Many of us have enjoyed the return of live music, large gatherings and international travel, signalling the ushering in of a brighter year ahead. But we cannot embrace this next period of recovery and revitalisation unless we commit to holistically tackling a phenomenon that is holding us all back from progress: gender-based violence (GBV).
Last Friday marked the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls, and it is abundantly clear how desperately recognition and action is needed. The world is facing a number of challenging conditions all of which exacerbate GBV: the ongoing effects of COVID-19, climate crisis, as well as armed conflict and its aftermath. Technology, which continues to make our lives more convenient in many ways, has also become a way to perpetuate gender-based violence often without avenue for redress. The ILO estimates forced marriage affects 22 million people, majority women and girls, an increase of 6.6 million in the past six years largely attributed to economic instability during the pandemic. Honour killings, female genital mutilation, forced abortions and forced pregnancies still occur around the world and continue to signal that women and girls are not an equally valued part of our present or future.
Hong Kong fares no better in this regard. A survey earlier this year noted that more than one in three women in this city has experienced violence -- on par with global prevalence rates. More than a quarter of respondents faced intimate partner violence and over 80% said that it changed their well-being and lifestyle. Girls are also vulnerable – 39% and 30% of government-reported rape and indecent assault cases last year involved victims under the age of 16. COVID-19 shed light on forced marriages and we know there are many other forms of GBV that are adversely affecting the livelihoods of women and girls in this city.
At TWF, we have long advocated for stronger protections for women and people of all genders against all forms of violence, and we will continue to strongly push for critical reforms to make our city safer including the passage of the suite of updates proposed by the Hong Kong Law Reform Commission in its “Review of Substantive Sexual Offences”. Our #MakePeopleCount campaign coupled with our resources page enabled individuals to rethink the role of the bystander and reframe sexual violence against women so as not to put the burden on the victim to speak out about their experience but to empower each of us to create a supportive environment so that they can seek the justice and healing they need.
We know there is far more to be done to tackle this complex, multifaceted issue, and awareness raising is a vital first step. To continue this important dialogue, we are inviting you to join us on Saturday, December 10th for a virtual session as we speak with academics and frontline workers around the prevention of GBV, dissect intersectional layers of struggles and challenges for victims, and explore how each of us can contribute towards eliminating GBV from our city. Sign up here.
Get in touch at Fiona.Nott@twfhk.org.