Barely a month after the UN campaign to eliminate violence specifically against women and girls, and less than a year after the stabbing to death of Urantsetseg Tserendorj on her way home from work, Ashling Murphy, was another victim of male violence while out jogging, living her life.
Frankly, women across the world have reached breaking point with the political posturing, campaigns by those in government who failed for centuries to adopt a zero-tolerance stance towards the violation of women. Similarly, society as a whole needs to address the root causes that perpetuate endemic violence against women and girls.
Eliminating such violence should focus beyond protecting them from their partners or strangers. It is multifaceted. Yes, men and boys are also victims of violence, but statistics show that more than 244 women died violently in Ireland in the last 25 years.
And as countless women have been killed and violated within the safety of their own homes, it is no wonder many no longer feel safe anywhere.
But the fight to end discrimination and injustice against women must still begin within the home.
We must also be conscious that children sometimes witness these violent acts, which will affect them later in life. As families are also torn apart, whole communities are affected.
Last December, we witnessed the month-long UN campaign of eliminating violence against women and girls.
Governments, NGOs, women, girls, survivors, male allies and even influencers all came together and pledged to work for the elimination of gender-based violence. Campaigns, virtual marches were all held; together with State commitments to give more funding to women’s groups while the issue was in the spotlight.
But as soon as the #16 Days of Activism ended, the awareness for the need for action, accountability all year round, also seems to have evaporated.
The very loud proclamations around a safer world for women and girls, free from gender-based violence, died the natural death of a news cycle.
Rather than radical action, the most powerful bodies again waited for the next catchy hashtags that the marketing teams would come up with for 2022. Women and girls were again left to navigate an unsafe world that has been plagued with violence against them for centuries.
The need to have a powerful yearly reminder of how women live in a violent world and how they need to be protected can seem extraordinary in 2022.
But no less than Ban Ki Moon, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, thought it necessary to declare: “We must unite. Violence against women cannot be tolerated, in any form, in any context, in any circumstance, by any political leader or by any government.”
Globally, we repeatedly witness armed conflicts where women and girls are routinely subjected to violence ranging from physical, sexual to psychological, perpetrated by both state and non-state actors.
This includes murder, unlawful killings, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, abductions, maiming and mutilation. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the extent of conflict-related sexual violence ranges from 18pc to 40pc among women and girls, and between 4pc and 24pc among men and boys.
In Nigeria and Uganda, for example, there is a forced recruitment of women combatants.
Rape and sexual slavery came under the spotlight with the abduction of more than 200 girls from Chibok, some who are still not reunited with their families, or their fates are still unknown.
In South America and many Asian countries, involuntary disappearance, arbitrary detention, forced marriage, forced prostitution, forced abortion, forced pregnancy, and forced sterilisation are the weapons used against women, and no groups or individuals are held accountable.
Researchers and survivors say sexual violence is used during armed conflict for many different reasons, including as a form of torture, to inflict injury, to extract information, to degrade and intimidate, and to destroy communities. Rape has been used to humiliate opponents, to drive communities and groups off land, and to wilfully spread HIV.
Women and girls have been forced to perform sexual and domestic slave labour and also forced to serve as wives to reward fighters.
Living with the fear of an act of violence being perpetrated against them makes daily life a nightmare for many women.
But the pandemic also saw a rise in violence against women. This was not helped by the lack of adequate funding for women’s refuges in Ireland.
According to a 2020 report by Women’s Aid, 14pc of women here have experienced physical violence by a partner (current or former) since age 15, and 6pc of Irish women have experienced sexual violence. More than 30pc experienced psychological violence by a current or former partner since age 15.
Added to the above are the figures of victims of workplace sexual harassment, which are largely unreported due to settlement agreements.
As many are aware, religion is a tool that is used to violate women and girls through practices like female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriages. In the last year in Zimbabwe, two 15-year-old girls, both members of the Marange sect, bled to death while giving birth as they were denied medical attention due to the beliefs of this sect. The two had been married off to men aged 29 and 60 years and been subjected to sexual violence.
Violence against women and girls also has a cost to the Irish taxpayer.
According to the Courts Service Annual Report 2020, applications to the District Court under the domestic violence legislation increased by 12pc in 2020.
In the same year, gardaí received approximately 43,500 calls to respond to domestic abuse incidents in 2020, a 17pc increase on 2019. Small wonder women in Ireland have felt let down by law enforcement due to a shocking report revealing unanswered domestic violence calls.
The Garda report further states that up to 4,000 criminal charges were made in 2020 for breaches of Domestic Violence Act orders. These startling figures show that legislation, criminal sanctions, and campaigns alone will not eliminate violence against women and girls. There needs to be honesty and accountability among men.