16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Celebrates its 30th Anniversary
From November 25 to December 10, 2021 Women's Learning Partnership (WLP) is again participating in the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV), a global campaign to build awareness of and end violence against women and girls. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the 16 Days of Activism against GBV. For three decades, women around the world have united during the 16 Days of Activism to advocate for legislative and societal change in their communities that will allow women and girls to live their lives free from violence and discrimination.
This year, WLP’s Partnership-wide digital campaign for the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence shares important historical moments in the fight to end GBV and key advocacy successes from across WLP’s partner countries. Follow WLP on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to follow the digital campaign.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights - 1948
Today is International Human Rights Day and celebrates the day that The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the UN General Assembly. The UDHR's adoption on December 10, 1948 marked the first time in history, an international body of representatives from around the world agreed that everyone is entitled to the same human rights.
The UDHR paved the way for the later drafting of two binding international human rights treaties. In 1966, the General Assembly adopted the Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which enumerates the rights to an adequate standard of living, health, education, and housing, cultural identity, and expression; and the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which enumerates the rights to life, liberty, security of person, and freedom of expression, thought, conscience, and religion.
Together, the three documents comprise the UN International Bill of Human Rights, which has guided the drafting of nearly 100 national constitutions and thousands of national and local laws and policies throughout the world.
Read the UDHR Here: https://www.un.org/en/about-us/universal-declaration-of-human-rights
Read the ICESCR Here: https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/cescr.aspx
Read the ICCPR Here: https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/ccpr.aspx
Malaysia - Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill (Ongoing)
In 1990 the first version of the sexual harassment bill was drafted by Women's Center for Change Penang, with input from WLP Malaysia/All Women’s Action Society (AWAM). Over the next two decades AWAM and members of the Joint Action for Group for Gender Equality (JAG) coalition worked with government officials to adapt and revise the bill.
In 2019, AWAM along with various other NGOs and government agencies, worked with the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development to finalize the bill. The bill aims to improve the definition of sexual harassment to expand the definition to, encompass public spaces and not just work environments, as well as widens the definition of sexual harassment, so that is not limited to specific acts ( as per the current laws). The Bill also strives to enhance protection and access to justice via an entity (such as a Tribunal) to provide oversight of compliance with the law, and enable individuals to have free and easier access to justice. And finally, this Bill will require all organizations (workplaces, universities, colleges, schools, public transport operators, etc.) to have robust internal policies to prevent and address sexual harassment.
AWAM and the JAG coalition worked together to support the Women's Ministry in providing updated information, documents, and other relevant data on sexual harassment to lawmakers. The coalition succeeded in gaining support for the bill, but a sudden shift in government in March 2020 delayed the tabling of the bill in Parliament. To hold the new Government accountable to this commitment, AWAM implemented an online campaign with the hashtag #AWAMfortheBill. The campaign led to greater public awareness and support for the bill, and in November 2020, AWAM presented a physical, paper, petition with the signatures of 512 Malaysians, and a digital version with over 17,000 signatures, to members of Malaysia’s parliament.
On December 17, 2020, AWAM celebrated a huge milestone when AWAM’s petition to table the bill was read in the lower house of Malaysia's bicameral parliament. However, due to national emergencies in 2021 that caused a suspension in Malaysia’s parliament, the bill was not officially tabled. AWAM continues to advocate, through public education and lobbying, for the tabling of a survivor-centric Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill
Look out for updates on the status of the Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill on AWAM's Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok accounts (@AWAMMalaysia).
Jordan - Repeal of Article 308 (2017)
In 2017, gender equality activists in Jordan celebrated the full abolition of Article 308 from the Jordanian Penal Code. Article 308 allowed perpetrators of sexual violence to escape criminal punishment if they married their victims. In an interview with WLP, SIGI-J Executive Director Asma Khader attributed the success to years of organizing, coalition building, collecting research, and lobbying lawmakers, starting in the 1980s.
In 1998, Khader founded SIGI-J and began mobilizing over 255 local and regional civil society organizations to advocate to overturn this law. A few years later, SIGI/J released the Jordanian Women's Charter, which identified eight discriminatory laws to repeal, including Article 308. Forty women's organizations signed on to support the Charter, broadening the coalition and creating a framework for action.
SIGI-J began documenting cases, speaking with victims, and analyzing both qualitative and quantitative data to assess the impact of the law. SIGI-J shared its analysis, as well as personal stories of those affected by the law, with communities throughout Jordan to raise awareness about the issue. To increase public support and pressure lawmakers, SIGI-J sent press releases to the media to ensure that the topic was consistently in the news.
SIGI-J approached religious leaders, who eventually agreed in 2015, after years of meetings and lobbying, that the research proved Article 308 was not an Islamic law, as previously thought. In 2016, the results of a national survey published in Jordanian newspapers revealed that an overwhelming 72% of Jordanians were in favor of abolishing the law and 90% said that the perpetrators should be punished for their crimes. The same year, SIGI-J collected over 14,000 signatures from Jordanian citizens demanding that Article 308 be overturned, which they presented to policymakers.
