Life is a mix of both positive and negative shades. The negative challenges us to improve, and positive assures us the confidence in our power to construct a better world. As we pen down for November issue of Hilal for Her, two events attract our attention; one; International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, a negative that needs to be addressed with more digilence; and the power of cultural diversity in bringing societies closer — a positive, which was amply demonstrated during the Royal visit of Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, to Pakistan.
Of all the human rights infringements, none is more prevalent or one that cuts across all socio-economic and cultural lines than the global pandemic of violence against women and girls, or gender-based violence. The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women issued by the UN General Assembly, defines violence against women as “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.” A staggering 1 in 3 women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime. Because violence against women knows no social or economic boundaries, this issue needs to be addressed in both developing and developed countries.
There is no denying the fact that there is significant, long term physical and psychological trauma associated with violence for the victims and their families. However, the impact of gender-based violence is not limited to only the survivors of violence and their families, but also entails significant social and economic costs. Victims are forever scared and their ability to function as productive citizens is to a considerable degree limited, in at least the short term if not in the long run. In some instances, it is estimated to cost countries up to 3.7% of their GDP. Therefore, addressing gender-based violence is also a significant, long-term development challenge.
In an age when countries have female heads of states and women occupy powerful positions and portfolios worldwide, the rampancy of gender-based violence is a matter of grave concern and one that needs to be recognized for its gravity and addressed with urgency. It is an issue that UN and many others take seriously but despite legislation (on international and national levels), the issue remains unabated. The reason for this is that it is an evil that resides in the collective psyche of people irrespective of their socio-cultural and economic backgrounds. A change can transpire only when there is a change in the way societies think about the status of their women. The goal of rooting out violence against women and girls’ calls for a community-based, multi-dimensional approach, and on-going engagement with multiple stakeholders. The most effective initiatives need to address risk factors for violence, including gender-related social norms and the acceptability of violence.
In this context, the observance of The United Nations' International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is an occasion for governments, international organizations and non-governmental organizations to raise public awareness of violence against women. The United Nations Secretary-General’s UNiTE by 2030 to End Violence against Women campaign (UNiTE campaign) calls for global actions to increase awareness, galvanize advocacy efforts, and share knowledge and innovations. Such campaigns need teach women how to escape violence while at the same time educating people about the consequences of violence against women.
The second event that attracted wide publicity world over was the Royal Visit to Pakistan. Besides other highlights, Kate Middleton’s preference to wear Pakistani attire during her visit won the hearts of millions in Pakistan. It is not only in respect to the cultural norms, but also a gesture of love to the people of Pakistan especially women, which showcased modesty and elegance. This gesture is a symbol of positivity for the nation as it reflects the power of culture in closing the gaps between socities. As the world moulds into a global village, cross-culture diversity has become a power that connects the hearts while instilling global peace and harmony. We all need to build on this! HH
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