16 demands to end violence against women

Published on Pambazuka News, by Salma Maoulidi, 2009-12-23.

Annual campaign ‘16 Days of Violence Against Women’ has raised the profile of violence against women through Tanzania’s local media, Salma Maoulidi writes in this week’s Pambazuka News, but there’s no guarantee that greater visibility of the issues will change attitudes and spark political to stop violence against women. Raising alarm over the ‘intolerable multi-dimensional culture of violence’ that women experience, Maoulidi makes a series of sixteen demands ‘to underscore fundamentals in changing an ideology and deeply seated culture of violence against women’.

Some time has passed since we marked 16 Days of Violence Against Women. Uncharacteristically articles are still appearing in the local media about the commemoration. In fact, this year the 16 Days of Violence Against Women commemorations obtained decent coverage in the local media and the coverage did not just end with the issue of violence against women (VAW), but also the related issues of HIV/AIDS, human rights violations, the rights of people with disabilities especially in the context of the killings of albinos; and gender-based violence (GBV) generally …

… My sixteen demands to end sexual impunity and violence against women and girls are as follows:

  • 1. Of immediate effect, I demand all orifices to STOP taking the Vagina in vain. I do not want to hear the mark of my womanhood continuing to be the key reference of every verbal abuse; and foul and vile language on mother earth and the linguistic cultures that permeate it. How is the site of pleasure and life reviled so mercilessly? Perhaps we need to consider criminalising this indiscriminate taking the vagina in vain, urging instead that it be accorded well deserved respect!
  • 2. My body is mine, every centimetre of it and no one else’s. I therefore don’t want to be touched or handled in an inappropriate manner or without my invitation or consent by people who may think that they are being macho, up to date, cute, charming or exercising misplaced chivalry.
  • 3. I am an intelligent person with a healthy appetite for respectful and open conversation. I don’t need nor want to be addressed or spoken to in a vulgar/unflattering sexually explicit or suggestive manner/tone as if this is the only way I can heed to or respond to light conversation; or someone coming on to me.
  • 4. I believe in the inherent equality of all people no matter their outer or inner differences. I strongly protest my sex being used by my country, my community and my family as a basis to continue to put me at a disadvantage, at risk or in a position of heightened vulnerability instead of my amplifying and affirming my humanity. Surely, in this age, we cannot continue to uphold discriminatory practices when we are governed by concepts of human rights that are universal!
  • 5. I am a constitutional and national subject. Under what basis does my country refuse to recognize my full humanity and citizenship in awarding/providing/promoting and protecting constitutional and legal guarantees at par with male citizens? I demand the full recognition of my citizenship status and entitlements as a citizen of a free nation.
  • 6. I am a human being endowed with an inherit dignity. I reject the continuing use of my body as a tool, a sex toy, a possession, a chattel or a commodity to be abused, played with, disposed of, exchanged or sold.
  • 7. My unique physique confers me triple roles; production; reproduction and caring all in service of humanity. Yet my work continues to be unaccounted for, unrecognised, uncompensated and under valued in a context where equal pay for equal work universally governs private and public labour relations.
  • 8. Human beings are male, female and fusions of the biological states. But in the minds and practice of media and market forces the female body exists to be commercialised. These institutions can only conceive the female body in its sexual function a practice that should be condemned for its pervasion.
  • 9. I am rarely on the tables that dictate war or policy. But all too often my body is the ultimate weapon of war, an object of political or class reprisals, robed of its dignity… I demand for a reconfiguration of these skewed, sexist rules of war and the full force of international resolutions to come to bear against those who dare use of women as weapons of war.
  • 10. My function as mother, consort, and bearer of the human race is sacred. But I continue to die or to suffer harm for fulfilling the most basic human function- human reproduction in the most despicable conditions. And my death at the service of humanity hardly attracts mention or notice in government quarters as does men who die in war or on soccer pitches. I demand what value is attached to my reproductive role?
  • 11. Sexuality is experiencing sexual and reproductive health. Yet, science and its associated industries like lucrative pharmaceuticals continue to ignore my need to access safe, affordable, accessible reproductive health technologies and services. I demand to know where the morality in this is.
  • 12. Single, married, divorced or widowed; young or old; rich or poor women face violence at all stages of their lives, in most cases resulting in death. But local and national responses to protect women from violence are absent, inadequate or unsuitable 30 years after CEDAW and almost 15 years after the Beijing Platform for Action. I demand to know if states across the world assume women are collateral damage in the power equation that defines gender relations.
  • 13. Marriage is and should be a voluntary act between two people. It baffles me that my changed marital status should condemn only me, not my better half, to poverty and unspeakable indignities in violation of my rights to own, acquire, inherit and control property. I demand to know if marriage constitutes contemporary bondage.
  • 14. I was born free, an autonomous being. But in life, my identity and status continues to be pegged on others – my father, my husband, my brother or my son/child – condemning me to a life of perpetual dependence. I want the state to declare am I not a free, sovereign being?
  • 15. I am over half of humanity. However I remain invisible to the world, its rulers and institutions. The continued absence, invisibility, under representation and non participation of women, in both private and public life constitutes a violation of my/our right to exist, to be represented and to be heard.
  • 16. My humanity bestows on me the capacity to dream, desire and do. Consistently, my hopes, dreams, needs and desires continue to be denied, delayed, derailed and denounced in favour of the priorities of others who are seen to be more important, more deserving, and perhaps more human. I reclaim my unimpeded right to dream, dare and demand for all that is natural, God given, constitutionally conferred and human.

… (full long text).


  • © Salma Maoulidi 2009
  • * Salma Maoulidi is a member of the Gender and Education Office of the International Council of Adult Education, member of Femnet a Pan African Women’s Advocacy Network and member of Sahiba Sisters Foundation, a community of women’s learners operating in 13 regions of Tanzania.
  • * Please send comments by e-mail, or comment online at Pambazuka News.

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