The whole world, particularly those devoted to women’s affairs, celebrate 25 November each year as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
As the date approaches, many questions come to mind, including, what is the story behind this day, why does the world call 25 November “Orange Day”, and what are the latest statistics and analyses about violence against women?
The day was made official by the United Nations through a 1999 General Assembly resolution. There is historical significance to the date, as it was the day the three Mirabal sisters, political activists from the Dominican Republic, were assassinated in 1960.
Since 1981, activists from the Latin American and Caribbean Feminist Encuentros have celebrated the day to combat, and raise awareness about, violence against women.
What is the story behind announcing 25 November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women?
There were three sisters whose names were, Minerva, Maria, and Patria Mirabal who were called the “butterflies”. They were living in the Dominican Republic that was obsessively controlled by the cruel dictator Rafael Trujillo.
He had no tolerance for opposition; those who did were either imprisoned or murdered by unknown assailants. Trujillo was responsible for the murder of 50,000 people. Meanwhile, the three sisters did not hide their opposition to his policy.
Furthermore, throughout his regime, he used to employ scores of “beauty scouts,” to scour the countryside for young girls, often very young, for him to romance, kidnap, or rape.
The three sisters’ story began with him, when he invited the Mirabal family to attend a public occasion, which they indeed went to, and where he asked to dance with Minerva.
It was not surprising that he tried to sexually harass her, but she stood up to him and slapped him in his face, but unfortunately, shortly after, her father was imprisoned then died after leaving prison by a few days.
Since then Minerva formed with her sisters an opposition movement against Trujillo’s regime.
Furthermore, they distributed flyers about the people murdered by the Trujillo regime, in order to inform the public about its violations.
But unfortunately, they were declared terrorists and traitors by Trujillo, and were arrested many times under the charge of dividing the unity of the country.
After that, the women were released, though not to return to life again for long, as they were to meet their last fate.
On 25 November 1960, Minerva, Maria, and Patria Mirabal were brutally murdered.
Trujillo’s regime beat them to death with sticks, shoved them in the back of a car and threw them off a cliff, to make it appear as a road traffic accident. Trujillo thought he could get away with the murder of the Mirabal sisters, just like he got away with the murder of thousands of others, but after this accident, the country fought him and six months later, on May 30 1961, Trujillo was assassinated.
In February 1963, the Dominican Republic elected a democratic government for the first time in decades.
Finally, the fourth Mirabal sister, who had not been murdered, longed to commemorate her slain siblings, turning their home into a museum with their possessions. The story of the three sisters became a source of inspiration for various novels and films.
Another legacy the sisters left, the day of their assassination has become a milestone in the hisotrical struggle of fighting violence against women.
Why do they call 25 November “Orange Day?”
Choosing the orange colour as a symbol for fighting violence against women is the result of a campaign launched by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in 2008 on 25 November to eliminate violence against women, which was named “UNiTE to End Violence against Women”.
Moreover, the 25th of every month of the year has been designated “Orange Day” by the UN secretary general, but what is special about 25 November is that the “orange” campaign, begins on that day and continues until 10 December, which is International Human Rights Day.
This means that the camping takes place through 16 days of Activism to End Violence against Gender-Based Violence (25 November-10 December).
On Orange Day, people wear the colour to spread awareness of the seriousness of violence against women and to urge the world to end its practice.
Also, women’s rights organisations and institutions use the colour orange as a key theme unifying all activities, decorating buildings and landmarks in orange to bring global attention to the issue of violence against women and girls.
Leave No One Behind: End Violence against Women and Girls
This year, the UNiTE Campaign announced that it will mark the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence under the overarching theme, “Leave No One Behind: End Violence against Women and Girls”, reflecting the core principle of the transformative 2030 agenda for sustainable development.
Violence against women in numbers
Worldwide, one in three women have experienced physical or sexual violence, mostly by an intimate partner, according to WHO’s global and regional estimates of violence against women in 2013.
Furthermore, globally, one in two women killed were killed by their partners or a family member in 2012, according to the global study on homicide by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in 2013.
On the other hand, two thirds of countries have outlawed domestic violence, but 37 countries exempt rape perpetrators from prosecution when they are married to or subsequently marry their victim, according to the World Bank Group in 2016.
Moreover, in some countries, up to one third of adolescent girls report their first sexual experience as being forced, according to UNICEF in 2014. Also, between 45% and 55% of women have experienced sexual harassment since the age of 15 in the European Union, according to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, 2014.
Furthermore, three out of four trafficked women and girls are sexually exploited and 71% of all trafficking victims worldwide are women and girls, according to the UNODC in 2016.
Unfortunately, at least 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM) in 30 countries where representative data is available. Meanwhile, in most of these countries, the majority of girls underwent FGM before the age of five, according to UNICEF in 2016.
Almost 750 million women and girls alive today married before their 18th birthday, meanwhile, four in ten girls in west and central Africa married before age the age of 18 and about one in seven were married, or in union, before age 15, according to UNICEF in 2017.
Though the numbers may be surprising to most people, they are an indicator, perhaps catalyst, for the whole world to unite and face violence against women.