Violence against women and girls continues unabated in every continent, country and culture. It takes a devastating toll on women’s lives, on their families, and on society as a whole. Most societies prohibit such violence – yet the reality is that too often, it is covered up or tacitly condoned.
Gender-based violence both reflects and reinforces inequities between men and women and compromises the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims. It encompasses a wide range of human rights violations, including sexual abuse of children, rape, domestic violence, sexual assault and harassment, trafficking of women and girls and several harmful traditional practices. Any one of these abuses can leave deep psychological scars, damage the health of women and girls in general, including their reproductive and sexual health, and in some instances, results in death. Violence against women, in general, has been called “the most pervasive yet least recognized human rights abuse in the world” and domestic violence, in particular, is viewed as the most under-reported phenomena in society.
Eliminating violence against women remains one of the most serious challenges of our time. Lack of awareness, poor reporting mechanisms, lack of faith in investigative and disciplinary systems and a dearth in services to victims have all impacted on government organizations as well as NGO’s and their partner agencies’ ability to prevent and respond effectively to sexual exploitation and abuse.
All of us have an obligation to protect women from violence, to hold perpetrators accountable and to provide avenues of redress, justice and remedies to victims. Compounding the abuse is the culture of silence around domestic violence. This silence becomes part of the violence, reinforces its harm and adds to the isolation. Zonta Club of Cebu II reiterates its commitment to end the silence and stand united against domestic violence.
The series of fora, with the theme, “Ang Dangoyngoy sa Kahilum” involves the participation of key and focal personnel, front liners and first responders who are charged with recognizing initial signs of abuse. The forum also aims to ensure that these front liners and first responders can confidently and proactively take measures to prevent and respond to the problem of domestic violence, including dealing with individual allegations from the moment of receiving a complaint to closure of a case.
The first forum in the series was held in celebration of November 8, 2011 as Zonta International Day and showed women of all ages what to look for in an abusive situation, to give them the tools to get out safely. Zonta Club of Cebu II worked with schools to equip guidance counsellors and to create curricula so that young women and men in our community know, without a shadow of a doubt, that domestic abuse is never OK — and that there are ways to resolve conflict without resorting to physical violence and thus raise the level and accuracy of awareness about domestic violence, why it happens, and its negative consequences for women, men, children, and the community.