The United Nations declared in 1999 November 25 as the International Day Against Gender-Based Violence, which would become what is today the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
According to data from the UN, one in three women will experience some form of violence in their lives. We live in a world where being a girl is risky. More than 750 million forced marriages take place among women under the age of 18, and more than 250 million have undergone genital mutilation.
We often forget that there are millions of stories, millions of lives behind these numbers. It’s the reality that millions of women on our planet face. This is a scourge that has been with us through history, taking our lives silently, implicit in the life of every woman.
The United Nations defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women and girls.” UN Women expands this definition as “violence directed against a person because of their gender and expectations of their role in a society or culture.” This is a violation of the fundamental human rights shared by all countries worldwide, regardless of their cultural differences. It’s a type of structural and social violence associated with gender and basic conceptions and perceptions of it in society that crosses all borders.
An important turning point in the treatment and recognition of violence against women and gender equality was the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing, China, in 1995. Some 189 countries unanimously adopted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. This platform recognized violence against women as an “obstacle to the achievement of the objectives of equality, development and peace [that] both violates and impairs or nullifies the enjoyment by women of their human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
It is also present in the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda under Sustainable Development Goal 5, ‘Gender Equality.’ One of its goals is to end violence against women and girls “in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual exploitation and other types of exploitation.”
Women and girls experience different types of violence that can be classified as physical, sexual, and psychological. This also includes threats, coercion, or deprivation of liberty.
Violence is aggravated by countries and cultures. In some, being a woman can be a death sentence. A 2018 study by the Thompson Reuters Foundation looks at the countries where it is most dangerous to be a woman. The top three are:
India: primarily because of sexual violence against them, the danger they experience comes from traditional and religious customs; a higher risk of human trafficking: forced labor, sexual slavery, and domestic servitude;
Afghanistan: in three main respects: violence in conflicts, war, and domestic abuse; the worst access to a health system to ensure women’s health; lack of economic income and discrimination in getting a job.
Syria: After a long nine-year civil conflict, the country ranks as the third most dangerous in the world for women because of lack of access to a good health system; violence in armed conflicts and domestic abuse; sexual violence and harassment; lack of access to economic resources.
To carry out this study, the Thompson Reuters Foundation analyzed various aspects in countries from 550 experts to assess violence against women in those areas. These factors include health, culture and religion, sexual violence, non-sexual violence, discrimination, and human trafficking.
Spain is ranked as one of the safest countries for women and where less violence occurs towards them in most rankings. For instance, in a study by the organization Woman Stats (2019), it is listed as one of the countries where women’s physical safety is highest.
In another leading study that looks at 167 countries, the Women, Peace, and Security Index by the Georgetown Institute for Women (2019), Spain is also one of the best countries to be born a woman. This index assesses eleven indicators that measure how strongly women’s rights and socioeconomic well-being are ensured. In this case, it ranks as the 15th safest country in the world.
Moreover, Spain was one of the leading countries in Europe and the world to adopt the 2004 Organic Law, “Comprehensive Protection Measures Against Gender Violence.” This was a groundbreaking law in Europe and worldwide for defining violence as a structural problem of gender inequality and declaring that public administrations must take comprehensive measures to prevent these acts, raise awareness, and assist victims.
Ferrovial stands against violence against women
Ferrovial is deeply committed to taking action against this social scourge. As such, the company has developed various steps against violence against women by helping to improve society, ensure a society that is free from violence, and promote equal opportunities.
One of the objectives of Ferrovial’s Equality Plan II is to help in the fight against any kind of violence against women and to promote the inclusion and protection of victim workers. One example of this is the Action Protocol Against Gender-Based Violence. This protocol outlines different measures to take to support employees who may be victims of this type of violence.
As another affirmation of its commitment in this regard, the company joined the project, “Companies for a society free from gender-based violence,” which was spearheaded by the Ministry of Health, Social Affairs, and Equality in 2013.
This year, Ferrovial will also carry out an initiative with Zity to donate money to the Candelita NGO, which supports women who have been victims of violence. For every Zity trip, they will donate €1 to this association.
More and more movements across the planet are taking shape to tackle this social issue. There is no doubt that we’ve come a long way, but there is still a long way to go.
One in three women will experience some form of violence in their lives. She’s right next to you: pay attention and take action for this cause.