classes, to mass demos.

But we need everyone, including men, to speak out, stand up and challenge it and work to prevent it and also for the perpetrators to be punished.

Over the past year the government has been reviewing its policy on sexual harassment and misconduct and I have been part of the PCS negotiating team. We are currently responding to the draft guidance. In addition PCS is providing training for reps on how to deal with sexual harassment cases and support members impacted.  See the events page for details of a course near you.

But at the same time support organisations for women facing gender violence have been decimated because of austerity and cuts.

It's important for us to make the links between gender violence and austerity, gender discrimination at work, the gender pay gap, patriarchal systems, women’s under representation and the way in which power is used in an attempt to marginalise and oppress women, creating the conditions for violence against women to occur.

It takes courage and strength for survivors to come forward and speak out and trade unions have an important role to play in campaigning on these issues and challenging the conditions where sexual violence happens.

Get involved

PCS is running pan equality courses and training on sexual harassment in the workplace.  Check out what’s happening in your region on our events pages.

The Sarah Reed Campaign for Justice campaigns for justice for the family of Sarah Reed, a young black woman who died in Holloway Prison, while charged with assault because she fought off someone trying to rape her.

Women in Support of Cécile Kyenge MEP is a rally in support of the Italian MEP Cécile Kyenge. Kyenge, Italy’s first black cabinet minister, is being sued for defamation for calling the Italian League party racist.

Delsie Gayle, an elderly disabled black woman, was subjected to horrific racism by a passenger who hurled racist abuse and insults at her whilst on a Ryanair flight to London.  An online petition has been set up to demand that Ryanair apologises to Mrs Gayle and compensates her.

#endviolence #orangetheworld #16days

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