Fifty-six years ago today, three sisters - Patria, Maria Teresa and Minerva Mirabal - made their way along a mountain road in a Jeep between Puerto Plata and Santiago in the Dominican Republic.
As political activists fighting against a repressive regime, they had just visited their incarcerated husbands, when henchmen, on the orders of the Dominican tyrant and dictator Rafael Trujillo, stopped their vehicle. The three women and their driver were taken into a nearby sugar cane field, separated, beaten and then strangled. Their bodies were then put into the back of their Jeep which was pushed off the road to make their brutal murders look like an accident.
From that day on, the women would be known as ‘The Butterflies’ in their country and then around the world. For their courageous attempts to highlight a terrible dictatorship, the UN would go on to form the International Day Against Violence Against Women. Almost six decades on, it is a tragedy such a day is still needed around the world.
In England and Wales alone, two women are killed by a partner or ex-partner every week whilst a man who boasted of sexually abusing women has been elected to one of the most powerful offices in the world.
Here, WriteYou asks what can be done to stem the tide of violence against women:
Baroness Lorely Burt, a Liberal Democrat spokeswoman for Equalities in the House of Lords, says that though prosecutions for violence against women reached record levels, this is still not enough and the government needs to introduce more such as compulsory sex and healthy relationship education.
“In a world where information, and mis-information, is at a child’s fingertips, it is vital that children build resilience to allow them to lead healthy, happy lives.”
Peter Sidebotham, a consultant paediatrician in Warwickshire, says that research proves that it is now abundantly clear that living with domestic abuse if always harmful to children.
“At its extreme, this may result in the death of a child, the risks for which may continue even after separation. However, far more children continue to live in households where domestic violence is a part of ‘normal’ family life.”
Emma Smith-Bodie, is a trustee for the Sutton Women’s Centre, sees those women who have been on the receiving end of abuse. She argues that violence against women is an age-old problem around the world which has never been broken: power over and subordination of women.
“The violence taking place against women in the UK is an example of the patterns we see across the world. From removing economic power, self esteem and confidence, to removing dignity and freedom and at its most fatal, removing life.”
David Bartlett of the White Ribbon Campaign UK, which sees men and boys encouraged to take a stand against male violence against women and girls. He says the campaign is about challenging a sense of dominance and superiority over women.
“Let’s be completely clear - this is not and never was a ‘women’s issue’. Just like any other aspect of gender equality, men have to be part of the solution, alongside women - part of creating a culture where male violence, abuse and harassment against women are simply seen as unacceptable.”
Helen Thewlis, a domestic abuse legal expert, works with victims of domestic violence to help them speak out and break the destructive pattern of abuse they are in.
“As surprising as it may seem to people who have never suffered at the hands of someone close to them - be it a partner, adult child or other relative - there are actually a number of reasons why victims often do not speak out straight away, with many failing to discuss their circumstances at all. Some of these reasons boil down to logistics; housing, money, children, while others demonstrate the worrying emotional impact of abuse.”
Sarah Green, co-director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, discusses the media’s importance in highlighting domestic violence issues.
“The journalists who choose to write in this area – and the editors who commission and publish – are making a huge difference to our society’s ability to name and then respond to violence against women and girls.”
Sam Preston, who works in strategy for e-learning and training through SSS Learning, says more frontline support is needed in the fight against female genital mutilation.
“This International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, our organisation SSS Learning, is calling for more support for frontline professionals in the fight against FGM, to ensure that girls can live a life without fear and grow into confident, healthy young women in British society. From nurses, GPs and care workers, to teachers and voluntary sector workers, a united front is imperative to ensure that vulnerable girls do not slip through the net.”
Shirley Bennett, a domestic violence specialist, says men suffering domestic violence is in danger of being swept under the carpet as one in six men will be affected by domestic violence in their lifetime.
"It was revealed earlier this year that the number of women who are convicted of domestic violence has tripled in the last decade. Figures released by the Crown Prosecution Service to Parliament, highlighted that 1,850 women were convicted of domestic abuse in 2006, increasing to 5,641 in 2015.”
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