Throughout history, there have always been sexual violence committed against physically vulnerable women. Over the past several months, in particular, hundreds of women have fallen victim to violence.
In April, the Nigerian militant Islamist Group Boko Haram leader announced “I abducted about 300 girls. I will sell them in the market.” A month later, a pregnant Pakistani woman was stoned to death by her own family for marrying the man she loved and two Indian teenage sisters were found gang-raped and hanging from a tree. Meanwhile, in California, United States, a man in his 20s sought retribution against women who sexually rejected him and went on a shooting spree, killing 6 people. On June 8, the world was shocked by 27 cases of sexual harassment against women that took place during the swearing-in ceremony of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Cairo’s landmark of Tahrir Square.
Fortunately, though, women in all corners of the world, especially in countries where they had been deprived of their rights due to religious customs and traditions, have begun raising their voices against violence and building international solidary.
In Nigeria, for instance, people took to the streets and rallied to demand the government to rescue the girls kidnapped by militants, chanting ‘Bring back our daughters.’ In Pakistan, a conservative Islamic state, people called on the government to take responsibility and control for and of the most recent honor killing. In India, women protested over the government’s light punishment given to the accused for their involvement in a rape and fatal assault of a 23-year old female. And in the U.S., the latest killing spree ignited a social media conversation about everyday violence and harassment against women, under the hash tag of ‘Yes All Women.’
Against this backdrop, governments across the world have come up with countermeasures. The Indian government which has been notorious for its negligence to protect women from sexual violence introduced stricter punishment for offenders. In the meantime, the country’s high court sentenced four male attackers of the 2012 Delhi gang rape case to death. Moreover, three men convicted of raping a female photographer in Mumbai in April received death penalty, while 24 men charged with raping a teenager who was kidnapped and held for several weeks 18 years ago were sentenced to either life or varying prison terms.
The U.S. is determined to tackle sexual assault in the military in addition to addressing sexual violence at colleges and universities. On May 8, the U.S. senators led by Barbara Boxer introduced a bill that makes ending violence against women and girls a top diplomatic priority.
Regarding a string of sexual assaults on women during celebrations of Egypt’s presidential inauguration, the newly sworn-in Egyptian President Abdul Fatah el-Sisi said “Take every measure available to address the issue,” showing his commitment to combat sexual violence.
On June 10, more than 1200 leaders from about 150 countries gathered at the London Summit on Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict. During the three-day event co-chaired by Angelina Jolie and the UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, representatives discussed, under the motto of ‘Time to act,’ ways to conduct surveys and research on sexual violence in conflict zones and authorize international organizations to monitor and prevent the crime.
Quoting Eleanor Roosevelt in her opening speech, Angelina Jolie said “The destiny of human rights is in the hands of all our citizens in all our communities. We must work together in new and unprecedented ways across borders and religions, bringing governments and people together and tackling the problem from every possible angle.”