Article 308 was finally overturned by Jordinian Parliament on August 1, 2017. Reflecting on this victory, Khader said that reform was possible because of the multiple strategies used, which combined organizing and alliance building, raising awareness at community levels, research and knowledge generation, and engaging directly with decision makers. But for activists in Jordan, the work isn't done. SIGI-J and its supporters and coalition members are turning their attention to other discriminatory laws, such as laws that allow light punishment for so-called “honor” crimes.
- BBC. (2017, April 24). Article 308: Jordan to scrap marriage loophole for rapists. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-39692020.
- Women's Learning Partnership (2017, November 17). Overturning Article 308: A profile of Asma Khader and WLP Jordan/sigi/j. Overturning Article 308: A Profile of Asma Khader and WLP Jordan/SIGI/J | Women's Learning Partnership. https://learningpartnership.org/blog/overturning-article-308-profile-asma-khader-and-wlp-jordansigij.
- WLP. (2019). Equality Starts in the Family: A Global Campaign for Change. https://learningpartnership.org/sites/default/files/resources/pdfs/WLP_Equality_Starts_in_the_Family.pdf.
Morocco - Moudawana Reform (2004)
In 2004 Morocco’s Parliament adopted a new family code, called the Moudawana, which was considered one of the most important legislative reforms for women’s rights in the region. The Moudawana recognized women’s right to self-guardianship, divorce, child-custody, and raised the legal age of marriage.
Women’s organizations in Morocco had been advocating for the reform of the family code for decades. However, all changes made to the Moroccan family code prior to 2004 were drafted by male religious scholars and adopted by royal decree, restricting any changes to be bound by literal interpretations of Islamic law.
In 1995, at the 4th World Conference on Women, a coalition of women’s rights organizations from Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco, led by WLP Morocco/ADFM presented a detailed sociological, legal, and theological framework on family law that supported equality between men and women. By using this framework for the reform of the family code, women’s organizations were able to build broad support in Morocco for the reform.
In 2001, King Mohammad VI announced the formation of a commission to lead the revision of the Family Code. For the first time, this committee included more than just male religious scholars; it included doctors, sociologists, and economists. Most importantly, three women were appointed to the committee. Women’s organizations also advocated for Parliament to review the new family code before its adoption, ensuring a more democratic and inclusive process for determining family law in Morocco to date.
When asked how the family code relates to violence against women, ADFM founder Rabeaa Naciri said, “When a woman is ousted because she does not have the right to remain in the family house that most often belongs to or is rented under the name of the man, because a woman is not allowed to possess or to sign a lease agreement, that is violence. When a father does not authorize his daughter to get married because she works and gives him her salary, that is violence. The entire Family Code was economic, psychological, and sexual violence.” Today ADFM continues to advocate for reform of the Family Code to close gaps that still allow for some cases of early marriage, inheritance discrimination, and polygamy.
- Afkhami, M., Ertürk Yakın, & Mayer, A. E. (Eds.). (2019). Feminist Advocacy, family law and violence against women: International perspectives. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.
- Zoglin, K. (2009). Morocco’s Family Code: Improving Equality for Women. Human Rights Quarterly, 31(4), 964–984. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40389983
- Hanafi, L. (2012). MOUDAWANA AND WOMEN'S RIGHTS IN MOROCCO: BALANCING NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL LAW. ILSA Journal of International & Comparative Law Vol 18.2 , 515-529. https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/80037912.pdf
Nigeria - Women, Peace, and Security
A group of civil society organizations in Nigeria is working together to provide internally displaced peoples (IDPs) and refugees in the country with protection from GBV. Since 2018, WLP Nigeria/CEADER’s women, peace, and security initiative has brought over 800 activists and IDP women together to build alliances and influence the reform of policies and practices concerning IDPs, refugees, and peacebuilding.
The UNHCR estimates that there are about 2.1 million IDPs in Nigeria, over 50% of whom are children, and over 200,000 Nigerian refugees outside Nigeria. Much of the displacement is a result of the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeastern region of Nigeria. While the Nigerian military has regained control in parts of the northeast, women and girls continue to experience threats of gender-based violence.
In 2020, a partner of CEADER’s women, peace, and security project established a sexual gender-based violence case management committee in Bauchi state, in north-east Nigeria. The committee is composed of 18 state ministries, hospitals, and civil society organizations that support IDP survivors of gender-based violence and ensure they are given the resources needed to seek justice and security. The Attah Sisters Helping Hands Foundation, an organization that was instrumental in forming the committee, also trained members of Bauchi’s police force and other security agencies so that officers could better address the needs of women and girls in IDP communities.
Partners of the WPS initiative in Nigeria are making sure that internally displaced women and girls understand the protection offered by the 2015 Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP). Partners are educating women on how they can use this legislation to advocate for their right to live free from violence. VAPP prohibits acts of gender-based violence and also aims to provide “maximum protection and effective remedies for victims and punishment of offenders.” For the law to have its greatest impact it must be adopted by all Nigerian states; currently only 18 out of 36 states in Nigeria have adopted the VAPP.
