16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence and why it’s important today

The global campaign to end violence against women, which is observed across the globe from November 25 to December 10, enters its 32nd year.

16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence and why it’s important today

Wednesday November 29, 2023,

5 min Read

On November 25, women’s organisations and civil society groups across the country launched the ‘16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence’ campaign–an international movement that traces its roots back to the 1960s. 

The campaign has been used as an organising strategy by individuals and organisations around the world to call for prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls. 

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 4.28 lakh cases of crime against women were registered in 2021 in India—an increase of 15.3% from 2020 when 3.71 lakh cases were registered.

In view of the unabating violence against women in the country–in public spaces, workplaces and homes–the campaign against gender-based violence will see several organisations and collectives stand in solidarity with victim-survivors everywhere. 

Recently, police in Jammu and Kashmir’s Udhampur, in collaboration with the Special Cell for Women Udhampur, trained 60 police officials on the laws and rights of women and ways to prevent crimes. 

Three days ago, in Phek, Nagaland, the district administration, Sakhi One-Stop Centres, and the Directorate of Health and Family Welfare, in collaboration with Chizami Village Women Society and North East Network Chizami, conducted a solidarity walk for the cause.

Prajnya, a Chennai non-profit, will soon release a report on gender violence in India. 

More such initiatives are being planned as part of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign, which will go on till December 10. 

The origins of the campaign     

In 1991, the The Center for Women’s Global Leadership in New Jersey joined hands with the participants of the first Women’s Global Institute on Women, Violence and Human Rights and called for a global campaign to end violence against women.

The campaign, which came to be called the ‘16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence’, is observed by countries across the world. It starts on November 25, which is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and ends on December 10, which marks the International Human Rights Day and the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

While the campaign kicked off in 1991, the seeds for it were sown three decades ago in 1960, when sisters and political activists Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa Mirabal stood up against the cruelty and systemic violence of the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic. 

The Mirabal sisters were clubbed to death by Trujillo’s secret police on November 25 1960, a day that was declared the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in Latin America in 1980. 

Today, November 25 has become a milestone to celebrate the sisters’ feminist resistance against patriarchy, gender-based segregation, violence and crime.

In countries across the world, including India, civil society organisations, women and gender minority groups and educational institutions take a stance against crimes against women in their communities and amplify their voices to their governments and international human rights bodies.

The global theme for this year’s 16 Days of Activism is ‘UNiTE! Invest to Prevent Violence against Women & Girls’–a call for collective action and financial commitment to eradicate gender-based violence, highlighting the importance of proactive investment in prevention strategies.

Why this campaign is important

The World Health Organization (WHO) says one in three women experiences physical or sexual violence at least once in her lifetime.

The threats increase during humanitarian emergencies or when women face curtailment of their essential rights, such as access to education, healthcare or freedom of movement. 

The COVID-19 pandemic, conflicts and climate change have exacerbated the risks for this violence and generated new threats, amplifying the vulnerability of women and girls, according to UN Women.

While violence affects girls and women everywhere, certain groups–such as those living with disability, adolescent girls and older women–often face even greater difficulty in having their voices heard and accessing support.

Health workers are often the first, and sometimes the only, point of contact for women experiencing violence. They can provide compassionate care for survivors by offering first-line support, medical examination and treatment, and referrals to other essential services. This requires investing in training and resources to ensure appropriate care, says WHO.

Where India stands

In 2013-14, the Government of India set up the Nirbhaya Fund, a non-lapsable corpus fund for the safety and security of women to be administered by the Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance. 

According to a report in The Wire, in 2013-14, Rs 1,000 crore was allocated under the Nirbhaya Fund, which was then reduced to Rs 550 crore in 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20. It was further reduced to around Rs 500 crore in 2021-22 and 2022-23.

“There is not enough investment in building protective structures for girls and women and transit spaces that can keep them safe and secure, if they are to flee home and have nowhere to go,” says Sunitha Krishnan, activist and Co-founder of Prajnya. 

Krishnan says the battle against gender-linked violence must extend beyond the duration of the campaign, and everyone is responsible for creating an ecosystem that’s safe for women. 

“We are all a part of creating and changing the ecosystem where our women are unsafe. We must be conscious of this in the way we parent our children, treat gender with a sense of respect, and educate ourselves so as to not push daughters into situations where they could be harmed,” she says.

Edited by Swetha Kannan

Montage of TechSparks Mumbai Sponsors