According to the World Justice Project, more than 570 million women will be subject to gender-based violence this year.
The first thing this number forces us to question is, why does it happen in the first place?
Many of these young women and girls live in countries that don’t have a functioning justice system that protects them from violence. In many countries. the abuse is normalized. When there aren’t consequences and laws to protect girls against abuse, we know that it will keep happening until we show perpetrators that they will be held accountable.
At International Justice Mission, we work alongside local governments and law enforcement to protect women and girls in countries around the world from violence and abuse; whether it is from sex trafficking in India, cybersex trafficking in the Philippines, or sexual violence across parts of Latin America.
Our model is simple: When laws are enforced, the violence stops.
When the justice system protects vulnerable girls—and slave owners, traffickers, and other criminals can no longer exploit without consequence —we will see a reduction in the number of women and girls being subjected to abuse.
For the millions of women and girls, it sends a message that what is happening to them, and could happen to them, is not right. They are valued, and they are worthy of protection. So, if we want women and girls to thrive and live into their dreams and aspirations, we need to ensure, first and foremost, that they have a safe environment where the justice system protects them. And we’ve seen first-hand that it works. After four years of working in the Philippines to rescue children from trafficking, training law enforcement, working to strengthen anti-trafficking laws, and developing a network of aftercare providers, we saw an 80% reduction in the number of children available for sexual exploitation in our areas of operation.
So, how do we ensure that girls are protected from gender-based violence? We ensure that there are consequences for hurting them. We ensure that they have a network of support around them.
Nothing changes unless people like us act.
For so many young girls who are trapped in a vicious cycle of abuse, let’s be a community of women who shows up for them and leverages all of our power and influence on their behalf. Let us do it for the next generation in a way that changes entire communities for good.
Sunali is a Senior Lead for Marketing and Fundraising at IJM Canada.