Today marks the beginning of the annual 16 Days campaign, to end violence against women. Marsha Scott writes on why, as the Westminster austerity measures increasingly start to bite, this campaign remains so important to women in Scotland today.
Today, November 25, is International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and the first day of the annual 16 Days of Activism on Violence against Women. It is a day to mark the centuries of gendered violence experienced by women and children across the world, to celebrate the resistance and strength that so many women and chilren have demonstrated over those centuries, and, perhaps most important, to re-dedicate ourselves and our communities to ending this violence.
The 16 Days stretch from today to December 10th, International Human Rights Day (why, yes, women’s rights are human rights), and includes December 6th, which marks the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre (in Canada, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women).
Every year at this time, large and small events marking the 16 Days are held all over Scotland, matching similar activity all over the globe. As you read this, people around the world are talking about, reading about, meeting about, marching about men’s violence against women.
In Scotland, we have much to celebrate.
- We have a proud history of feminist organising to provide support and advocacy —women helping women to help women.
- We have a strong political consensus, reinforced each year by the debate in the Scottish Parliament each year, and held yesterday.
- We have a 15-year policy history, stretching over both Labour and SNP administrations, of recognising violence against women as a cause and consequence of women’s inequality.
- We have a national strategy, Equally Safe, that provides a gendered, sensible, and sensitive framework for ending violence against women.
We also have so much work to do. In 2014-15 there were 59,882 incidents of domestic abuse recorded by the police in Scotland, an increase of 2.5% from 2013-14. In 2012/13, 1372 rapes and 90 attempted rapes were reported to the police in Scotland. (Statistical Bulletin Crime and Justice Series, Recorded Crime in Scotland 2012-13). In the same period, 7,693 sexual offences were reported. We have no robust estimates of how many women and children in Scotland have experienced female genital mutilation, forced marriage, child sexual abuse, or the other forms of violence against women, but we know the numbers are significant.
In these times of austerity, recession, and increasing economic dependence for women and their families, demand for services rise, women’s resilience thins, and the need for our activism is crystal clear. Let us mark this place in our history by honouring the work and sacrifices of the sisters that came before us, and, most important, let’s get down to the business of ending violence against women. Because in Scotland, it’s so clear that women’s inequality is the cause and consequence of violence against women, that we know exactly where to start.