This year San Valentine’s Day was not only the day devoted to love, but the occasion to dance for a world without violence against women and girls. One Billion Rising global campaign invited women, men, activists and artists to dance, strike, play or perform on 14 February as a response to gender-based violence.
In Brussels, people gathered at Place de La Monnaie to participate in a flashmob organised by One Billion Rising Brussels Europe Platform and the European Women’s Lobby. Participants danced for one hour, among others, the song Rise Up, Stand Up!, created for the global event.
Similar activities took place all over the world showing collective commitment to women’s safety and freedom.
The goal has been to mobilise one billion worldwide, the estimated number of women who suffer from physical or sexual violence in their lifetime; up to 70% of women, according to a UN Women’s survey carried out in 2011.
The campaign has been organised by V-Day, an initiative created by writer and performer Eve Ensler, well-known among women for her activism through her most successful creation, The Vagina Monologues, for which she has also obtained numerous awards.
V-Day means Victory, Valentine and Vagina, and is a global movement demanding a world where women could live in dignity free from violence. It is also a process which already last 15 years and which, according to the organisation, will only culminate once “rape, incest, battery, genital mutilation and sexual abuse against women and girls end”.
Why people dance?
Celebrities have joined this global call to stand beside women because “there are too many victims of violence” assures Ms Fatou Bensouda, lawyer and former Trial Attorney at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR); and, they “don’t tend to speak out”, declares Nicola Adams, London Olympics’ medal winner.
Common people, in particular women, have risen up because they feel too vulnerable. Fear takes their freedom away as they do not feel secure when walking on the street, travelling in public transport or doing any other daily activity. Precaution is an additional stuff to take in their handbags. They constantly feel under threat.
Stella Creasy, British Labour and Co-operative politician and MP in the UK, has seen “all too often women who have been let down by the system”; that is why she has strongly supported One Billion Rising campaign.
Gender-violence doesn’t know any limits neither geographical nor cultural or socio-economic, and is a pandemic form of discrimination against women, maintains the United Nations (UN).
Last year two cases of violence against women impacted the public opinion giving visibility to the difficult situation women face every day and opening a global debate on the issue.
In October 2012, Malala Yousafzai (15 years old) was shot in the head for her activism in fighting for girls’ rights to education in Pakistan. Despite the gravity of the injuries, the young activist and blogger survived.
In December a 23-year-old woman was brutally raped and beaten by a group of men in a bus in New Delhi and then died. Immediately after, women mobilised all across India protesting against their daily exposure to abuse and inequality, and denouncing impunity of perpetrators. Women all over the world joined protests emphasizing the constant violation of their basic rights including the discrimination they are subjected to for the only reason of being women.
Statistics and facts show that there is an underlying problem which has to do with how women are seen by men, and to what extent they are respected, valued, appreciated and considered as equal actors in society.
Stop inequality to end up violence
Gender equality is clearly a solution to fight against gender-based violence; however, it is one of the 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which will most probably fail to meet the established targets by 2015.
While inequality exits women will be potential victims of violence, and we will be far behind development and peace. To reverse this reality UN promotes ‘strong laws, backed by implementation and services for protection and prevention’.
To succeed effort from governments, international key actors and the civil society is vital. The civil society has been just dancing for women’s safety. As regards governments’ actions, it will be soon unveiled. Countries will in fact report on the progress made on women’s rights and gender equality at the 57th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women which will take place in New York from the 4th to the 15th of March.
We will then see to what extend governments are committed to dignify women’s life putting an end to both gender inequalities and violence. Meanwhile, we must keep dancing.