December 20, 1993 - UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women is adopted. Why, after 20 years, do we still have so far to go? It seems almost every day new stories of violence against women and girls are reported in one medium or another. I follow pages on Facebook which show the emotional depths that family and friends reach when their loved ones are injured - or worse.
In November 2011 17-year-old Rehtaeh was raped at a party, suffered the enormous pain and indignity of pictures of her abuse illegally spread online, and tried to cope with the consequent bullying. In April this year she committed suicide. Rehtaeh's mother, Leah, started a Facebook page in her memory. It's often so sad to read the heartache that Leah faces daily.
In April 2011 Lori was a victim of a severe domestic violence attack. Lori was punched and repeatedly kicked in the face and ribs. She has spent much of the last two years in and out of hospital having surgery after surgery to reconstruct her broken body. She and her sister, Kristine, started a Facebook page and a business, Peace, Love, & Purple to continue to increase awareness of the purple ribbon causes against domestic violence.
In the news we're told that serial sex attacker Adrian Bayley, a recidivist violent sexual offender, has been jailed for at least 35 years for the brutal rape and murder of ABC staffer Jill Meagher on a Melbourne street in September last year. Bayley should never have been on that street - he was already known in the court system for violent sexual attacks.
A year ago Delhi student Jyoti Singh Pandey was raped and brutalised by 5 men and later died of her injuries. It took an international outcry before the Indian justice system acted to bring the perpetrators to justice.
In November this year a parliamentary committee in Britain was told that police are failing to investigate some of the most serious crimes, including rapes and sexual abuse of children, in an attempt to massage official statistics.
It's getting harder to be a woman in an Arab country - in Yemen, Morooj Alwazir, co-founder of SupportYemen, says: "It is a struggle to even be part of society, it is a struggle to speak your mind, to feel safe in your own neighbourhood, your only safe space is your bedroom." The UN estimates that 5,000 women are killed each year for "dishonoring" their families. About two-thirds of all murders in Palestinian territories are "honor-killings".
Google "rape culture" and you get, on the first page, admonitions not to "exaggerate" rape culture at one end of the spectrum, and, at the other, a FORCE blog which notes that "mainstream media outlets like Playboy are still promoting an undergrad life-style that treats college-aged women like commodities." Rape culture definitely exists - it is not a figment of our imagination.
So why, after 20 years, do we still have so far to go?
Perhaps the answer can be found in some of the dreaded MRA websites. According to these poor blokes, feminism is threatening their very manhood. Some of the ridiculous comments these blokey blokes like to spout are captured very nicely by David Futrelle, writing as ManBoobz. Futrelle says he is "opposed to the so-called Men’s Rights Movement, a reactionary movement driven largely by misogyny and hatred of feminism." But is feminism really the issue here? Or is the issue the fact that parents – men and women - don’t educate their male children not to rape, not to be violent to women and girls, not to laugh at sexist jokes, not to cat-call at women and girls on the street?
Feminism is a red herring, used by MRAs to justify their dreadful treatment of women and girls.
Until the problem is addressed at the very core – from the moment of birth of a boy child - rape culture will continue to exist, aided by lack of education, religion (all denominations) and politics. We can but hope that it won't take another 20 years before we start to see some progress.