Last week I attended a debate in Parliament marking the work of the One Billion Rising campaign.
The campaign, organised by the V-Day activist movement, was established in response to UN reports indicating that one in three women, one billion worldwide, will be raped or beaten during their lifetime.
On Valentines Day this year the campaign mobilised the largest global action in history as over a billion people came together to express their commitment to end violence against women and girls. Rather than wanting to make the event an annual day, organisers see One Billion Rising as a catalyst for further action.
The global campaign aims to support local organisations and here in Edinburgh, the campaign has been supported by Zero Tolerance. Zero Tolerance highlight the many forms that violence against women can take, from domestic abuse and serious sexual crimes to the problem of sex trafficking and the exploitative practices of the sex industry.
Tackling violence, gender stereotyping and the inequalities between men and women is a must to create a safe, equal society across Scotland and recent crime statistics demonstrate the scale of the challenge. Last year, police in Scotland recorded 59,847 incidents of domestic abuse and 81% of cases involved a female victim and male perpetrator. A closer look at the statistics show that most victims have experienced domestic abuse before and that the most likely perpetrators are partners or ex-partners.
Against this backdrop the global action of One Billion Rising and the local action of organisations like Zero Tolerance is vital.
All of us are needed to tackle domestic and sexual violence and the intimidation that women experience. Our challenge is to tackle inequality and the outdated sexist attitudes that objectify and tolerate violence against women, whatever its form.
The Scottish Government has an important role to play by ensuring that, in these times of austerity, the issue of violence against women is not put on the back burner. Local authorities who support domestic abuse services are facing huge financial pressures as a result of Scottish Government cuts and the impact of the UK Government’s welfare reforms. But that must not lead to the downgrading of support for the preventative work that is done by groups such as Zero Tolerance.