CEADER and its WPS partners have mobilized to train hundreds of women in northeastern Nigeria to advocate for IDP rights and safer communities. After joining one of these trainings, Hamsatu from Damaturu stated that, “as women we will come together and unite to fight for progress and peace!”
- United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Nigeria emergency. UNHCR. https://www.unhcr.org/en-us/nigeria-emergency.html.
- Women’s Learning Partnership. (2019, March 19), Women from Across the Middle East and Africa gather for Peace, Security, and Equality – Nigeria. https://learningpartnership.org/blog/women-from-across-middle-east-and-africa-gather-for-peace-security-and-equality-nigeria
- Okunola, A. (2021, April 27). Everything You Need to Know About the Law That Could Reduce Gender-based Violence in Nigeria. Global Citizen. https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/everything-you-need-to-know-vapp-Nigeria/
Brazil - Maria da Penha Law (2006)
In May of 1983 Maria da Penha Fernandes survived an attempt on her life by her husband. She was unable to divorce her husband after the first murder attempt and returned home weeks later, where her husband attempted to her murder her a second time. Despite ample evidence against de Penha’s husband, it took 19 years for her husband to be incarcerated for the murder attempts. He only served two years of a six-year sentence.
Da Penha’s case caused national outrage in Brazil and raised awareness about the issue of femicide and the lack of support for survivors of domestic violence in the country. Da Penha continued to push for justice and in 2002, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights “held Brazil responsible for violating the human rights of Maria da Penha, including her right to a fair trial, right to judicial protection, and right to equality before the law.” In 2006, a consortium of activists and NGOs, including WLP Brazil/CEPIA, were instrumental in developing and pressing for passage of the momentous Maria da Penha Law on domestic violence, considered one of the most complete laws of its kind. The law established special courts and stricter sentences for offenders, as well as other prevention and relief measures, such as protective measures for women in situations of violence, greater coordination between police and the justice system, and shelters for women.
According to CEJIL, “As a result of the public policies implemented after the new law, in the 5 years after its adoption the law has assisted more than 3,364,000 women since January of 2006.”
- CEJIL. Maria da Penha . https://cejil.org/en/case/maria-da-penha-4/
- Uchoa, P, (2016, September 22). Maria da Penha: The woman who changed Brazil’s domestic violence laws. BBC Brasil. https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-37429051
The Mirabal Sisters
November 25 is International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and marks the start of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. November 25 is significant because on that day in 1960, three Dominican women activists and sisters, Patria, Maria-Teresa, and Minerva Mirabal, were killed by secret police. Their courage in the face of violence and intimidation galvanized a movement that united women around the world to end violence against women and girls.
During the regime of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, the Mirabal sisters spoke out against the oppression of civil liberties and the use of systematic violence. While traveling to Puerto Plata, the sisters were ambushed by Trujillo’s secret police and murdered. Their deaths are considered one of the decisive sparks that galvanized the movement against Trujillo’s regime both in the country and internationally.
In the 1970 and 1980s, activists in Latin America began to use the day to call for an end to violence against women and girls more broadly and in 2000, the United Nations officially adopted a resolution to designate November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. In 1991, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence was proposed to run from November 25, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women to December 10, International Human Rights Day, to emphasize that women’s right to live free from violence is a human rights issue. According to the official 16 Days Campaign website, “Over 6000+ organizations in approximately 187 countries have participated in the Global 16 Days Campaign since 1991, with a reach of 300 million [people].”
The impact of the Mirabal sisters has lived on in generations of activists around the world. According to History.com, when Minerva Mirabal was asked if she feared for her life because of her activism she responded, “If they kill me, I’ll reach my arms out from the tomb and I’ll be stronger.”
- International Women's Development Agency. (n.d.). What are the 16 Days of activism? IWDA. https://iwda.org.au/what-are-the-16-days-of-activism-and-why-should-you-care/
- Pruitt, S. (2021, March 8). How the Mirabal Sisters Helped Topple a Dictator. History.com. https://www.history.com/news/mirabal-sisters-trujillo-dictator
- The Mirabal Sisters: 100 Women of the Year. (2020, March 5). Time. https://time.com/5793594/mirabal-sisters-100-women-of-the-year/
- About The Campaign. 16 Days Campaign. https://16dayscampaign.org/about-the-campaign/
- United Nations. (n.d.). Background. United Nations. https://www.un.org/en/observances/ending-violence-against-women-day/background.
16 Days against GBV 2020
Ending the Shadow Pandemic During COVID-19 and Beyond
Gender-Based Violence: Unintended Consequences of Social Distancing
Across the globe, governments are enacting measures to combat the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19. They are closing borders, shuttering businesses, and ordering people to stay in their homes. However critical these lockdowns and curfews are for public safety and health, women’s rights activists are concerned about their potential unintended consequences for women. They fear that the government guidelines may lead to another public health crisis—a rise in violence against women in the home. Isolation, financial worries, and constant anxiety can contribute to violence in the home, and most often the victims of this type of violence are women in the family.
WLP’s partners around the world are aware of the escalation in violence towards women, and are mobilizing to respond.