International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls

Friday 25 November 2022 marks the International Day for Ending Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) which starts 16 days of global activism. This year’s theme is “Unite! Activism to End VAWG” 

Here in the UK, VAWG continues to be the most pervasive violation of human rights.  The cost-of-living crisis is exacerbating the problem as poverty traps increasing numbers of women and girls in situations where they are exploited, oppressed and abused. Migrant women with no recourse to public funds are not protected by the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 and are therefore particularly vulnerable.

VAWG is a global issue: over the last few weeks in Iran, several young women have been attacked or killed while protesting against laws which forbid them to remove their hijab in public, and there are reports of systematic rape used as a weapon of war in Ukraine. The UN has reported a global increase in VAWG since the pandemic, with 45% of women disclosing that they or someone they know has been subjected to violence.[1] There is also an increased backlash against global initiatives to end VAWG, including several countries backing out of the Istanbul Convention. Around the world, a woman or girl is killed by a partner or family member every 11 minutes.[2]

We know that women with a religious faith can face additional barriers when trying to escape abuse in the home.  The “Keeping the Faith Report”[3] highlighted the fact that survivors with a religious faith found that their needs were not met by statutory services, who did not understand their faith needs,  or by their faith communities who did not understand the abuse they were suffering. They may also be subjected to spiritual abuse; the perpetrator manipulating and exploiting the victim’s faith in order to control them. [4] sometimes with a twisted and weaponised version of scripture.

The dignity of all people is at the heart of Catholic Social Teaching, and Pope Francis calls us to unite to end violence against women and girls. He has said that “to hurt a woman is an insult to God” [5] He has also spoken of the importance of supporting women who have been subjected to violence and ill treatment[6]

If you would like to join in this call to action, the following organisations may be of help:

UN Women Action Guide:

Women’s Aid

Welsh Women’s Aid

Safe in Faith (Caritas Westminster)

National Domestic Abuse helpline 0808 2000 247

Live Fear Free Helpline (Wales) 0808 80 10 800

 Galop: 0800 999 5428

Rape Crisis: 0808 802 9999

End Notes

National Board of Catholic Women

The National Board of Catholic Women brings together women from many different backgrounds. Working nationally and internationally to challenge discrimination and promote the right of women to gender justice. The Board actively promotes the presence, participation and responsibilities of Catholic women in the Church and society. The Board works ecumenically, with women of other faiths and secular groups. There are also many member organisations that bring their expertise, interests and networks to the wider Board. The Board is a consultative body to the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales and the United Nations Social and Economic Committee (ECOSOC). In 2020, after many years of addressing VAWG issues as part of their other work, and responding to a growing need, the Board created a new committee to focus solely on issues relating to Violence Against Women and Girls to sit alongside their other key work areas. More information can be found on the NBCW website.

Caritas Social Action Network

Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN) was established by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales to develop the Church’s social action in these parts of the United Kingdom, sharing in the mission of the Catholic Church where England and Wales can be places where every person is fulfilled in their families and communities, living with peace and human dignity. The small national team, based in London, seeks to animate and co-ordinate Catholic charitable activities, and to bring the voices of the poor and Catholic teaching to bear in guiding public policy. The network includes Catholic dioceses and professional organisations committed to the principles of Catholic Social Teaching.  Their work includes community and specialist support for families and children, the elderly, people who are homeless, refugees, the disabled, and prisoners.  They draw on deep and lasting connections of volunteers and staff with their neighbourhoods. More information can be found on the CSAN website.

[1] UN Women 2022

[2] UN COD 2020 

[3] Faith and VAWG Coalition 2020

[4] Domestic Abuse Act Statutory Guidance 2022

[5] Pope Francis, Homily 1st January 2022

[6] Amoris Laetitia 2016