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International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women: 25 November

No Excuse

 No Excuse  ING-048
01 December 2023

“Unprecedented brutality” was meted out on 22-year-old Giulia Cecchettin by her ex-boyfriend Filippo Turetta, on Saturday night, 11 November, according to the description of the arrest warrant’s reconstruction of the facts in yet another femicide in Italy. There have been over 100 since the beginning of the year. The murder took place in the province of Venice, after a dinner in a fast food restaurant. In the darkest of epilogues, the young woman struggled for at least 25 minutes against her attacker, who investigators now point to as the alleged murderer. Giulia was stabbed, chased, thrown to the ground, her body placed into a car and then abandoned in a gully near a lake.

On International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women [25 November], this dramatic ending reminds us that such savagery is a violation of human rights. From femicide to sexual abuse, from early and forced marriages to female genital mutilation — UN Secretary-General António Guterres did not mince his words in denouncing this continuous violence as “widespread, persistent and devastating”.

According to UN estimates, around 736 million women in the world — almost one in three — have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from a man, at least once in their lives, whether from a partner or a non-partner. There is also psychological violence, as highlighted by the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, adopted by the General Assembly in 1993, and it is often not recognized even by the very women who are victims of it. It happens at home, on the streets, in work places and online.

In particular, according to research carried out by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and by UN Women, in 2022, almost 89,000 women and girls were killed intentionally throughout the world, the highest number reported in a one-year period in the last two decades, compared to 81,100 victims in 2021. According to the research, 55 percent of all femicides (48,800) were committed by relatives or partners, which, on average, means that more than 133 women or girls were killed in their own home, each day. Moreover, last year, Africa surpassed Asia in a negative trend, making it the area with the highest number of total victims (20,000) as well as the highest number of victims in relation to the female population (2.8 victims for every 100,000 women).

In his message for the Day, Guterres clearly stated that all forms of violence have their roots “in structural injustice, cemented by millennia of patriarchy. We still live in a male-dominated culture that leaves women vulnerable by denying them equality in dignity and rights. We all pay the price”. The United Nations campaign launched for the occasion focuses on the theme “UNiTE! Invest to prevent violence against women & girls! #NoExcuse”, because investing and preventing are the “solid answers” that are urgently needed in a context in which this scourge has been exacerbated by post-pandemic effects, by war and by climate change. Moreover, according to the UN, it is “worrying” that data on States’ efforts to tackle violence against women and girls remains “limited”: only 5 percent of global government aid is allocated to address violence against women and girls, and less than 0.2 percent is aimed at prevention. Guterres called on “all of us to take action” in order to “build a world that refuses to tolerate violence against women anywhere, in any form, once and for all”.

Also speaking on International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in a country whose outrage and shock at Giulia’s murder resulted in numerous demonstrations, Italian President Sergio Mattarella highlighted that behind the scourge of violence against women, “there is the failure of a society that is unable to promote truly equal relationships between women and men”.

Speaking about the recent episodes of violence against women, Pope Francis emphasized the urgency of educating in respect and care in order to form men who are capable of healthy relationships in society. In an audience with some members of the Italian press, he highlighted that behind every “scoop”, there are feelings, stories, people in flesh and blood who should be respected as if they were our own relatives. Education, respect, closeness — in other words, values. In order to be reminded of their existence, there was the need for the ringing of school bells, of minutes of silence alternated by noise, of vigils throughout cities and villages, of many campaigns and demonstrations aimed at renouncing the violence and providing information on prevention such as the Signal for Help, of the action of civil society and institutions to call for more efficient legislation. But now, as the Day’s theme suggests, there is no alibi that holds, as was also stressed by President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola. When it comes to violence against women, there are no excuses. #NoExcuse.

By Giada Aquilino