IFJ Backs International Call for Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls on November 25

The International Federation of Journalists `Gender Council marked the International Day for the elimination of violence against women by recording an increase of violence in 2012 and joins the call for the elimination of all forms of violence perpetrated against women and girls. While the number of women journalists joining the profession continues to rise, so does the level of violence aimed against them.

UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, refers to it as a "pandemic", and quotes the horrifying statistic that 70% of all women will face some form of violence in their lifetimes.  "Violence against women harms families and communities across generations and reinforces other violence prevalent in society."

Sadly, the rise in violence on all levels seems to go hand-in-hand with the increase of violence against women journalists. Last year, for the first time, the twin stigmas of culture and profession were broken when a few highly publicised cases of sexual assault against journalists took the lid off the subject for the first time. More victims have been coming forward to speak about these crimes, often used to intimidate and silence, or as a ‘tool of war.'

This year, the IFJ Gender council has heard from local journalists unions and activists of the rise in domestic abuse across Eastern and Southern `Europe as the credit crisis creates more and more jobless, and more frustration. In Greece, we have heard that as domestic abuse increases , the cuts to infrastructure leave many of these women further victimised, as support structures disappear. In Mexico, where thousands of those killed through domestic violence each year effectively disappear in terms of even statistics, as their deaths are often recorded as ‘accidents'.

In Spain, local journalists unions are worried about the increases in domestic violence, and the stereotypical way this is portrayed. They are calling on journalists to be better informed about gender violence and the visibility of women, beyond those as victims, in the media.

In the UK and Macedonia, there are reports of bullying hiding behind their computer screens to harass, sexually harass and attempt to intimidate and silence through the use of social media, and unions are fighting back. In Serbia, women unions` leaders are threatened and harassed by private media firms to try to stop them from exercising their basic, human right to form and join unions.

Reports from Iran indicate that female journalists, bloggers and human rights activists are on hunger strike because of sexual attacks and abuse during a prison inspection, while female jailers looked the other way. Female journalists live under added pressure, risk and danger of assault and sexual assault, as well as loss of civil liberties and human rights, as all rights can be stripped away when summoned by the intelligence forces.

In Nepal, where there is a disproportionately low number of female journalists, the rise of physical violence has the severest impact. Women journalists are seen as ‘easy targets' and the local union reports attacks ranging from intimidation to physical violence and murder, with extreme situations like in Terai, where in one 3-month period, 70% of female journalists left the profession, due to fear.

The IFJ and its Gender Council believe it is long past due to end this social disease of fear, intimidation and violence that impacts so many women.

The International Day against violence targeting women was established to honour female activists who sacrificed their life to female dignity, namely
the three Mirabal sisters from the Dominican Republic who were murdered for standing up - regardless of the fear.