Today, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women marks the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign during which women’s organizations around the world will create media campaigns, protests, events, and statements that underscore the vital importance of the struggle to end violence and injustice that women face around the world.
To kick off the week, here are seven things the world can do to end violence against women, from a publication of the same name that we released last year in collaboration with the World AIDS Campaign, International Aids Women Caucus (IAWC), and Women Won’t Wait.
Policies, programmes, and laws that uphold women’s rights and work to end gender inequality are urgently needed at local, provincial and national levels to protect women and girls from all forms of violence, including sexual abuse or coerced sex and its consequences, such as HIV infection. Continuous advocacy, strategic investment, political will, and committed leadership are essentialto addressing violence against women and HIV and AIDS.
- Establish and implement laws, programmes, and policies for zero-tolerance of abuse and violence. Political, civic, traditional, religious and other leaders should publicly condemn all forms of sexual harassment, abuse, and violence and initiate and implement laws, programmes, and policies that guarantee the fulfillment of the human rights of women.
- Make health services available. Sexual and reproductive health services that are adequately equipped to screen for and respondto violence against women should be offered to all women, adolescents, and girls and encompass information and services for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatmentof sexual violence, unwanted pregnancy, and STIs, including HIV. To ensure that these services are accessibleto young women, they must be affordable, non-judgmental, confidential, available outside of school hours, and accessible without parental consent requirements. These services should be available to all women outside of normal working hours, providing for a 24 hour service.
- Integrate Emergency Health Services in public facilities. Emergency services such as Post Exposure Prophylaxis, emergency contraception, and referrals to safe abortion services should be available in hospitals, clinics and public facilities such as police stations.T services must ensure confidentiality, and be accompanied by counseling and special/ private rooms for consultation and rest.
- Guarantee comprehensive sexuality education. Comprehensive sexuality education in schools whichis factual and non judgmental should be available to all students, beginning in the primary levels. Such education gives young people information about their rights, their bodies, their sexual and reproductive health, and their sexuality.It helps them develop the skills to negotiate safe sex, establish gender equality, respect the right to consensual relationships, and end violence and coercion.
- Conduct awareness and education campaigns. Awareness and prevention messages about violence against women and HIV should be effectively promoted.
- Create safe spaces for girls inside schools and for women in their communities. Schools, youth programmes, and communities must have clear policies and interventions to preventand punish all forms of violence and abuse, including harassment, in these settings.
- Train health care providers and provide comprehensive services. Health care providers should be trained to recognize and treat emotional, physical,and sexual abuse among women and youth andto screen for violence among women, including providing referrals and confidential, non-judgmental counseling. Health care providers should routinely offer STI and HIV counseling and testing, emergency contraception, and post-exposure prophylaxis to prevent HIV infection. Women, including young women, should also receive pregnancy counseling and testing, and safe abortion services if desired.