The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women defines “violence against women” as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.”
The United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner note that it has taken decades of struggle by the women's rights movement to persuade the international community to view gender-based violence against women as a human rights concern and not just as a private matter in which the state should not interfere. In 1992, the CEDAW Committee in its General Recommendation No. 19, asserted that violence against women is a form of discrimination, directed towards a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately.This violence seriously inhibits women’s ability to enjoy rights and freedoms on a basis of equality with men. A number of committees, recomendations, rapporteurs have followed since with the aim of eliminating violence against women in private and public life.
When gender-based violence against women was framed as a human rights violation, it marked an important conceptual shift. It means recognising that:
Women are not exposed to violence by accident, or because of an in-born vulnerability. Instead, 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 and the eradication of gender stereotypes which condone or perpetuate gender-based violence against women and underpin the structural inequality of women with men. (OHCHR, 2020)
Today much progress has been made across the world with comprehensive legal frameworks and specialised institutions and policies put in place to protect women from violence and there is a growing awareness between violence against women and the violation of human rights. However, violence against women is still a major issue in every society. With the rapid advances in technology, perpetrators are finding new, more insidiuos way to incite violence and legislation to protect women is lagging.
We all need to work together in our communities to stop gender-based-violence against women. Women need to know that when they reach out for help, they will be believed, they will be supported and they will be listened to.