Aware to launch new campaign urging people to fight violence against women

The Association of Women for Action and Research Sexual Assault Care Centre said it logged 58 cases of violence against women in October - higher than this year's monthly average of 37. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - More reports of violence against women were lodged with a local gender equality group in the month of October, after an international campaign against sexual harassment and assault went viral.

The Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) Sexual Assault Care Centre said it logged 58 cases in October - higher than this year's monthly average of 37.

The higher number of reported cases in Singapore came amid heightened awareness about sexual violence against women, spurred by the international #metoo campaign.

The campaign, started by American actress Alyssa Milano last month, had urged women to come forward with their stories to show how widespread sexual harassment and assault are.

Now, this movement to end violence against women is receiving a fresh boost, in the form of a local campaign by Aware.

The new Let's Unite campaign aims to get people, community groups and organisations in Singapore to take a stand against violence against women, and pledge for change, Aware said on Thursday (Nov 23).

Efforts include talks on employer responsibility on managing workplace harassment, as well as a dialogue that delves into the reality of violence against women in Singapore and what individuals can do, and have done, to end it.

Aware is also urging supporters to overlay their social media profile pictures with the Let's Unite frame and post a message of support with the hashtag #16DaysSG.

The campaign will run for 16 days from Saturday - which is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women - to Dec 10, to coincide with the United Nations' 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.

With its Let's Unite campaign, Aware hopes local efforts will take centre stage.

Ms Devika Satheesh, who experienced sexual violence as a child, is one who will be coming forward with her story to raise awareness about violence against women as part of Aware's Let's Unite campaign.

"I grew up feeling confused and believing that I was one of the few who had this unfortunate experience. But the more I opened up to people, the more people opened up to me. Literally every woman I've shared my experience with opened up to me about the violence they have experienced as well... It is not a myth, it is more common than many realise, and it is time we did something about it," she said.

Ms Anisha Joseph, who manages Aware's Sexual Assault Care Centre, said: "When survivors of violence courageously open up about their experiences, we have a responsibility to listen and create a community of support for them that is free of mistrust, blame and shame."

She added that the issue of violence against women had to be tackled on various levels, from individuals and the community to religion, workplaces and the Government.

"The Government should take action, too, by beefing up existing laws, practices and policies in view of Singapore's latest Cedaw review, which calls for the training of relevant professionals - from the judiciary to the police and doctors - to better understand gender-based violence," Ms Joseph added.

Cedaw refers to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, a United Nations treaty which Singapore has signed.

UN experts recently issued recommendations for the Singapore Government on correcting gender inequality, including how to protect survivors of violence and prevent gender-based violence.

Mr Louis Ng, an MP for Nee Soon GRC and an advocate for gender equality, said of Aware's new campaign: "To create a society where women have equal opportunities and respect, there must be zero tolerance for violence against women. We can start by improving how society supports survivors of violence, and understand that all of us - not just women - have a responsibility to promote gender equality."

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