People around the world marched Sunday on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, to mark the start of 16 days of activism set by the United Nations, the New York Times reported.
Women and their allies have marched many times before the UN-designated day, but this weekend saw unified marches across several countries, including Turkey, the Dominican Republic, France, Syria, Spain, Italy, and Greece.
The UN’s 16-day campaign runs from Nov. 25 to Dec. 10, Human Rights Day. It’s an annual campaign that aims to bring people together to denounce violence against women and girls — people are encouraged to speak out, take action, and raise awareness.
This year’s theme is Orange the World: #HearMeToo, and participants are asked to use the color orange to help highlight the issue of violence against women, while also using the hashtags #orangetheworld and #HearMeToo.
The purpose of this year’s theme is “to bring to the forefront the voices of women and girls who have survived violence and who are defending women’s rights every day, away from the limelight of Hollywood and the media,” UN Women wrote.
And marches around the world, as well as voices online, did just that.
On this International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, my friends & I marched alongside the beautiful citizens of Brussels, Belgium.— Jaclyn Corin (@JaclynCorin) November 25, 2018
We cannot change this overnight, but together we shall overcome this global struggle. #GoodTrouble#GirlPower 🌸 pic.twitter.com/RNYewIPcB2
Violence against women can be physical, sexual, or psychological. The UN estimates that more than a third of women worldwide will experience some kind of violence in their lifetime.
For that to end, there needs to be awareness, education, and legal reform in countries all over the world.
Recent cases of sexual violence in Spain made this year’s marches especially pertinent in Europe. Just this past Friday, in Lleida, Spain, two men were cleared of a serious charge of sexual assault despite forcing a woman to have sex with them in a back alley after meeting her in a bar. They received four and a half years in prison for sexual abuse because the courts found that they did not use “intimidation or violence” in the attack. The woman had begged them to stop, according to the New York Times.
And in Ireland this month, a lawyer indicated that a woman’s choice of underwear showed consent during a trial against a man accused of raping her in an alleyway.
Rape laws in some countries in Europe only consider cases to be rape when physical violence, threat, or coercion is reported, according to a study by Amnesty International.
The study revealed that only eight countries (out of 31) legally define sex without consent as rape. Amnesty International also said that nearly 9 million women over the age of 15 have been raped in the EU, according to the New York Times.
These are not isolated cases. They are not country-specific. Violence against women exists everywhere — and without addressing it, the world will not succeed in achieving Global Goal 5 on gender equality, and will therefore fail to achieve all of the Global Goals by 2030.
If you have experienced sexual abuse, call the US' free, confidential National Sexual Assault hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673), or access the 24-7 help online by visiting online.rainn.org. You can find international resources here.