The Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation commemorates the date of Wednesday, November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The theme of this year’s observance is: Prevention. Preventing violence against women remains a crucial priority within the broader genocide and mass atrocity prevention agenda. Such violence not only adversely affects the victims’ health, but also diminishes their ability to participate and hold prominent positions in society, as well as drastically increasing the chance that victims, and their families, will live in poverty.
On a societal level, violence against women leads to the types of social fragmentation that heighten the risk a society will descend into genocide or atrocity crimes. In this manner, eliminating violence against women is easily understood as a direct, structural prevention issue. Not only exposed to the crime of rape and other forms of sexual violence, women account for the majority of civilian deaths resulting from all conflicts and constitute between 70% and 80% of internally displaced persons (IDP) across the globe.
The United Nations asserts that violence carried against women exists as “a conscious strategy employed on a large scale by armed groups to humiliate opponents, terrify individuals and destroy societies.” In several conflict areas across the world, rape and other forms of sexual violence (including kidnapping, rape, forced sexual slavery and/or prostitution, as well as genital mutilation) are used as a destabilizing tactic and appear frequently as components of contemporary mass atrocities.
On the observance of last year’s Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asserted that:
Sexual and gender-based violence is the most extreme form of the global and systemic inequality experienced by women and girls. It knows no geographic, socio-economic or cultural boundaries.
The Secretary General’s UNiTE Campaign to End Violence Against Women, launched in 2008, works to empower a diverse array of actors, from both the public and private sectors, to take action against all forms of violence against women across the globe. The UNiTE Campaign functions primarily by influencing laws and policies in high-risk areas, mobilizing relevant international actors, and by partnering with regional and state-level bodies to carry out training and educational programs.
The Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka released the following statement in honor of 2014’s observance:
In observance of this year’s Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, United Nations buildings in New York alongside other major institutions involved in international justice, such as the Peace Palace in the Hague, which houses the International Criminal Court, will be lit in orange.
The Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation stands in solidarity with the individuals and institutions observing the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and supports the efforts of the international community to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women. AIPR’s Latin America Program Director Eugenia Carbone explains:
Through education and technical assistance, AIPR’s Latin America Program supports the efforts carried out by the states of the Latin American Network for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention. We salute the choice of prevention as the theme for this year’s observance of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which helps advance the global agenda of stopping genocide and mass atrocities.