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This year’s 16 Days campaign

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16 days, rutgersFocussing on state violence, domestic violence and small arms, and violence during and after conflict.

The theme for this year’s 16 Days Campaign of activism against gender violence, which runs from from 25 November-10 December, is ‘From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women’.

The campaign advocates for awareness and action on the multi-faceted intersections of gender-based violence and militarism and to highlight the connection between the struggle for economic and social rights and ending gender-based violence.

The theme focuses on militarism as a creation and normalisation of a culture of fear that is supported by the use or threat of violence, or aggression, as well as military intervention in response to political and social disputes or to enforce economic and political interests.

Militarism is a system of structural violence that infringes upon the human rights and human dignity, safety, and security of women, men, and children in nearly every country and region of the world.

The impact of militarism can be seen in the way national budgets are allocated for health services, education, and public spaces versus military budgets; in legislation and policies that marginalize women and minorities; in discriminatory policies and acts enforced or condoned by state authorities; and in military response versus diplomacy to political and social issues.

This campaign emphasises that women’s rights are human rights, and acknowledges the role of patriarchal systems that embody harmful traditions and legal policies that normalise violence against women, and deny women their right to a life of dignity.

The 16 Days Campaign will focus on three priority areas while underlining the intersections of economic and social rights with militarism and gender-based violence:

1. Violence Perpetrated by State Actors: State actors use the threat or act of violence to maintain or attain power. They claim a need to protect state security by unleashing violence on those deemed a threat; and they sexually and physically assault Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs), protestors, and dissenters fighting for political, economic, social, and sexual rights.

Police, judges, and prosecutors harass women victimised by gender-based violence into silence.

In some places, women are punished for the sexual violence committed against them.

The prevalence of State impunity for crimes against its peoples, those of other countries, and stateless peoples is a grave challenge to ending gender-based violence and militarism and achieving the realisation of women’s human rights.

States are tasked with due diligence – to respect, protect, and promote the human rights of all people.

Still, women and girls throughout the world continue to be denied access to economic and social rights (the right to work, education, food, and water for example), while Women Human Rights Defenders who advocate for these human rights are harassed, assaulted, or killed by state sanctioned authorities.

Seen as transgressors of sexual and gender norms and the traditional “private” space assigned to them in their communities and countries, Women Human Rights Defenders remain targets of State violence and imprisonment.

In Egypt, during recent protests Women Human Rights Defenders endured harassment as well as sexual and physical assault at the hands of male protestors, soldiers, and police, and were forced to have virginity tests while imprisoned.

In Honduras, transgender Women Human Rights Defenders face economic, political, and social discrimination, and extrajudicial killings perpetrated or condoned by State authorities.

In Iran, Women Human Rights Defenders are routinely targeted by the State, a State which often claims that these women are a threat to the moral order of society or are working with subversive elements against the integrity of the State.

Women Human Rights Defenders, especially indigenous women, are fighting and dying to protect the forests, waters, and lands that are pivotal to their communities’ economic and social well-being. They are fighting to keep ancestral lands from theft or destructive use by the State and private sector, and curb human rights abuses of wind, mining, water, logging industries, and of factory labour.

2. Domestic Violence and the Role of Small Arms: Domestic violence continues to occur in every region of the world, with the majority of the world’s women experiencing violence inflicted by an intimate partner at some point in their lives.

Statistics show that having a gun in the home increases the risk of someone being murdered by 41 per cent, while for women in the context of domestic/intimate partner violence, the risk is increased by 272 per cent.

The proliferation of small arms, which include guns, machetes and knives, increases the threat of injury or death for women and children and normalises acts of violence.

Many countries have instituted legislation and reforms to combat domestic/intimate partner violence, but the implementation of protection and services for survivors of violence, and stronger reforms against the proliferation of small arms have yet to be fully realised.

Economic dependence and exploitation is a contributing factor to why women remain in domestic violence situations.

Women’s economic independence is imperative to empowerment over their lives and enjoyment of human rights.

3. Sexual Violence During and After Conflict: Violent conflict increases the vulnerability of women and girls, where rape, sexual slavery, mutilation, forced impregnation, and forced “marriage” occur against them at a higher rate than during times of relative peace.

Vulnerability rises especially for women and girls who are collecting water or firewood, tending to fields, living in refugee or internally displaced camps, or in areas overrun with fighting between militias or state military.

Sexual violence, in its various forms, is used as a weapon to instil fear and maintain power over communities by armed militias and State authorities.

Soldiers, as well as mandated peacekeepers, have been guilty of abusing or raping women and girls in refugee camps.

Local women who work or live near military bases experience sexual violence at the hands of foreign troops stationed in the area.

Many women continue to feel the effects of their abuse in psychological, physical, and social terms after the official end of violent conflict.

Most cultures and traditions stigmatise and punish women who have been sexually violated; after experiencing sexual violence, instead of support, they often face being ostracised by their families and communities.

In places where there are competing power structures, women and girls are also vulnerable to being bartered or traded to settle disputes, to pay off debts, or improve social, political, and business relations.

As always, the 16 Days Campaign encourages you to participate, and to focus on areas that are most relevant to your specific context.

Consider how you can engage with your government and community to challenge and change in positive terms the structures that perpetuate gender-based violence.

The Center for Women’s Global Leadership has developed materials for the 2013 Take Action Kit (TAK), which contain resources to help support activities during the 16 Days Campaign.

Visit our website to download the Take Action Kit materials or to request hard copy.

Join us on Facebook  or Twitter: #16days; @16DaysCampaign; @CWGLRutgers

To check out events in the UK click here.

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