According to UN Women, one in three women worldwide experience physical or sexual violence, mostly by an intimate partner. Violence against women and girls is a human rights violation, and the immediate and long-term physical, sexual, and mental consequences for women and girls can be devastating. Moreover, the WHO indicates that approximately 38% of murders of women are committed by a male intimate partner.
Back in September, Twitter user Veronica (@wxixp) compiled the comments section of a TikTok video that asked, “What would you do if there were no men on earth for 24 hours?”. The tweet immediately went viral, with nearly half a million likes to date and thousands of people responding to the tweet.
Overwhelmingly, the responses to the “no men on earth” Tweet and the comments section showed that what many women want is simply to be able to walk around freely at night, and to feel safe in their own communities.
The High Cost of Gender-Based Violence
As outlined by the United Nations, violence negatively affects women’s general well-being and prevents women from fully participating in society. It impacts families, communities, and the country at large. It has tremendous costs, from greater strains on health care to legal expenses and losses in productivity.
To approach this problem, we must consider a wide variety of factors. “The solution must cover the development of laws and policies, prevention and support services, change norms and behaviour of men and boys, as well as include data collection and research. Awareness-raising and campaigns on the extent and impact of violence are an important component of prevention efforts. However, they need to be complemented with educational programmes and community mobilization in order to have sustained results” (UN Women).
One man on Twitter commented, “it makes me mad and sad that women have to fear doing all these things because some idiots thought that it’s a great idea to harass women,” while another simply said “We as men need to do better”.
“Not All Men”
Veronica’s Tweet also caused debate, with many of people in the comments section rising to defend men’s gender as a whole, and preaching the message of “not all men”. Some commenters felt unfairly targeted in a post that should have specifically called out ‘evil men’.
In response, one woman wrote, ‘We are fully aware that not every single man is threatening. We are just stating that most of the time we avoid doing certain things we would like to do out of fear of being kidnapped, raped or harassed.” Another added, “We have a true fear of being attacked because we’re women. There’s a history of it. This does not invalidate any man’s story of being attacked or abused. This is not saying that you’re all horrible people because you’re male”.
All violence is unacceptable. This should be a universal truth acknowledged by all. And while both men and women experience violence, statistics have shown that women do experience higher rates of violence. Women’s risk of violent victimization was about 20% higher than men’s in 2014. This according to a survey using self-reported data from the Canadian Women’s Foundation.
More numbers to consider (Canadian Womens Foundation):
- 7 in 10 people who experience family violence are women and girls
- Women are about four times as likely as men to be victims of intimate partner homicide
- Women were 10 times more likely than men to be the victim of a police-reported sexual assault in 2008
- About 80% of victims of dating violence are women
- Girls are 1.5 times more likely than boys to experience violence at home
By framing gender-based violence against women as a human rights violation, the UN has implied an important conceptual shift. In doing so, it recognizes that women do not face violence by accident, or because of an in-born vulnerability. Instead, it says “violence is the result of structural, deep-rooted discrimination which the state has an obligation to address. Preventing and addressing gender-based violence against women is therefore not a charitable act. It is a legal and moral obligation requiring legislative, administrative and institutional measures and reforms. It also depends on the eradication of gender stereotypes. These stereotypes condone or perpetuate gender-based violence against women and underpin the structural inequality of women with men.”
“No Men On Earth”
Awareness and campaigning against gender-based violence has been increasing, in large part due to the courageous advocacy work of survivors and the family members of victims. It’s not easy to publicly identify the abuse, challenge gender inequality and victim-blaming, and how our society deals with violence against women, but it contributes to broader social awareness and change.
Work done by governments and organizations across the world has also sought to address violence against women and provide a safer space to those who need it. For example: consider the initiative from SafeCity and Red Dot Foundation, a platform based in India that powers communities, police and city government to prevent violence in public and private spaces. Or, the Urban Safety Audit of public spaces from Women in Cities International and Col·lectiu Punt 6. Wise Practices from all around the world show the efforts undertaken to combat violence against women. We hope that one day a future will be possible that allows women to be safe in cities, without the need of having no men on earth.
This work demonstrates the progress made, as well as the growing nature of awareness around the world. However, while we continue to take steps forward, the figures on the prevalence of violence against women are alarming. There are still difficulties to overcome in the fight for women’s access to justice, and all sectors must continue to work hard and ensure that women and girls can live free from violence.