Content Warning: Violence, mass murder, mentions of sexual violence.
On December 6th, 2019, Canada will mark the 30th anniversary of a dark day in Canadian history when 14 women were killed merely for existing in a male-dominated space.
Since then, three of Canada’s worst mass murders have been motivated by hatred of women. Canada’s most notorious serial killer complained about being one short of killing 50 women, many of whom are among the 1200+ missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. This past year, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ final report exposed a pattern of persistent and deliberate violation of rights as the root cause behind Canada’s staggering rates of violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people.
Recently, we have seen a worldwide rise of authoritarian and repressive governments, targeting the protections and rights of women, people of colour, indigenous peoples, 2SLBGTQ+ peoples, and other marginalized groups. The rhetoric of these governments has empowered Alt-right and neo-nazi groups. Emboldening them to leave the corners of the internet and society and into the mainstream. Resulting in a series of attacks on a variety of communities that are deemed ‘inferior’ by incels, neo-nazis and the alt-right.
Two years into the #MeToo movement going international, we are still more concerned with what the path of redemption is for those accused or found guilty than supporting survivors. While moves to restorative justice should be pursued, that requires acknowledgement and hard work on reconciliation from the perpetrator, not on rebuilding their career. We are more concerned with if the movement has gone too far than if it has dramatically changed the culture we live in. From women being told to leave a venue instead of Harvey Weinstein to Rumors Comedy Club supporting Louis CK returning to Winnipeg with not only one but six sold-out shows. This ‘comeback’ according to reports includes referring to his sexual misconduct, which he has admitted to engaging in, as a “dirty little secret.” ‘A Secret,’ as he downplays it, that have impacted women’s careers, which he seems to have less regard for than his own.
It is within this context that the 2019 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence begins.
The 16 Days, as it is commonly referred to, originated from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute in 1991. Participants chose November 25th, which is the International Day Against Violence Against Women, and December 10th, which is International Human Rights Day, as the days the 16 Days would run to link gender-based violence with human rights symbolically. There are also a series of important dates falling within the 16 Days. Including International Women Human Rights Defenders Day on November 29th, World AIDS Day on December 1st and The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women on December 6th.
Each year the 16 Days has a theme determined by the UNiTE campaign. Today begins the 2019 campaign Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands against Rape! Bringing forward the reality that women and girls during times of war or peace experience rape, rape culture, sexual violence and abuse. The use of rape and sexual violence as methods of warfare is based on control and power. It allows for an environment that makes such violence permissible and even normalized during times of peace.
Stigmatization of survivors, be it by the justice system, their community or internal beliefs, the lack of impunity for perpetrators, and barriers to speaking out make determining the number of survivors difficult. I can say that the number of people I know personally having experienced sexual violence is far too high for a society lauding itself for its advancements in gender equity. I am also aware, from far too many debates in my interpersonal circles, that that statement may be met with everything from skepticism to outright denial. Because as a society, we are still more concerned with the future of the perpetrator than that of the survivor.
At the beginning of the #MeToo movement in 2017, I wrote a personal piece describing my frustration with yet another hashtag. After #YesAllWomen being met with #NotAllMen and #WhenIWas remaining stagnate in the Twitterverse (it was later revived in 2018), I was not ready to go through another online campaign that resulted in a denial of the lived experience of people. As the movement grew, as journalists like Jodi Kantor, Megan Twohey and Ronan Farrow fought to amplify survivors’ voices. As more and more stories and simple statements flooded my feed, as people began supporting each other in ways I hadn’t seen before, I became less cynical about the movement. I learnt the history of #MeToo, how it is genuinely a grassroots-driven moment from women like Tarana Burke. I grew and remain hopeful about the power of this movement.
This is a year of anniversaries in the international women’s movement, the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the 20th anniversary of Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security and the five-year milestone on working to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We want to build off these anniversaries to combat the growing plague of hatred, patriarchy and white supremacy. To build community and work across groups to fix, rebuild and tear down these broken systems and end the violence they bread.
In this year’s UNiTE campaign overview they state, “In recent years, the voices of survivors and activists, through campaigns such as #MeToo, #TimesUp, #Niunamenos, #NotOneMore, #BalanceTonPorc, and others, have put the spotlight on the issue of sexual violence and have reached a crescendo that cannot be silenced or ignored anymore.”
The goal for us as an organization and myself personally as the co-chair of advocacy is for over the next 16 days and into 2020, we do not let that crescendo die. We amplify it even louder than anyone believes possible. The type of work required to achieve this goal is exhausting and challenging, but it is made so much easier with the support and backing of the feminist community. Over the next 16 days, we will be sharing statistics, stories, actions and events all focussed on an aspect of gender-based violence. We want the community in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada and internationally to participate and engage on this issue. Not only over the next 16 days but into the next year and beyond. Until we are finally able to say we no longer need the 16 Days.
Micaela Crighton is the co-chair of the advocacy committee of the Institute for International Women’s Rights – Manitoba and the lead organizer for the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence for the Institute. For more information on the 16 Days and to get involved, follow IIWR-MB on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and check out our events page: https://iiwrmb.ca/events/