Women, Scotland & Inclusion: Half of humanity is waiting for you

This International Women's Day we're overjoyed to share with you four guest blogs from women across Scotland who are making meaningful steps towards women's equality. The theme of IWD this year is #InspireInclusion, & we asked our bloggers to talk about the communities and campaigns happening across the country.

A graphic with a photo of Azita Jabbari in front of a background of icons incorporating the Engender logo, with text which reads Women, Scotland & Inclusion #IWD2024

Azita Jabbari is a policy lead working in Scotland and a member of Every Woman Treaty, a coalition of more than 3,000 activists in 147 nations advancing a new Optional Protocol on violence against women and girls connected to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) based on its General Recommendation 35. This article expresses her personal opinion, where it is also supported by Every Woman Treaty.

As an Iranian woman coming to the UK—the "developed" world—a few decades ago, it was fantastic to experience more women's rights. But over time, I became aware of multiple occurrences of violence against women and girls (VAWG).

It compelled me to research the possible roots of VAWG, and I found misogynistic attitudes dating back thousands of years.

An innocent reader might think that VAWG only happens these days in "undeveloped" countries. But I've come to understand that this violence exists across all nations and all religions.

The UK National Police Chiefs' Council reports shocking levels of VAWG: "A woman is killed by a man every three days in the UK." Moreover, in the year ending March 2022, sexual offences recorded by the police had risen by 32 per cent, the highest annual figure recorded in England and Wales, including the highest recorded annual numbers of rape.

Out of the 65,251 domestic abuse incidents recorded from 2020 to 2021 by Police Scotland, in four out of five, women were the victims.

These statistics present high negative figures for a developed country like the UK. Europe has similar figures: at least two women are killed every day in the EU by an intimate partner or family member, and two in 10 women have experienced physical or sexual violence.

Across the globe, at least one in three women are raped, beaten, or assaulted, according to the World Health Organization. The situation is dire for migrant women and refugees. In 2021, the UN refugee agency reported that 1 in 5 internally displaced women have been subjected to sexual violence. Women in the UK report high levels of violence before, during and after forced migration.

Based on a report by the UK Government, women who are trafficked for sexual exploitation and domestic servitude report high levels of sexual violence. The Metropolitan police reveal that trafficked women and children are promised better lives but when they arrive in the UK, they can be forced into sexual slavery, forced marriage, and work as servants.

We Can Better Protect Women and Girls 

All of this data has made me wonder what is so "developed" about the West and their respect for human rights? What does it say if vulnerable women come to escape death or persecution and are raped or taken advantage of here? It shows us that regardless of whether a nation is labelled "developed" or "developing," regardless of a nation's belief system, women need to be protected.

On this International Women's Day, I propose a solution that is inclusive of all women. I strongly recommend that the UK support the creation of a treaty in the form of a new Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) specific to ending VAWG. This binding legal instrument would prioritize solutions to gender-based violence against women for all women in every nation through legal reform; training and accountability for police, judges, and healthcare workers; violence-prevention programs; and comprehensive services for survivors.

I was shocked to read that when the UK ratified the Istanbul Convention, Europe's regional treaty on gender-based violence, it excluded migrant women.

This year's theme for International Women's Day is "Inspire Inclusion". The UK's support of a new Optional Protocol to CEDAW would do that—show its commitment to women's rights for all women, and that it welcomes a global instrument that brings much-needed clarity and cohesion to definitions and standards across the world. 

As a longtime resident of the UK, I ask: Why not prove that we are developed by supporting the creation of a global instrument to eradicate violence against half of the world's population?

Guest posts do not necessarily reflect the views of Engender, and all language used is the author's own. Bloggers may have received some editorial support from Engender, and may have received a fee from our commissioning pot. We aim for our blog to reflect a range of feminist viewpoints, and offer a commissioning pot to ensure that women do not have to offer their time or words for free.

Interested in writing for the Engender blog? Find out more here.

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