Today, the MFWA would like to recognize the importance of women to freedom of expression, as well as the special challenges women activists face on the International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women.
“Freedom of expression facilitates the spread of information, so free expression actors are well situated to raise awareness and change attitudes towards women and violence against them,” said Anjali Manivannan, the MFWA Programme Officer for Free Expression Rights Monitoring and Campaigns. “The protection of women activists is particularly critical due to their generally heightened ability to gather and transmit stories of violence against women.”
Both men and women free expression actors have been attacked for performing their activist functions as reporters. But in addition to facing the same obstacles as male activists, women free expression actors experience gender-based violence that targets them simply for being women. This violence can take many forms, including intimidation, sexual harassment, physical attacks, and sexual violence.
Women are also at greater risk in the home. While men can find sanctuary outside the workplace, millions of women around the world are beaten, abused, and raped by their partners or family members. Thus, it is essential that women have a strong voice to condemn and combat the human rights violations that pervade their personal and professional lives.
It is often difficult to accurately count and assess incidents of violence against women due to cultural—and also professional—norms and stigmas. It is, however, clear that violence against women violates women’s human rights, according to the UN committee that interprets the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), to which all 16 states in West Africa are parties. States parties to CEDAW must take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women and modify social and cultural norms that subjugate women.
“Respecting the right to freedom of expression is one important step towards realizing women’s human rights and facilitating their participation in governance and development,” continued Manivannan. “States must therefore promote this right in accordance with its obligation to take all appropriate measures to end violence and discrimination against women.”
Photo Credit: UN Women