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Marching to End Violence Against Women

Category: Africa,World

MADRID — Thousands of people took to the streets of countries around the globe on Sunday, a day set aside by the United Nations to raise awareness of and to protest violence against women.

It was the beginning of a 16-day campaign urging individuals and organizations to fight the kind of violence that will affect more than a third of women globally during their lives, according to the United Nations.

Michelle Bachelet, the former president of Chile and the United Nations’ high commissioner for human rights, said in a video on Twitter: “I support the millions of women around the world who have dared to speak out against violence and harassment.”

Using the hashtags #MeToo, #NiUnaMenos and #NousToutes, she urged women everywhere to keep telling their stories of violence and “to demand accountability and reparation.”

“All of us, women and men, must come together to end violence against women,” she added.

In Madrid, demonstrators seeking to pressure the new Socialist government in Spain to address gender violence held signs reading, “No is No” and “Not one less,” and chanted, “We’re not all here; the murdered ones are missing.”

After reaching Puerta del Sol, the central square of Madrid, they listened as the names of victims were read out. The government calculates that 45 women have been killed in Spain over the past year by their partner or former partner, but the organizers of the protest put the total at 89, including those killed by people outside their own personal circle.

The country has been roiled by recent court verdicts that women say play down the inherent violence in sexual assaults: On Friday, a court in Lleida, in northeastern Spain, cleared a man and his nephew of the more serious charge of sexual assault, the equivalent to rape in Spain, after attacking a woman they had met in a bar.

In a back alley, the men forced her to have sex without her consent, the court was told. They were sentenced to four and a half years for sexual abuse because they were deemed not to have used intimidation or violence, even though the woman pleaded for them to stop.

That case followed another gang rape case this year in which five men were cleared of the more serious charge of rape — after dragging a teenage woman into an alcove, assaulting her and filming the attack with their cellphones during the San Fermín running of the bulls festival in Pamplona.

Because the victim said she had frozen in fear during the attack, the judges sentenced the men for “sexual abuse,” describing her attitude as “passive or neutral,” setting off protests in the streets and a call to revamp Spain’s laws.

Women around the world began marching against gender violence in countries like Chile, Ecuador, France, Greece and Italy even before Sunday. Several world leaders took note of the campaign.

“Gender-based violence harms us all,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada said in a statement. “It affects families, schools, and workplaces — and holds back whole communities from reaching their full potential.”

Antonio Tajani, the president of the European Parliament, put a red mark under his eye on Sunday while speaking at a European Union summit meeting on Brexit.

“It is not normal that it’s normal,” Mr. Tajani said of gender violence, taking out a red crayon and drawing a line on his cheek — a symbol of domestic abuse.

Ireland’s anti-rape laws were also in the cross hairs recently when the lawyer of a man accused of rape cited the underwear worn by a woman as a sign of her consent, igniting outrage across the country.

Amnesty International released a study on Saturday showing that rape laws across Europe were “dangerous and outdated,” with many countries recognizing rape only when physical violence, threat or coercion is involved.

The study said that out of 31 European countries, only eight — Ireland, the UK, Belgium, Cyprus, Germany, Iceland, Luxembourg and Sweden — legally define sex without consent as rape. About nine million women over the age of 15 have been raped in the European Union, according to 2014 European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights data, Amnesty International says.

“Sex without consent is rape, full stop,” Anna Blus, Amnesty International’s researcher on Western Europe and women’s rights, said in a statement. “Until governments bring their legislations in line with this simple fact, the perpetrators of rape will continue to get away with their crimes.”

The U.N. General Assembly passed the “Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women” in 1993. The United Nations has since credited the #MeToo movement for spearheading awareness of entrenched gender violence in countries where the issue had struggled to gain prominence: such as in North Korea, where Human Rights Watch recently released a report on the abuse suffered by women who work as traders; in South Korea, where a prominent pastor was jailed this month for systemic rapes; and in India, where the movement took off with accusations against men in Bollywood and brought down a prominent minister.

The #MeToo movement has also struggled to gain traction in religious circles in China, where a Buddhist leader was accused of sexually harassing at least two female disciples, and in India, where a Catholic bishop in the southern state of Kerala was arrested in September for allegedly raping a nun for years.

The theme of this year’s activism campaign is “Orange the World: #HearMeToo,” with buildings and landmarks lit and decorated in the unifying color to bring global attention to the initiative.

In Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, thousands marched calling for the end to the country’s total abortion ban, where the procedure is illegal in all cases, including when the life of the woman or girl is at risk.

“It’s time for women. It’s our time,” Sergia Galvan, a leader of the country’s women’s rights movement, said in a statement. “Not one more woman condemned to death in a clandestine abortion, not one more woman a victim of violence from the patriarchy.”

This past week, the Catholic Church’s global organization of nuns for the first time publicly denounced the “culture of silence and secrecy” surrounding sexual abuse in the church and urged sisters who have been abused to report the crimes to police and their superiors, according to The Associated Press.

The statement by the International Union of Superiors General, which represents more than 500,000 sisters worldwide, pledged to help abused nuns find the courage to report it, and to help victims seek justice.

“We condemn those who support the culture of silence and secrecy, often under the guise of ‘protection’ of an institution’s reputation or naming it ‘part of one’s culture,’” the statement said.

Raphael Minder reported from Madrid, and Yonette Joseph and Iliana Magra from London.


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