Nearly one third of all of the women on this planet have been violently abused. Intimate partner violence is the most common form of harm. This scourge cuts across ethnic, racial, socio-economic, and religious lines, and knows no borders. It happens here, in the United States, and elsewhere.
But violence against women is neither inevitable nor acceptable.The 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence, beginning on November 25, offers an opportunity to renew the global commitment to free women and girls from violence. Whether it happens behind closed doors or as a public tactic of intimidation, this evil affects all of us. Whether it occurs in our own neighborhood or on distant shores, violence against women and girls damages us all - men and women alike, boys and girls alike.
It damages us all because women victims are our mothers, sisters, aunts, wives, coworkers, and friends.Intimate partner violence is a grim tale of physical, sexual, or psychological harm carried out by a current or former partner or spouse.
This includes acts of physical aggression, psychological abuse, forced intercourse and other forms of sexual coercion, and various controlling behaviors such as isolating a person from family and friends or restricting access to information and assistance.
Violence against women is a shocking public health concern. When it doesn’t kill, violence seriously jeopardizes the survivor’s physical and mental health.
Violence by an intimate partner has been linked to many immediate and long-term health outcomes, including physical injury; gynecological disorders; unwanted pregnancy; miscarriage, premature labor, low-birth-weight infants, and stillbirth; sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS; gastrointestinal disorders; chronic pain syndromes; sleep difficulties; post-traumatic stress disorder; depression; eating disorders and suicidal behavior.
Besides health impacts, intimate partner violence affects the economy.
Intimate partner violence can affect a woman’s job earnings, her job performance, and even her ability to keep a job.
Injured women may experience isolation, be unable to work, or to participate in regular activities, including taking care of their loved ones.
A 2004 study in the United Kingdom estimated that the total direct and indirect costs of domestic violence exceeded 223 billion Solomon Islands dollars a year.
Preventing and prosecuting violence against women pays enormous dividends for any country.
Violence against women and girls must be directly addressed and eliminated.
Men need to take responsibility for their actions and to honor the dignity of the women in their lives.
When they fail to do so, criminal sanctions and effective law enforcement are imperative.
I commend the women and men who are fighting for legislative solutions and caring for survivors with compassion.
Sustainable economic and social progress is impossible without the full participation of all of any countries’ citizens.
No nation can be truly free and independent when its women are wounded, shamed, and abused.
Fundamentally, ending the violence means giving our sisters and mothers respect and treating them with the dignity every human being deserves.
That is why empowering the female half of its population is the key to the progress of Solomon Islands.
And that is why my staff and I will be wearing white ribbons and continuing to support locally-led efforts during and beyond the 16 Days of Activism.
By WALTER NORTH
U.S. Ambassador to Solomon Islands