Despite worldwide mobilizations led by survivors and activists in recent years through movements such as #MeToo, #TimesUp, #Niunamenos, #NotOneMore, and others, sexual violence continues to be normalized and embedded in our social environments. Violence against women and girls continues in every country.
From the trivializing of rape, victim-blaming, the objectification of women’s bodies in movies or TV, the glamorization of violence in ads, or the constant use of misogynistic language, we are all daily witnesses to this “rape culture”, sometimes even silent bystanders, and have a responsibility to stop it.
Feminists in the 1990s achieved a truly monumental breakthrough when they secured the formal recognition of women’s rights as human rights, and of violence against women as a human rights violation. This work continues, in new ways, as gender-based violence continues unabated.
The 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence campaign was born during a formative moment for the international women’s movement. The 16 days start from 25th November – the International Day for the elimination of violence against women, to 10th December – Human Rights Day. These days are used by activists worldwide as a clarion call against gender-based violence.
Theme for 2019
In 2019, the UNiTE campaign will mark the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, from 25 November to 10 December, under the theme, “Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands against Rape!”
While the names, times and contexts may differ, women and girls universally experience rape, sexual violence, and abuse, in times of peace or war. That is why, under the umbrella of UN Women’s Generation Equality campaign that marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the UNiTE Campaign is calling on people from all walks of life to learn more and take a stand against the pervasive rape culture that surrounds us.
Since the 1970s, international women’s rights networks had been growing and expanding, facilitated in part by the UN World Conferences on Women. While today we take for granted that “women’s rights are human rights,” the reality is that it took feminists decades to secure the mere recognition that violations of women’s rights — and particularly violence against women — were not simply private acts outside the purview of the state, but constituted violations of human rights under international law.
Hundreds of organisations worldwide have used the campaign as an organising strategy in order to advocate the elimination of all forms of violence against women.
The campaign spans important observance days:
– International Day Against Violence against Women (25 November)
– International Women Human Rights Defenders Day (29 November)
– World AIDS Day (1 December)
– International Human Rights Day (10 December).
16 Days Campaign in India
Prajnya is a non-profit organization based in Chennai. Since 2008, Prajnya has organized its flagship 16 Days Campaign against Gender Violence almost every year, inspired by the global 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence movement.
During their 2010 campaign, Prajnya launched a YouTube channel, which was used in subsequent years to promote ‘Men Say NO to Violence Against Women’ video series, as well as videos that utilise storytelling to highlight gender inequalities. They have also used their campaign blog to host multiple blog symposia on varied themes, such as structural violence, militarism and gender violence, and the intersection between gender violence and public health. ‘Offline’, they have conducted workshops for middle and high school students, as well as for parents, on combating cyber bullying and staying safe on the Internet.
During the 2013 campaign, Prajnya collaborated with Take Back the Tech! for a colloquium on gender violence and digital security, which brought together several experts in the field to discuss emerging challenges, and which featured a presentation by Take Back the Tech! to demonstrate how the Internet can also be a tool to reclaim space for women.
Oxfam India with its partner organizations and networks marks the ’16 Days of Activism’ with a rise of frontline and active campaigning. A multi-pronged campaign on breaking the silence on violence at homes is spread over these 16 Days across the states of Delhi, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Uttrakhand.
Around the World
As in previous years, iconic buildings and monuments will be lit in orange to call for a violence-free future, including the Magistrate Court of Zimbabwe, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt, the Parliament House of Pakistan. The Manneken Pis in Brussels, Belgium, will be dressed in orange.
Around the world, dozens of events will also help shine a light on the need to step up efforts to end gender-based violence. For instance, murals will be painted on the streets illustrating empowered women and depicting positive gender relations in Malawi; classes on personal safety to interrupt and de-escalate violence using different tools including Aikido martial art will be organized with students of universities and high-schools in Albania; an exhibition of films created by Latin American women followed by live debates will take place in Honduras; a lightning installation featuring twelve artists will be conducted at the Seğmenler Park in Ankara (Turkey) to ‘light the dark’, and hundreds of trees will be planted in Cambodia.
Activities by the United Nations
An event at the UN Headquarters in New York on 25 November will feature prominent speakers and musical performances to call on preventing and ending violence against women and girls. This year’s commemoration comes on the heels of the first-ever grantee Convention of the UN Trust Fund, which took place in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, from 4-7 November 2019. At the high-level meeting, 150 participants from civil society organizations, government partners and the private sector, implementing around 100 projects around the world, came together to reflect and strategize on how to move the needle on ending violence against women, using their continuous work and experience as the foundation.
What You Can Do
Under the theme of “Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands against Rape”, how will you learn, question and take action? Get involved by learning more about rape culture, listening to survivors and sharing their stories, joining and starting conversations about consent. One of the key challenges in prevention of rape and sexual harassment is the lack of understanding around the issue of consent—only yes means yes, given freely by consenting adults, in every situation.
Use the colour orange and join the conversation on social media using #orangetheworld and #generationequality.