UNMISS launched the 16 Days of Activism campaing. Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today and remains largely unreported due to the impunity, silence, stigma and shame surrounding it. On 25 November to 10 December marks the launch of the campaign for ’16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence’. The 16 days and every month on the 25th day of every month are designated as Orange Day campaign to mobilize the UN system and governments to amplify the impact of the UN Secretary-General’s campaign, UNiTE to End Violence against Women. The world over people are encouraged to wear a touch of orange in solidarity with the cause - the colour symbolizes a brighter future and a world free from violence against women and girls. In UNMISS, the launch of the 16 Days of Activism will be held on 27 November. The programme draws attention of all personnel on the mission’s role to the protection of civilians in line with mission mandate para 7 “(v) to deter and prevent sexual and gender-based violence within its capacity and areas of deployment’. The two-week campaign is an opportunity to raise awareness among all UNMISS personnel on prevention and response of SGBV. This year the South Sudan theme is “Make Peace Count! End Violence Against Women and Girls!”

During the recent 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, the founding director of Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, stated that the Nigerian government needs to create more institutions to address the root causes of gender-based violence (GBV).

The rising levels of sexual, gender-based violence in Nigeria has made many people rise up against such violence. The most common forms of violence against women are sexual harassment, physical violence, harmful traditional practices, emotional and psychological violence amongst others. In neighbourhoods and on the internet, cases of battering or assaulting women are evident, and many civil society organisations have tried to put an end to these forms of violence.

Studies show that the level of exposure to the risk of sexual, gender-based violence varies based on marital status, and that ‘44% of divorced, separated or widowed women reported experiencing violence since age 15, while 25% of married women or those living with their spouses have experienced violence’.

It has been noted that most victims of sexual, gender-based violence keep mute, on the grounds that they should not expose their husbands. These attitudes are informed by cultural or religious beliefs that hold that women must always remain submissive to their husbands and that violence against women is part of the natural order. In some cultures, women are perceived as the property of men hence husbands can do anything they like to their wives.

Research has also shown that the main reason many women keep mute and stay in homes where they are violated is finances. Many who experience such violence depend solely on their men for all their needs. Therefore, they faced with an impossible choice between suffering the pain inflicted on them or potentially losing their homes and having to go out to earn a living. A further consequence of sexual, gender-based violence is that it makes victims lose their self-confidence because the aim of such violence is to intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, threaten or hurt women and girls. It is then easy to see that victims of sexual, gender-based violence are often the least equipped to strike out on their own.

The founding director of WARDC urged government to, ‘implement policies and enact laws, for a stronger national response that can support victims and survivors of violence’. She also noted that, ‘There should be continuous review of the existing policies and laws on GBV in order to accommodate best practices of GBV strategies in nipping the scourge in the bud’.

Source: United Nations Africa Renewal

Photo source: UNMISS

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