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By Helen Flynn, Head of Policy, Research and Campaigns

#16Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an annual international campaign that kicks off on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs until 10 December, Human Rights Day.

During the #16Days we have drawn attention to a different aspect of gendered violence each day. Our aim was not only to illustrate the insidious and multifaceted ways in which women and girls experience violence, but also to draw attention to women and girls as rights-holders. Their experience of violence is an abuse of many of the rights that governments and public authorities have a duty in international and domestic law to protect, respect and fulfil.* 

Human rights in private spaces

We must always remember that human rights aren’t just about the things that happen in public, like voting and fair trials. While these are crucial elements, if human rights are to be realised for all, we must consider how to realise them in private spaces. To quote Eleanor Roosevelt (Chairperson of the Commission which drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948),

“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home—so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.”

The impact of gendered violence on the realisation of our rights

Over the past 16 days we have heard powerful testimonies of how different forms of violence impact on people, everything from physical violence to microaggressions to coercive control, impacting on women’s rights to work, to education, to health (as provided for in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights). We’ve seen how the denial of the right to social security means that women, particularly those with No Recourse to Public Funds, are more at risk of domestic violence. It is apparent that human rights are an interconnected ecosystem, and the denial of one right, such as to live free from violence, impacts on the realisation of many other rights.

We’ve also seen how violence impacts differently on those with intersecting protected characteristics, including disabled women, women from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities and trans women.

Hope for the future

But there is hope. Over the past 16 days, we’ve highlighted a thriving civil society, who refuse to accept the status quo and work tirelessly across all parts of the UK to end violence against women and girls, in both practical and novel ways, often without sustainable funding. This solidarity is a powerful tool in the fight against gendered violence.

It is this civil society that, as well as providing practical support, has researched, evaluated and proposed structural solutions to gendered violence, whether it be a Plan for a Feminist Recovery from Covid-19, the need for a new standalone offence to respond to misogyny, or the incorporation of international human rights standards in domestic legislation.

It is clear that civil society organisations have potential solutions to end gendered violence, and to better realise the range of rights denied to those who experience violence. It’s time now for governments and public authorities to act on these proposals.

* In particular Article 4 of the United Nations’ General Assembly Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993) requires States Parties (such as the UK) to pursue by “all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating violence against women”.

ICYMI: some amazing blogs we’ve been highlighting during #16Days: