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Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Designated an international United Nations observance in 1999, the day commemorates the deaths of three sisters, Patria Mercedes Mirabal, María Argentina Minerva Mirabal and Antonia María Teresa Mirabal, who were assassinated on this day in 1960 in the Dominican Republic, on the orders of the Dominican ruler Rafael Trujillo. They were activists fighting the dictatorship of Trujillo.

Beyond commemorating the deaths of the Mirabal sisters, the day has become an occasion for governments, international organizations and non-governmental organizations to raise awareness of violence against women in general. Events on the day include public rallies, fundraising activities and more.

According to World Bank data, women aged 15-44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war and malaria.
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In an attempt to raise awareness of the plight of women who have been victimised and abused, the United Nations have released a fact sheet sharing information information on the situation worldwide, and it’s quite a sobering read. According to the fact sheet, an astonishing 70% of all women is subjected to violence sometime in their lives, with the most common form being physical violence inflicted by an intimate partner. Percentages of women subjected to sexual violence by their partners range from 6% in Japan to almost 60% in Ethiopia.

Globally about half of all women who are murdered die at the hands of their current or former husbands or partners.

It is estimated, furthermore, that one in five women become victims of rape or attempted rape in their lives, leaving them with devastating physical and psychological scars. These numbers rise shockingly in conflict situations, where women of all ages suffer sexual abuse from soldiers and rebel forces. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, an average of 36 women and girls are raped every day, with more than 200 000 women having been sexually violated since the country fell into a state of armed conflict.

This is just the the tip of the iceberg, and the fact sheet includes many more horrifying facts.

And amazingly, many of the perpetrators go unpunished. In the words of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, “Women and girls are afraid to speak out because of a culture of impunity. We must fight the sense of fear and shame that punishes victims who have already endured crime and now face stigma. It is the perpetrators who should feel disgraced, not their victims.”

On this day, join the millions of men and women worldwide who say enough is enough – join the Say NO to Violence Against Women campaign’s global call to action. Every voice of support matters.

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