It is difficult to argue with the facts. 90% of people who commit violent physical assault are men. Males perpetrate 95% of all serious domestic violence. 99.8% of the people in prison convicted of rape are men. 81% of men who beat their wives watched their fathers beat their mother or were abused themselves. Men are the problem, but they can also be the solution.
In 1991, in an effort to persuade men to speak out against violence against women, a small group of men in Canada decided to wear a white ribbon as a symbol of men’s opposition of violence against women. In the years following, this simple act turned into an international effort known as the White Ribbon Campaign. The White Ribbon Campaign begins each year on November 25th and ends on December 6th. These dates are significant as they both denote the violent deaths of women.
November 25th is also known as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. It commemorates the lives of the Mirabal sisters, political activists who were repeatedly imprisoned and eventually violently assassinated in 1960 during the Trujillo dictatorship because of their beliefs and outspokenness. Referred to as the “Unforgettable Butterflies,” they are not only considered to be martyrs in their native country of the Dominican Republic but have become symbols against the victimization of women worldwide. As such, the date of the Mirabal sisters’ assassination marks the start of the White Ribbon Campaign.
Because the campaign originated in Canada, December 6th, Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women was chosen as the closing day of the campaign. On this day in 1989, Marc Lepin walked into L’Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal and separated the men from the women, ordering the men to leave. Claiming to be fighting against feminism, he then opened fire, shooting 27 women. Fourteen of these women died because of their gender and because they studied engineering, a traditionally male-dominated field.
Violence against women persists in every country in the world as a pervasive violation of human rights and a major impediment to achieving gender equality. Such violence is unacceptable, whether perpetrated by the State and its agents or by family members or strangers, in the public or private sphere, in peacetime or in time of conflict…As long as violence against women continues, we cannot claim to be making real progress towards equality, development and peace.
One need only look at the dates that mark the campaign and the tragic events that occurred on those dates to understand the implications of this study. The Mirabal sisters were victims of an oppressive State and ultimately lost their lives because a man ordered their death. The fourteen engineering students died at the hands of a man who didn’t believe in female empowerment or equality, and each day since these events, women continue to be victimized, many by the very men who claim to love them.
In order to honor these women and to demonstrate that this type of violence is indeed unacceptable, men are asked to wear a white ribbon each day during the 12-day White Ribbon Campaign as a personal and yet public pledge never to commit, condone, or remain silent about violence against women. It is a way for men to begin to take personal responsibility and to educate other men as they are questioned about the white ribbon on their lapels. It is a small step in a greater movement of men who are committed to upholding this pledge every day of their lives. I challenge you to take the first step in joining this movement by making and wearing your own white ribbon, or by ordering one for yourself or all the boys and men in your family, school, workplace, church or team. Do your part – wear the ribbon and make the pledge. Be a part of the solution rather than the problem and help to bring about the “real progress” described by the UN study.