V-Day fights to end violence against women

It happens to women in Japan. It happens to wives in Brazil. It happens to female college students in New Jersey.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), violence against women is one of the most significant health and human rights issues today. WHO calls it a “universal phenomenon,” affecting millions of women worldwide, regardless of culture, class or social status.

In the United States alone, approximately one in six women has been a victim of an attempted or completed rape, according to the Rape, Assault and Incest National Network (RAINN). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that about 5.3 million women a year are victims of intimate-partner violence, resulting in nearly two million injuries and 1,300 deaths a year.

In Bangladesh, a rejected marriage proposal can result in an acid attack, defined by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) as an assault in which a man throws sulfuric acid – commonly found in car batteries – at a woman’s face. Bangladeshi courts only recently began responding to these attacks with stiff punishments.

In some traditional Islamic societies, if a woman is suspected of being sexually active, she may be the victim of an “honor killing,” an ancient practice in which men kill female relatives in the name of “family honor.” A woman may be killed even if she is the victim of rape.

In some cultures, it is custom to “circumcise” a girl when she reaches puberty. The Western world refers to this as female genital mutilation, and it can range from the removal of the tissue surrounding the clitoris to the total removal of external genitalia. Though it is illegal in most countries, the law is not always effectively enforced.

But what so many international governments choose to ignore, V-Day brings to the surface.

V-Day is a global movement to stop this rampant violence against women. Formed in 1998 by Eve Ensler, the playwright behind the Obie award-winning “The Vagina Monologues,” the organization promotes creative events to increase awareness and raise money for anti-violence initiatives.

In 2001, Worth Magazine named V-Day one of the “100 Best Charities.” In seven years, the V-Day movement raised over $25 million to stop worldwide brutality toward women.

Through Women in Learning and Leadership (WILL), the V-Day spirit is alive and well at the College, one of the 1,100 campuses nationwide that support the movement. WILL, with backing from organizations like the Student Government Association, College Union Board, Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority, Voices of Planned Parenthood (VOX), the Bod Squad and the Women’s Center, is responsible for the popular campus production of “The Vagina Monologues,” now in its fifth year.

This year, the show premieres on Wednesday, Feb. 15. Saturday night will feature a gala performance honoring V-Day alumni, with a reception to follow, Mary Lynn Hopps, director of WILL said.

All proceeds from “The Vagina Monologues” go to anti-violence charities. The profits from the College’s shows will be donated to Students Active for Ending Rape and the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq.

Additionally, proceeds will benefit the 2006 Global V-Day Campaign for Justice for “Comfort Women,” civilians who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II. V-Day has joined with Eastern and Southeastern Asian groups to fight for an official apology and reparations from the Japanese government.

According to vday.org, “when all women live in safety, no longer fearing violence or the threat of violence, then V-Day will be known as Victory Over Violence Day.”