This Thursday marks the 15th anniversary of the start of V Day, a global movement to stop violence against women. This year, activists are looking to simultaneously mobilise groups of people in cities across the globe on V Day as part of the One Billion Rising initiative.
V Day (which stands for Victory, Valentines and Vagina Day) was started by playwright and Vagina Monologues creator Eve Ensler on Valentines Day in 1998. The aim of the initiative is to “stop violence against women and girls, including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation (FGM) and sex slavery.”
The subsequent movement One Billion Rising began on V Day last year after Ensler caught wind of a UN report that stated that 1 in 3 women–i.e one billion women—will experience some sort of violence or abuse (including sexual) in their lifetime. This year, more than 13,000 organisations in 176 countries will take part in One Billion Rising to fight against the horrific commonality with which violence is perpetrated against women.
The staggering statistics of how many women face violence during their lifetime coupled with the fact that so many countries worldwide are looking to participate in this movement highlights that violence towards women is an occurrence that takes place regardless of geography, nationality and, often, socio-economic status.
Just over a year ago, The Huffington Post published an article labelling violence against women a global pandemic, arguing that the jawdropping frequency of violence against women is perpetuated by so-called "accepted" misogyny apparent in cultures all around the world.
The article noted some disturbing facts about violence against women which demonstrated just how much of a global, rather than regional, problem this really is (the World Health Organisation also has very detailed statistics about the prevalence of violence against women);
In the United States, one-third of women murdered each year are killed by an intimate partner.
In South Africa, a woman is killed every six hours by an intimate partner.
In India in 2007, 22 women were killed each day in dowry-related murders.
In Guatemala, two women are murdered, on average, each day.
Honor killings, the murder of women for bringing shame to their families, happen all over the world, including the US.
The rape and murder of a 23 year old student on a bus in Delhi late last year led to massive public outcry about the way women are treated in public and the leniency with which perpetrators of sexual violence are dealt with. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, a woman is raped every 22 minutes in India. Noting the fervent public discourse and outrage about attitudes and violence towards women in the country, Ensler was recently quoted as saying ‘In India, One Billion Rising is at the centre of the biggest breakthrough in sexual violence ever seen,’’.
It categorically goes without saying that the increase in reported crimes against women in India must be addressed but there is an overriding issue at play too and that is that women’s rights are, in many parts of the world, largely undervalued. For every ‘save the girl child’ campaign, for every SlutWalk protest, there is piece of legislation passed or overturned somewhere which further infringes upon women’s rights, whether its reproductive rights policy in the US or sexual violence laws in India.
The tricky part about dragging injustices against women into the spotlight is that, these days, many people tend to focus on each individual case where a woman’s rights have been violated, rather than the overriding issue. There is also a train of thought that believes that the fight for women’s rights has largely been won, so it’s time to move on and that these days, labelling oneself a feminist just ain’t so cool anymore.
When women cannot go to the pub/walk home/catch a bus without the threat of assault or sexual violence, there is a problem. When the choice of clothing worn by the victims/survivors of sexual violence is called into question and receives more condemnation than the perpetrator, there is a problem. When a 14 year old girl is shot in the head for stating that her female peers have a right to an education, there is a problem and that problem is not relegated to any one corner of the Earth, it is a matter with frightening global pertinence, which is why global calls to action are so vital.
By calling on people all over the world to mobilise and peacefully protest oppressive attitudes towards women, V Day and One Billion Rising are advocating and attempting to bring about a systemic attitudinal shift.
In South Asia, the designated time for rising is between 13:00 and 18:00 local time. There are countless events happening thorughout India in the lead up to V Day and on the day of. Check the website for a complete listing of events happening nationally and get a sneak peek of what's planned by watching this video below: