Tortured, beaten and raped: Is sexual terrorism ever going to end?

Published: October 7, 2015

An activist holds a banner during a march against domestic violence against women, marking International Women's Day in Beirut March 8, 2014. PHOTO: REUTERS

It’s a matter of grave concern and great sadness that in the 21st century, despite all the world’s advances in technology, science, society and economics, violence against women remains endemic. In fact, one out of three women around the world is a victim of gender-based violence: domestic violence, sexual assault and rape, sexual harassment, honour killings and many other permutations of this crime play out in millions of homes, workplaces, streets, villages and cities in every part of the globe.

Violence against girls and women is rightly called one of the greatest crimes against humanity, occurring across all nations and cultures, classes and religions.

Women have been joining hands since time immemorial to help each other out of violent situations, when lack of money, resources, or family support stand in the way of a woman’s ability to leave an abusive situation. One of the most important aspects of this help involves finding a safe place for a woman to go when she experiences violence in her home. Women’s shelters provide those safe spaces where a woman can take her children and find safety away from her aggressor, knowing that he won’t be able to find her when she’s gone. Women’s shelters help save lives, because domestic violence kills.

To help raise awareness about the worldwide problem of violence against women, and to help people involved in the battle to stop violence against women, the 3rd World Conference of Women’s Shelters will take place in The Hague, the Netherlands, from 3-6th November, 2015. Organised by the Dutch Foundation of Women’s Shelters and its partners, the conference is a unique opportunity to connect and act to end violence against women, and there are many ways in which you can participate!

Over the four days of the conference, 1000 participants from more than 100 countries will share and increase their knowledge with their fellow delegates about the causes of violence against women and girls (VAWG). This will happen through keynote speeches, workshops, focus groups, and formal and informal networking opportunities with practitioners, case workers, legal professionals, and survivors of violence against women.

The conference organisers wants to involve economists, businesses, scientists, technology specialists, and many other disciplines not traditionally involved with the area of VAWG, in order to increase and expand knowledge, as well as coming up with creative solutions to the problems that women face when trying to escape violence. One of the biggest problems for these women is lack of economic resources, so helping women to become economically empowered and strengthening their economic positions is a vital part of combating the issue.

The conference will include keynote speeches by three remarkable people, one of whom is the superstar Pakistani lawyer Hina Jilani. Jilani is an attorney at the Supreme Court of Pakistan, a women’s rights and human rights activist, and member of The Elders, a group of statesmen, peace activists and human rights defenders brought together by Nelson Mandela. She founded the first all-female legal aid practice, and helped set up and manage shelters in Pakistan for women fleeing violence and abuse. There is nobody more knowledgeable about the subject than her, and as a Pakistani, I’m particularly proud that she’ll be one of the keynote speakers.

Hina Jilani.
Photo: AFP

Other keynote speakers include Emma Murphy, a 26-year-old Irish fitness blogger, who shared a heartbreaking video on Facebook about being abused, both physically and emotionally, by her boyfriend. That video shows Murphy, a young, delicate, blonde woman, sporting a horrible black eye: more than 9 million people saw her video, which resulted in domestic violence helplines receiving 50% more calls than usual. Her courage will be an inspiration to all the participants of the conference.

And we’ll also hear from Dr Denis Mukwege, a renowned Congolese surgeon and gynaecologist who specialises in treating women who have been gang-raped by rebel forces. He founded and works at the Panzi Hospital, which treats women for free and provides psychological and legal services for them. The hospital has treated more than 30,000 survivors of sexual violence as a result of armed conflict. Dr Mukwege believes that rape is the “monstrosity of the century” especially when used as a weapon of war.

Denis Mukwege.
Photo: AFP

“It is a method of torture. A way to terrorise the population. When I see some of the injuries on the women and children, I realise this type of violence has little to do with sex and much more with power. It is a type of terrorism.”

Amazingly, people and organisations still treat violence against women as a taboo, something to not speak about in public. This conference will go a long way towards breaking that taboo, with a call to action for governments, NGOs, businesses, and governments to pledge their resources, time, knowledge and support to ending violence against women. It will also urge companies to take specific actions to break the silence and increase support for the victims. This is a great opportunity for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) so I urge corporations and multinational companies in Pakistan and across the region to take part.

How can you help?

You, too, can help to end violence against women and girls. Of course, if you want to attend the conference, there’s still time to register: go here to find out how. The conference is where you’ll be able to come together with other people in the field, exchange knowledge and experience, strengthen existing allies, and promote new ones in the fight against VAWG.

You can also donate to the conference, by supporting a scholarship for a delegate who can’t afford to go there on his or her own.

Spreading the word about the conference on social media and amongst your networks is also extremely helpful: share this blog post, the 3 World Conference official Web site, be sure to use the official hashtag #3wcws or the official@3WorldShelter in every tweet to build awareness and create connections before and during the conference.

You can also adopt a delegate. By ‘adopting’ a participant, you or your organisation can help aid workers in the field to be present in The Hague. The more aid workers from around the world can be present in The Hague, the more victims of violence against women and domestic violence can be helped worldwide. If we can reach hundreds of women in need with a single aid worker from Pakistan, we can reach tens of thousands of Pakistani women in need with a hundred aid workers. With the adoption of one or more participants, your organisation will guarantee the collection of (part of) the amount that a participant needs to attend the conference.

The total cost per participant is around €1200, excluding airfare. If you are interested in becoming a sponsor, please contact [email protected]

Hina Jilani once said,

“Nobody brings about change single-handedly. There are many people who are legendary, who have influenced events in the world, but behind them there is always a collective effort.”

Through the aegis of this conference, and the alliances made during and after, you have the unique opportunity to be part of that change, to spread good in the world, and to help consign violence against women to ‘the dustbin of history’.

This post originally appeared here


Bina Shah

Author of A Season For Martyrs. She tweets @BinaShah (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.