[Letter to the editor]We can help end violence to womenAfter 9/11, most people realized that wars would be fought not between nations but between groups that have no neatly defined borders. For women, there have never been borders. Often the battlefront is in their homes or communities. Violence is the number one killer of women ages 14 to 44 in the world and is often perpetuated in the home. Violence against women takes many forms, such as domestic abuse, homicide, rape, child marriages, circumcision, honor killings, stoning, sexual harassment and trafficking.
Rape is the most underreported crime in the United States; nonetheless, 94,635 cases were reported in 2004. Sexual slavery, a global problem, results in the trafficking of some 700,000 people a year. South of the U.S. border, brutal murders of Guatemalan and Mexican girls remain unsolved for years. In Europe, every four days a French woman dies from domestic violence. European sex tours send customers to less developed countries. In Pakistan, more than 4,000 honor killings have taken place in the last six years. Many cases go unreported. In 1994 in Rwanda, 250,000 women were raped. Of these 175,000 became HIV-positive. Eighty-five to 115 million cases of female genital mutilation have been reported. Prostitution and sex selection, particularly in India, South Korea and China, are major concerns.
Violence against women was not acknowledged by the international community until 1993, when the United Nations adopted the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the first international human rights instrument to address this issue.
When women have less power, have low status and are considered inferior, abuse occurs, often with impunity, for those in the superior role. How does the world stand by and watch the senseless torture and death of women? Albert Einstein said, “The world is a dangerous place to live in, not because of the people who do evil, but because of the people who sit and let it happen.”
Through education and awareness we can make progress. Nov. 25 is the International Day for the Eradication of Violence Against Women. It begins the 16 Days of Hope to eliminate this violence and ends on Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day. Get involved with women’s rights groups or human rights organizations. Write letters to our politicians. Hold those in authority accountable.
On a personal level, we can uphold human rights ourselves by breaking the silence in our communities and by supporting other positive forms of anger expression or conflict resolution that won’t use women as scapegoats. It’s time to stop counting the casualties and start working on a peace accord.
Joan Dawson, editor of ESL books