'Honour killings,' 'domestic abuse,' 'sexual exploitation,' - these phrases have almost slipped into our everyday vocabulary, but each of these terms relates to yet another form of violence that women around the world suffer on an hourly and daily basis.
As technology seems to make the world brighter, better and faster, so violence against women seems to be hurtling backwards in time, to a dark age. A staggering 70% of women experience violence in their lifetime (World Health Organisation). Today, the United Nations raises an important debate which is one that we must all urgently act upon. The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is a day when women and men everywhere, should take a long and hard look at the world we have created, a world future generations of our daughters are being born into. But how can this be a world that we would want them to inhabit?
It is believed that 130million girls have now suffered from FGM (Female Genital Mutilation). That's two million girls per year who are mutilated for life, before we have even begun to look at what is happening in the rest of their lives. Let's look at the other phrases that we hear on a daily basis, these terms that for our sisters around the world, are daily realities that they must endure and suffer. 'Honour killings', 'dowry murders', 'human trafficking' - these are the horrors that continue unchecked.
Here in London, we are reading with shock about three women being held as slaves for over 30 years in a suburban house. In post-typhoon Philippines we watch with despair as women and girls are becoming victims of violent trafficking in front of our eyes. According to World Bank data, women around the world between the ages of 15-44, are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war and malaria. Sexual violence and rape have become an accepted tactic of war. From Bosnia to Liberia, Darfur to the Democratic Republic of Congo, hundreds of thousands of women have suffered rape at the hands of combatants. Violence against women and girls affects them, their families, their communities, their countries and our society as a whole.
However it's a sad fact that violent abuse is more often than not suffered behind the closed doors of the family home, indeed HALF of all women who die from homicide are killed by a current or former partner. In Colombia one woman every six days is killed by a partner. Intimate partner violence is estimated to cost $5.8billion in the US alone. In the UK 88 women were killed by partners last year. In the UK today we celebrate Clare's Law named after Clare Wood, who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 2009. The law comes into effect in March and enables people to check the police records of their partners.
This has got to stop, and yes, we do have the power to help our sisters through education and support.
Worldwide, one in five women has suffered from rape or attempted rape. When we visited Liberia with the GREAT Initiative http://www.thegreatinitiative.org.uk, the global gender equality charity that I set up with broadcaster Mariella Frostrup and human rights lawyer Jason McCue, we witnessed at first-hand how sexual violence during a conflict can destroy an entire nation. We also saw how positive steps are being made by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to help women to help themselves. The GREAT initiative supports a women's radio station in Liberia that connects the female community, giving them a voice. We hope to be able to expand our programme in Liberia, to positively affect the lives of even more women there. This is why our proposed Gender Equality (International Development) Bill (which is currently going through the parliamentary process) is so very important. We want the UK Government to ensure that the impact on women and girls is considered when every penny of the UK's overseas aid is spent.
British fashion designer Stella McCartney has designed a limited edition white ribbon for women to raise awareness of the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women. As well as the Stella McCartney ribbon, you can also post a white ribbon onto your social media profiles. Last year the 'twibbon' badge was shared with 15 million people on the web. I will be adding the white ribbon and I urge you to as well.
You can follow the GREAT (Gender Rights Equality Action Trust) Initiative via its website http://thegreatinitiative.org.uk, Facebook https://www.facebook.com/thegreatinitiative, or follow on Twitter https://twitter.com/GreatInitiative.