Trade unions from Fiji to the United States signed up to the action known as One Billion Rising organized worldwide on 14 February. Women (and men) were called upon to walk out, dance and rise up to demand an end to violence.
The campaign was based on the statistic that one in three women in all countries will be victims of violence in their lifetimes, as explained by USW International President Leo W. Gerard in this video. http://www.usw.org/media_center/news_articles?id=1301
The actions on V-Day succeeded in mobilizing communities and building global solidarity across borders and races, in focusing on the causes of violence – patriarchy, poverty, corporate greed, environmental degradation, imperialism, religion, militarization, exile, political repression. One Billion Rising ensures that awareness of the issue of violence against women will never be ignored again.
The recent high profile cases of murder in India and South Africa show yet again how pervasive the issue of violence against women is in our societies. Gender-based violence takes many forms – domestic violence, sexual abuse, date rape, child abuse, “corrective rape” due to sexual orientation, gang rape, forced pregnancy, honor killings, acid throwing, female genital mutilation, dowry death, violence and rape in armed conflict, trafficking of women and girls, sexual harassment at work, and the list goes on. Unfortunately in many countries the incidence of violence against women is on the rise, in some cases exponentially. Some say that violence is fed by the economic crisis. But as long as women are sidelined and not taken seriously, violence will continue unabated.
Even the best laws in the world are insufficient to protect women from violence. That is why civil society is taking initiatives such as One Billion Rising, and trade unions are taking up the issue of violence against women as a priority. What trade unions can do is primarily educate their members about domestic violence and respect, work together with and sponsor shelters for battered women, include clauses on violence in agreements, negotiate for leave to address the issues that affect members who are suffering from domestic violence and not least create a culture of zero tolerance of violence.
International Women’s Day, 8 March is just around the corner. The International Trade Union Confederation’s focus this year is on violence, and work will be carried out at the United Nations at the Commission on the Status of Women to create international guidelines on how to combat the scourge of violence against women. We call upon you to take action in your union to educate your members and to fight violence. Send reports about your activities on 8 March or any other day to [email protected] , and please let us know what successes you have had.