It’s time to come together and unite against gender-based violence - Ella Miller

Today is Human Rights Day. This marks the final day of 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence, which has seen campaigners taking action to raise awareness of this issue and call for change.

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The theme for 2020 is “Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect” and this year is arguably one of the most important years for the campaign as the UN estimates an additional 15 million cases of gender-based violence are expected to have taken place. Heartbreakingly, many of these cases will go unreported due to victim blaming, leaving millions of women scared and trapped in unthinkable situations. This needs to change.

Gender-based violence is understood as the targeted emotional, physical and/or sexual abuse against women and girls. It can include anything from name-calling, controlling behaviour, coercion, online abuse, domestic abuse and manipulation to forced marriage, physical abuse and sexual violence. What’s clear to me is that gender-based violence is a major public health, equality and human rights issue. Human rights are non-removable or transferable and are vital to a functioning society. They’re there to protect people from harm and ensure that they are treated fairly and equally. Although progress has been made, we’re still not living in a truly equal world. Woman’s rights are human rights.

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I’m proud to be part of Girlguiding Scotland and the guiding movement across the globe which is committed to ending gender-based violence. This year, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) have been playing their part with the #NotHerFault campaign, highlighting injustices in society where victims of gender-based violence are blamed for the crimes they have been subjected to.

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Girlguiding Scotland’s Girls in Scotland research is also extremely useful in identifying the key areas for change. The 2018 report found 43% of girls know another girl who has experienced controlling or bullying behaviour from a partner, and 22% know another girl who has been threatened with sexual violence. The most recent report published this year found 37% have experienced unwanted attention. Allowing this behaviour to remain unchallenged fuels misogynistic undertones in society, leading future generations to think this behaviour is acceptable.

I’m pleased to see Scotland taking action in this area with key policies such as Equally Safe - Scotland’s strategy for preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls - as well as the Domestic Abuse Scotland Act which criminalises psychological domestic abuse and coercive and controlling behaviour. This is arguably one of the most important and necessary pieces of legislation in the Scottish Parliament’s history. Sadly, the coronavirus crisis has had a devastating impact on woman and girls. Figures by the Scottish Government show there has been a 22.75% increase in requests to police under the domestic abuse disclosure scheme. This proves just how crucial this legislation is to stomping out gender-based violence and sets a precedent for other nations to follow suit.

In a world full of emotion and uncertainty, it can be easy to forget about our rights. On this Human Rights Day we should think about people who aren’t as fortunate and live in a society where rights aren’t protected. We also need to remember people closer to home who have fought for equal rights, as well as those who are still at risk. It’s time to come together and unite.

Ella Miller, GGS Speak Out champion

Girlguiding Scotland is committed to ending gender-based violence

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