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Rising up

Pakistani women gather to talk about how to stop violence against women. Photo by uusc4all on flickr.
14 February 2013
Pakistani women gather to talk about how to stop violence against women. Photo by uusc4all on flickr.

SUSAN HARRIS-RIMMER outlines why this Valentine's Day women and men around the globe are rising up for global gender justice.

In the last 12 months, violence against women and girls has hit the headlines over and over. Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl shot to stop her campaign for girl’s education, but not silenced; Jill Meagher, abducted from a busy Melbourne street, raped and murdered; Jyoti Singh, Indian student whose brutal rape on a bus and death sparked national anger and global attention; and Victoria Soto, the US school teacher shot protecting her young students at Sandy Hook Elementary in the US.

Today, we will be rising for them, and for the millions of women and girls caught up in conflict in Somalia, Syria, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Mali, Papua New Guinea, Mexico, South Africa, Columbia, Timor Leste and all over the globe whose names we will never know. They too deserve justice and protection.

The ONE BILLION RISING campaign is a global call to action based on the staggering statistic that one in three women on the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. With the world population at seven billion, this adds up to more than one billion women and girls.  The pain, the loss, in every sense, and the social damage represented by that terrible figure of one billion is almost unfathomable to contemplate. 

We know violence against women is endemic in our region and undermines the economic and social development of states.  No state can prosper while half its population lives oppressed by fear of violence or rape. We know violence against Indigenous women and girls in Australia remains a scourge. We know domestic violence exists in every community, in every social strata across Australia. And we know this violence costs the nation dearly on every measure – economic, health, productivity, social, education, and intergenerational impact.  Australia has a National Action Plan, but pressure must be applied for the resources to deliver it.   

And so The Australian National University is hosting an ‘uprising’ event in Canberra in support of V-Day’s One Billion Rising Event to stop violence against women and girls. This Valentine’s Day, academics, students and the Canberra community are standing in solidarity with Canberra’s anti-violence organisations including the Domestic Violence Crisis Service, White Ribbon, Rape Crisis Centre, Women’s Legal Centre and many more to raise awareness of this crucial issue and say ‘enough’.

What does it mean to join an ‘uprising’?  By both gathering in person and using social media, ANU will join activists, writers, thinkers, celebrities, and women and men across the world. We express our outrage, demand change, strike, dance in the Union Court and Garema Place, and rise in defiance of the injustices women suffer, demanding an end at last to violence against women and girls in Canberra, in Australia, in our region and globally.

If it sounds a bit radical, that’s because it is.  There is nothing inevitable about violence against one billion women and girls, and this fact deserves a serious policy response.  Imagine the global reaction if this same number of one billion people were hit tomorrow by a pandemic or a terrorist attack.  Services and justice for survivors of gender-based violence is crucial, but we are rising to prevent the violence occurring in the first place. That means valuing women and girls. That means challenging the way we think.  And I believe it can be done.

Campuses have always been a place to call for justice.  It is O-Week, and Valentine’s Day. Come join an uprising.

On 14 February 2013, at 1pm, The Australian National University will join with activists around the world for ONE BILLION RISING, the largest day of action in the history of V-Day. V-Day is the global activist movement to end violence against women and girls. For more detail, visit www.onebillionrising.org and www.vday.org

Dr Susan Harris Rimmer is the Director of Studies at the Asia Pacific College of Diplomacy in the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific, and a member of the ANU Gender Institute. Her research covers gender, human rights law and international law.

This article was originally published in The Canberra Times.


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