16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence are days dedicated to raising awareness, taking action and reflecting on projects combatting gender-based violence. During this time, while learning about progressive legislations and case laws on women’s rights in South Asia, signing petitions to free women human rights defenders, and taking part in safety audits to create safer public spaces, we pause to reflect on some of the news that has dampened the optimism elicited from these campaigns.

It often feels like the global women’s movement is taking two steps forward and being pushed one step back. This year, women in France and Iceland responded to the gender pay gap by leaving work an hour and a half earlier to reflect the 15% wage gap between men and women, while the campaign to elect the first woman as the Secretary General to the United Nations failed. The Association of Women in Development (AWID) paid tribute to fallen Women Human Rights Defenders from around the world, while a 16-year old Argentinian was brutally raped and murdered for simply being a girl. The proportion of rural women receiving pre-natal care has increased 10%, but statistics show that 55% of victims of forced labour and 98% victims of sexual exploitation are women. Advancement for and atrocities against women exist simultaneously in this increasingly complex world.

Yet, women around the world continue fighting on the path for equality. Today, while women are awarded equal rights to vote, work and live their life to its highest potential, they are still fighting for their basic rights, for example the right to be in public spaces at night. Not only are women struggling against some of the same issues they were battling thirty years ago, they are also addressing more nuanced issues like equality in digital spaces. There is no contesting that progress has taken place as a result of these protests, but the work is not done. In fact, there are some who consider that we have made so much progress that men are now the victims of law, whereas statistics show that 26 gender-related crimes take place every hour in India, one of the fastest growing democracies in the world. Women’s movements continue to address various issues, from identifying intersections of caste and gender bias or demonstrating how personal violations arise from deep-rooted discriminatory beliefs to questioning gendered stereotypes and what it means to be a woman.

To recognise the progress from these struggles, iProbono developed its own 16 Days of Activism social media campaign, featuring legislation, case law and relevant statistics about gender-related issues in South Asia. Legal aid is a constant challenge for survivors of gender-based violence, who deal with social stigma, discrimination and misinformation in their fight for justice. Therefore, the campaign’s intention was to spread awareness across the region in particular to women and sexual minorities who seek legal assistance or are looking to understand the laws.

With every success, there seems to be additional issues of inequality we must address. While the challenges are steep, as we pause to take stock at the end of these 16 Days, we salute all the women who continue this fight towards equality every day.

Shohini Banerjee – Program Analyst, iProbono

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