Gender-based violence is not just a problem for developing countries

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Violence against girls and women is a global problem that we simply can’t ignore. It happens in every country – online, in school, at home and in our communities. 

Globally, 1 in 3 women will experience physical or sexual violence within their lifetime.

The stark reality is this: the United Nations estimates that globally, 1 in 3 women experience physical or sexual violence within their lifetime. This staggering number doesn’t even account for psychological or emotional abuse.

Unfortunately, certain groups are at even higher risk of gender-based violence, including aboriginal girls and women in Canada, who report rates of violence 3.5 times higher than non-aboriginal women.

SEE ALSO: The state of girls’ rights in Canada – girls speak out 

Described as pandemic by the UN, world leaders agreed to take action against gender-based violence with the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women in 1993 – and yet, more than 20 years later, countries are failing to protect their girls and women.

Shock and outrage are not enough

In 2012, the rape and murder of Jyoti Singh, a 23-year-old student in India, sparked worldwide outrage and protests. Recent cases coming out of Brazil (where a 16-year-old girl was gang-raped by more than 30 men), Italy (where a 22-year-old woman was burned alive by her ex-boyfriend), and the United States (where a male student convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious young woman received a brief jail sentence) have again shocked communities and catapulted the issue of violence against women forward.

However, shock and outrage alone will not solve this problem.

Brutal acts of violence are extreme examples of the pervasive forms of gender-based violence experienced by millions of girls and women every day that go unnoticed, unreported – or perhaps more disturbingly, reported but dismissed or downplayed by societies, media and justice systems.

“Extreme violence is at the far end of a continuum that’s based on social norms and attitudes that women are subordinate to men,” shared Nidhi Bansal, the Senior Gender Equality Advisor at Plan International Canada.

When perpetrators of sexual violence on university campuses go unpunished, when celebrities who’ve committed abuses against women and girls continue to be glorified, or when victims are blamed for the violence they’ve endured, it’s a sign of a systemic issue in society.

Quote about gender-based violence.Choose to take action

The visceral reaction we have to disturbing accounts of violence is not enough. For too long, inaction against gender-based violence has resulted in a culture in Canada, and countries around the world, that doesn’t put enough weight on the issue.

“We need to acknowledge and talk with our friends, families, neighbours and colleagues, breaking the silences that shroud violence against women and girls and spreading the idea that any discrimination, abuse and harassment aren’t normal or okay and cannot be rationalized,” shared Bansal.

Acts of violence against girls and women are not simply isolated events – taken together, every case of abuse, every joke made about rape, every lenient sentencing handed down to offenders, is proof that we as a global society need and must do better to prevent violence, and protect the girls and women in our lives.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of violence and is in need of support, help is available. Find a list a services and agencies on the Government of Canada website.

Learn more

Gender-based violence is a violation of every girl and woman’s right to live a life without fear. Learn more about the issue here in Canada, and find out how Plan International is working to end violence against girls and women in developing countries.