Violence against women, unfortunately, is too common of a plight for women around the world. In many countries, women are routinely beaten, raped and treated as property. Violence and the threat of violence keeps women stifled and silent. They cannot move around their communities freely, attend school, or participate in civil society. They live stunted lives, purposely kept uneducated and impoverished. This has a profound effect on the lives of women and girls. Women who are abused not only frequently die or face serious injury because of abuse, but they are at much greater risk of dying in pregnancy, having children who die in childhood, and contracting HIV/AIDS.
No matter where you live, you have certain inalienable rights that should never be taken away. My grandmother always told me that you never hurt somebody you claim to love. This simple but powerful statement transcends cultures. In the U.S. we have worked to curb the horrendous crime of gender-based violence with the Violence Against Women Act. It is critical to promote the principles of protection and justice throughout the world.
A country whose women are oppressed and intimidated by violence is usually not a fully functioning democracy. It is no surprise that some of the most undemocratic and unstable governments around the world are also the most oppressive toward women.
As the leader of the free world, the United States must through example and public policy take a lead on this issue. Women in other countries are working desperately to change the laws and customs in their country that routinely allow women and girls to be raped, beaten, or deprived of any legal rights, even the ability to see a doctor or leave the house alone. They need our help.
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is an important event for citizens of countries around the world to speak out against this crime and make a change in their society. Every human being has the right to a life free of violence. And that’s just the way it is.