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Day 16: Are we further from our goal of peace?

December 10, 2012

The local Geneva press seems not to have caught up with the 16-day world campaign to stop violence against women. At least I have not seen any reference to it although a good number of non-governmental organizations located in Geneva, among them WILPF International,  are actively engaged in this world-wide campaign.

However, on 24 November, the local daily, the Tribune de Genève, printed a short article on a just-released report issued by the Swiss federal office of statistics on violent acts committed in the country: In 2011, 38.1%  of cases of violence registered by the police were domestic.

Stop Domestic Violence campaign poster

While domestic violence decreased between 2009 and 2011 , the cases reported were considerably more serious than in previous years. 

Homicide increased by 8%; The number of injured has decreased by 11.5%, but the number of deaths and victims of attempted homicide or grave corporal injuries has increased by 17%.attempted homicides by 20.4% and grave corporal injuries by 27.3%. 

The 14,881 cases reported in 2011 represent a decrease of 7.3% since 2009 — in numbers. But who knows whether all cases of violations were reported. 

It is distressing that in spite of the many efforts to end the violence against women in their home it continues and increases in severity between partners (53.1%) and ex-partners (28.4%). The article does not specify the sex of the victims, but I think it is safe to assume that the great majority are the women.

These are a few recent statistics for Switzerland, a country that has suffered much less, so far, from the world economic and financial crisis. I have read in the past that at times of unemployment and economic hardship domestic violence rises in both number and severity. 

The future looks bleak and scary, especially as our societies generally have become more violent.  Armed conflicts abound. A US president can announce one evening with pride that “the US has conducted an operation that killed Osama Bin Laden, a person that killed thousands of Americans…”, doing so without legal process.

Presumed enemies and suspected terrorists are targeted and killed by drones, without any process of law. The strong kill and commit all kinds of violence with impunity. Social programmes and aid to the poor are reduced and eliminated while the military thrives and arms sales boom. Injustice and violence is around us. It’s acceptable to hunt, torture and kill the weak and vulnerable.  

There is a desperate need to work against all forms of violence, of which violence against women is one. In WILPF tradition, we have to expose and eliminate the roots of violence in our societies.

By Edith Ballantyne, former WILPF Secretary General and President

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