International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women 2020
Trigger Warning: domestic violence, abuse and rape
Violence against women and girls (VAWG) is one of the most prevalent and devastating human rights violations in the world today. Owing to the impunity, anonymity, stigma, and embarrassment surrounding it, it remains largely unreported.
In general terms, it displays itself in physical, sexual and psychological forms, including:
- Intimate partner violence (battering, psychological abuse, marital rape, femicide)
- Sexual violence and harassment (forced sexual acts, unwanted sexual advances, child sexual abuse, forced marriage, stalking, cyber-harassment)
- Human trafficking (slavery, sexual exploitation)
- Female genital mutilation; and
- Child marriage.
Celebrities are believed to be living the best lives. Often, we all want a life like theirs. Riding in luxury cars, eating at expensive restaurants, living in inexplicably large homes is the dream. However, they are not immune to malevolent acts of violence against women.
Rihanna is a survivor of one one of the most heinous instances of domestic violence. She has often thought of herself as a ‘poster child‘ for victims of domestic abuse. She said: “It’s in the past, and I don’t want to ‘get over it,’ because it’s a very serious thing that is still relevant; it’s still real. A lot of women, a lot of young girls, are still going through it. A lot of young boys, too. It’s not a subject to sweep under the rug, so I can’t just dismiss it like it wasn’t anything”.
Tina Turner is a survivor of the domestic violence that came from her husband, Ike Turner. In an interview with The Daily Beast, Turner said: “Yeah, I hit her, but I didn’t hit her more than an average guy beats his wife. The truth is our life was no different from the guy next door. It has been exaggerated. People buy bad news, dirty news. If she says I abused her, maybe I did.”
Alyssa Milano says she was sexually assaulted as a teen but stayed quiet about it. Thirty years later, she disclosed at a written interview: “It took me years after my assault to voice the experience to my closest friends. It took me three decades to tell my parents that the assault had even happened. I never filed a police report. I never told officials. I never tried to find justice for my pain because justice was never an option,” she writes.
“For me, speaking up meant reliving one of the worst moments of my life. It meant recognizing my attacker’s existence when I wanted nothing more than to forget that he was allowed to walk on this earth at all. This is what every survivor goes through. Telling our stories means being vulnerable to public attacks and ridicule when our only ‘crime’ was to be assaulted in the first place”.
The lyrics in pop star Lady Gaga’s song, “Til It Happens to You”, detail how devastating the consequential events of having survived rape at 19 is: “You tell me it gets better, it gets better in time/ You say I’ll pull myself together, pull it together, you’ll be fine/ Tell me, what the hell do you know? What do you know?” Gaga explained that blaming yourself is a common feeling in many survivors: “Because of the way that I dress, and the way that I’m provocative as a person, I thought that I had brought it on myself in some way,” she said. Gaga relayed it took years of therapy for her to stop feeling ashamed and finally heal.
“The UAE has been taking strong measures to introduce protective rights for violence against women. In the revised law, it not only protects couples and their children, but also any of the partner’s children from previous marriages, the couple’s parents, fourth-degree relatives, and fostered members of the family,” said Dr. Hassan Elhais, a legal consultant from Al Rowaad Advocates and legal columnist for The National. “It’s important to clarify that this law added one more layer of child protection, as it has been already provided as part of the country’s child protection law”, he said.
The indecency laws, harassment crimes including ‘honour crimes’, and others, have been issued to show the country’s commitment to and belief in principles that are as per the UAE’s cultural identity. Some of the laws include
- Death penalty for indecent acts with a minor
- Honour crime to be treated as murder
- Expats’ inheritance to be applied as per nationality
- Marriage laws to be applied as per the country where it took place
Violence against women and domestic violence used to be largely viewed as a personal matter, best dealt with privately within families. It was only in 1993 that the UN General Assembly issued the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Awareness and prevention are not only the need of the hour, but a need to allow the general female population the right to live safely.