25 November 2021 marks the 30th anniversary of the international campaign ’16 days of activism against gender-based violence’. This campaign runs from 25 November (International Day against Violence against Women) to 10 December (International Human Rights Day) and aims at eradicating violence against women and girls worldwide.

Belgium strives for a holistic approach to gender-based violence, focusing on the prevention of violence and the questioning of gender norms and stereotypes, the fight against impunity, access to justice for victims and the support of organisations working for women’s rights. Since 2001, Belgium has been translating its policy in National Action Plans involving the federal level, the communities and the regions. This action plan is coordinated by the Institute for the Equality of Women and Men. The FPS Foreign Affairs also contributes to its implementation.

Although progress has undoubtedly been made in combating gender-based violence, no country has yet managed to eliminate it completely. On the contrary, since the COVID-19 pandemic and the containment measures taken worldwide to curb it, we have seen an exponential increase in domestic violence, online violence, child marriage, sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based violence.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sophie Wilmès emphasises the commitment of FPS Foreign Affairs to ending violence against women and girls worldwide: “Belgian diplomacy is internationally renowned for its relentless fight against sexual and gender-based violence. Belgium consistently raises this issue at all levels and keeps the fight against violence against women and girls high on the international agenda.”

This year, our country has, among other things, joined the coalition of action against gender-based violence as part of the Generation Equality Forum. Belgium has made several  commitments to tackle this human rights violation at home and abroad. For example, our country is strongly committed to the broad ratification and implementation of the Istanbul Convention against Gender Violence (Council of Europe).

As they do every year, the Belgian embassies and diplomatic missions will today – and throughout the rest of the year – support the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence campaign and the “Orange the world” campaign of UN Women. You can follow their actions on social media, which will be coloured orange for the occasion.

Minister of Development Cooperation Meryame Kitir will kick off the campaign in Kinshasa. Through the Belgian Agency for Development Cooperation, ENABEL, she will focus on the creation of care centres against sexual violence. Victims are given the necessary care to recover and are also given psychological counselling and support in taking legal action.

“One woman in three faces partner violence or sexual violence in her life. We should never tolerate this – wherever it may occur. When you become a victim of sexual violence, it affects your entire identity. That is one of the worst things that can happen to you,” says Kitir. “And so women are rightly protesting against that. Women make their voices heard. And they are right. But if we want to effectively pursue more equality, we must also make sure that more men become our allies. Together with our local and international partners, we will work towards this. Because it is important that we fight this battle together.”