25th of November every year has been set aside by people all over the world to celebrate the international day for the elimination of violence against women. This event started about 40 years back as an effort to centrally re-position discussions on gender-based violence against women. It was not enough that women are physically, emotionally and sexually abused by spouses or partners, or just random men in and out of uniforms, but this hate also extended to activists who protested against this.
In recent years, a couple of activists, especially women, have gone missing following controversial campaigns against femicide or connections to extrajudicial police killings. In Kenya alone, women go missing only to turn up weeks or months later dead.
As the UN stated in its declaration that, “violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women”. These series of violence against women are fostered by unequal power structures erected in the name of patriarchy that privileges men. In a country like Nigeria, it can take the form of policemen raiding a night club to harass and rape prostitutes to an 80 year old man raping a child of 10 years, killing her, and dumping her body in a sewer. News like this are normal, so people turn a deaf ear and go about their businesses.
It can take varying more socially-acceptable forms enshrined in haram capsules like religion and customary laws, like: rape jokes, rape (corrective rape, marital rape, date rape, etc), female genital mutilations, honour killings, supporting a rapist all the name of inane promotion of brotherhood, domestic violence, sex trafficking, birth control sabotage, victim-shaming, dowry killings, child-marriage, etc. These efforts seem never enough, as words that convey this scourge are now so trivialized that they can no longer carry the full graphic brunt of the shades of violence. I mean people can comfortable pay for tickets to attend a show organized by a comedian notorious for rape jokes and objectifying woman.
We need more recollections like this, to the newer generation that there is nothing more progressive than consent, and that there is absolutely nothing to gain from perpetuating and promoting violent practices against women and misogynistic misgivings. Men like the one that ‘advised’ me not to use the ATM at night should be made to know that he needs the advice more than I do. Because it is men like him that make it unsafe for women like me to be wary of using the ATM at night.
Each year comes with a theme, just like a comic con would, but we are not merely marking this event.
This. Is. Intentional.
This year’s 16 days of activism is geared towards a defining result, “Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands against Rape”. Murals will be painted, protests and safety-classes held, and speeches given. But it should be more about the message than the elaborate show of everything.