Today, March 8th, is International Women’s Day, which the United Nations has celebrated on this day since 1975. Its purpose is to recognize the achievements of women, to reflect on past struggles, to celebrate accomplishments, and to acknowledge the untapped power and potential of future generations of women. This year, International Women’s Day is being marked with the theme, “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women.” It’s a call to the international community to strengthen its commitment to fighting violence against women, which is currently at pandemic proportions. Some statistics from the UN’s website:
- Up to 50% of sexual assaults are committed against girls under the age of 16.
- Globally, 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not yet considered a crime.
- Up to 70% of women in the world report having experienced physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lifetime.
- Over 60 million girls worldwide are child brides, married before the age of 18.
Guatemala knows all too well the heartache wrought by violent acts against women – acts that have been happening there with alarming frequency. Femicide, the gender-related murder of a woman by a man, is widespread in Guatemala. And although the number of women murdered in the country reportedly fell by 9 percent in 2012, it still has one of the highest femicide rates in the world. Street gangs are believed to use violence against women as an initiation rite, or as a means to advance in status within the gang. More than half of all cases of femicide in Guatemala are perpetrated by former or current boyfriends or husbands. Underlying both of these scenarios is the larger problem of impunity – Guatemala’s justice system is one in which these crimes go unpunished. According to Amnesty International, less than four percent of all homicides in Guatemala result in convictions. In cases of femicide, all too often, officials place the blame for the crime on the victim – she was dressed provocatively, she was associating with gang members, in other words, she “asked for it.” Though the country has set up special tribunals, enacted laws, and created a presidential commission on femicide (COPAF), the number of women and girls murdered in Guatemala each year remains disturbingly high.
As the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day suggests, it is time for action. UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon’s UNITE campaign, launched in 2008, encourages governments and private citizens alike to, “break the silence. When you witness violence against women and girls, do not sit back. Act.” You can start today by spreading the message of this International Women’s Day. A promise is a promise. It is time for action to end violence against women. Celebrations are happening all over the world and the world wide web. Check out this post from the One Campaign on why women and girls are the secret weapon in ending poverty. Follow International Women’s Day on Facebook. Get educated, get inspired, and get behind the movement to end violence against women.
“The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights. “ – Gloria Steinem
Happy International Women’s Day.