Human Rights Are Women’s RightsDecember 09, 2011
“If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights once and for all.”
These simple yet powerful words, spoken in 1995 by then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in an unforgettable speech at the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, are well-known and often repeated around the globe. They remain as important today as when they were first spoken.
In her speech, Clinton further stated, “As long as discrimination and inequities remain so commonplace everywhere in the world, as long as girls and women are valued less, fed less, fed last, overworked, underpaid, not schooled, subjected to violence in and outside their homes — the potential of the human family to create a peaceful, prosperous world will not be realized.”
The 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence Campaign was designed to bring individuals and groups together to fight such violence and discrimination. While the campaign officially ends on International Human Rights Day, we all know that there is no end until violence against women and girls — a violation of human rights — has been eliminated. 2011 was a transformational year for the campaign as people, galvanized by social media, took to the streets in Egypt and Tunisia to claim their basic human rights. On International Human Rights Day, we also commemorate the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 63 years ago.
During the 16 Days campaign, women, men, and communities around the world called for the elimination of violence against women by bringing attention to the overwhelming inequities and depth of suffering of women. The 2011 campaign calendar is a remarkable, inspiring display of worldwide activism that included a variety of activities:
- A purple ribbon campaign, during which volunteers placed ribbons on telephone poles to represent the number of reported spousal assaults and sexual assaults in a one-year period
- The Candlelight Walk to End Gendered Violence and the Reclaim the Night March
- 16 Books for 16 Days, a list of books pertaining to domestic violence, sexual assault, or any type of gender-based violence
- Film screenings of Miss Representation, which explores how the media’s depictions of women have led to the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence in the United States
- Public education seminars and outreach activities focusing on women’s participation in elections and seminars on the linkage between violence against women and violence in society
During the 16 Days campaign, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) introduced bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Violence against Women Act. “Since VAWA’s passage in 1994, no other law has done more to stop domestic and sexual violence in our communities,” said Leahy. “The resources and training provided by VAWA have changed attitudes toward these reprehensible crimes, improved the response of law enforcement and the justice system, and provided essential services for victims struggling to rebuild their lives.”