Human Rights Day 2012: Make Your Voice CountDecember 10, 2012
During the March 1999 U.N. video conference A World Free of Violence against Women, Kofi Annan, former secretary-general of the United Nations, proclaimed:
Violence against women is perhaps the most shameful human rights violation. And it is perhaps the most pervasive. It knows no boundaries of geography, culture, or wealth. As long as it continues, we cannot claim to be making real progress towards equality, development, and peace.
Today, Human Rights Day, is the end of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence campaign. This year’s initiative began on November 25th, International Day for the Elimination of Gender-Based Violence. This critical campaign shines a light on the activism of thousands of organizations and millions of women worldwide who are committed to ending violence against women. There were many positive acts during the campaign; they defied the myth that negotiating war and peace is men’s domain and emphasized the need for women and men to join together to create a world free from gender violence:
- During the 16 Days campaign, young activists in China who call themselves the Volunteers “staged playful but pointed public protests for greater rights for women.”
- Vietnamese musician and gender-rights advocate Pham Anh Khoa was selected as a member of the U.N. secretary-general’s Network of Men Leaders to End Violence against Women, an initiative that supports the work of women around the world to defy destructive stereotypes, embrace equality, and inspire men and boys everywhere to speak out against violence.
- At the United Nations, attention was on the first draft resolution aimed at ending the practice of female genital mutilation. The resolution was introduced by the representative from Burkina Faso on behalf of the Africa Group and was subsequently approved by the necessary General Assembly committee.
Globally, individuals spoke out and made their voices count during the 16 Days campaign. Now we end the “official” effort but not the activism of millions of women and men. On December 10, we recognize Human Rights Day in honor of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which was adopted on this day in 1948 and “sets out a broad range of fundamental human rights and freedoms to which all men and women, everywhere in the world, are entitled, without any distinction.”
As U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon notes in his 2012 address for Human Rights Day,
Over the past century, we have made undeniable progress along the path of inclusion. Yet far too many groups and individuals face far too many obstacles. Women have the right to vote almost everywhere but remain hugely underrepresented in parliaments and peace processes, in senior government posts and corporate boardrooms, and in other decision-making positions. Indigenous people frequently face discrimination that denies them the opportunity to make full use of their guaranteed rights or fails to take account of their circumstances. Religious and ethnic minorities — as well as people with disabilities or those with a different sexual orientation or political opinion — are often hampered from taking part in key institutions and processes. Institutions and public discourse need to represent societies in all their diversity.
In order to end gender violence and support the rights of women, and indeed all people, the 16 Days campaign spirit must continue beyond December 10. Violence against women violates human rights, and women’s rights are human rights.