Today, Nov. 25, marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Women’s rights activists have observed Nov. 25 as a day against gender-based violence since 1981, but the United Nations didn’t designate this day until 2000.
According to the U.N., one in three women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. Gender-based violence often manifests itself through rape, human trafficking, female genital mutilation (FGM), child marriage, as well other forms of physical, sexual and psychological abuse.
“For women around the world, gender-based violence is something they fear on a daily basis,” said Cissie Graham Lynch, daughter of Franklin Graham and senior advisor/ministry spokesperson for BGEA. “There is an immense need for women to know that they are loved and can find healing even in the midst of brokenness. But the cultural change needs to start in the church. God honors women. The Bible honors women. That’s how we’re going to combat gender-based violence—by changing the mindset of men and women.”
“These abuses are among the world’s most horrific, persistent and widespread human rights violations, affecting one in every three women in the world,” said António Guterres, the U.N. secretary-general. “That means someone around you. A family member, a co-worker, a friend. Or even you yourself.
“I call on governments, the private sector, civil society and people everywhere to take a firm stand against sexual violence and misogyny,” he continued. “We must show greater solidarity with survivors, advocates and women’s rights defenders. And we must promote women’s rights and equal opportunities.”
This year’s theme for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women—the start of a 16-day effort—is “Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands Against Rape.” The color orange is meant to signify hope and a brighter future without violence against women.
While some may assume that violence against women is only perpetrated by males, that is not the case.
“There are still practices in the world, like female genital mutilation, that are performed by other women to young women,” explained Cissie.
In fact, the U.N. estimates that 200 million women and girls have undergone FGM. In certain areas of the world, FGM is supported by both men and women, usually without question, and anyone that does not follow the cultural tradition may face condemnation, harassment and ostracism.
Although garnering awareness is important, tangible actions are paramount. The effort presents an opportunity for Christians to offer hope that is also eternal.
“So often we get caught up in social media campaigns without taking action,” Cissie said. “I want to encourage people to find somewhere that they can really help make a change.”
That may mean partnering with life-affirming women’s organizations, volunteering at a local women’s shelter or simply calling up a friend who you know has endured violence. Wherever you go, whatever you do, millions of women around the world are depending on you to fight for them. The time to act is now.
Above: A woman holds a placard during a rally in observance of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on Place des Nations in front of the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.
Photo: Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP