Violence against Egyptian women has received extensive coverage in the newspapers, accompanied by numerous online testimonials. Without looking too closely at the headlines, the sheer volume of stories might have led a casual observes to believe that the media had taken a keen interest in observing the everyday life of Egypt’s street children. In fact, one would have been justified in concluding that there was now an acknowledgement of the prevalence and near normality of sexual violence that very young children live through in towns and cities here every night.
Today, November 25, is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. According to the United Nations, more than a third of women and girls worldwide experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. In some countries the proportion is at two thirds. More than 130 million girls and women have undergone female genital mutilation. Child marriage is even more pervasive, with 700 million women living today who married as children. In Africa and South Asia, close to half of girls still marry before the age of 18. These practices are declining, but only slowly.
The widespread negative effects of violence against women have been documented, including in the recent World Bank report Voice and Agency: Empowering Women and Girls for Shared Prosperity. Complications related to pregnancy and childbirth lead 70,000 adolescent girls to die each year according to UNFPA’s State of the World Population report.
“Despite all the work that we have been doing, the number of women reporting domestic violence cases has been increasing,” one of the participants in a workshop of the Safer Municipalities project said, expressing his frustration. The Safer Municipalities project is an initiative of the Government of Honduras aimed at preventing violence nationwide. He added, “There must be something missing in the services and referral system we offer for domestic violence in the Municipal Office for Women.”
As the facilitators of the workshop discussion, we replied that quite the opposite was true: an increase in the reporting of domestic violence cases is a positive sign that there is growing confidence in local institutions and a result of the Municipal Office’s efforts. The challenge, we explained, is to address the causes of violence to better support prevention efforts and improve services and response systems.
For nearly a month, I have not read a single newspaper without an article on the harassment of women in the public space and transport. In newspaper articles across the world, there is a brewing sentiment echoing the story of violence that a woman recently faced on a bus in Delhi.