Page 457 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 16 February 2005

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symbols of resistance to Trujillo’s dictatorship. As a result, the sisters and their families were constantly persecuted for their outspoken as well as clandestine activities against the state. Over the course of their political activity the women and their husbands were repeatedly imprisoned at different stages. Despite Trujillo’s persecution, the sisters continued to actively participate in political activities against the leadership, prompting Trujillo to declare that his two problems were the Church and the Mirabal sisters.

On 25 November 1960 the three sisters were assassinated in an “accident”, as they were being driven to visit their husbands, who were in prison. The accident caused much public outcry and shocked and enraged the nation. The brutal assassination of the Mirabal sisters was one of the events that helped propel the anti-Trujillo movement, and within a year the Trujillo dictatorship came to an end. The sisters, referred to as the “Unforgettable Butterflies”, have become a symbol against victimisation of women. The memory of the Mirabal sisters and their struggle for freedom and respect for human rights for all has transformed them into symbols of dignity and inspiration. They are symbols against prejudice and stereotypes, and they raised the spirits of those they encountered. Even after their deaths, their lives raised the spirits not only of those in the Dominican Republic but others around the world.

Twenty years after their deaths a meeting of women’s groups in Columbia decided that the murder of the Mirabal sisters should be commemorated as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. In 1991 the first white ribbon campaign was also launched by a group of men in Canada, after the brutal mass shooting of 14 female students at the University of Montreal. Since then, many other countries have launched their own white ribbon campaigns and have adopted the white ribbon as a symbol of support for the elimination of violence against women.

Since June 1991, the period between 25 November and 19 December has been recognised as a global campaign of 16 days of activism against gender-based violence. During those 16 days, four significant dates are encompassed—25 November, the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women; 1 December, World AIDS Day; 6 December, the anniversary of the Montreal massacre, when 14 women engineering students were gunned down for being feminists; and 10 December, Human Rights Day.

The 16 days of activism against gender violence has become an annual event in many cities and regions across the world, and women’s human rights activists use the period to create a solidarity movement which raises awareness about gender-based violence, works to ensure better protection for survivors of violence and calls for its elimination.

The ACT government has addressed issues of violence and community safety for women by developing the framework, “Justice, Options and Prevention—Working to Make the Lives of ACT Women Safe”. The framework identifies three major outcome areas: a justice system that provides protection, support and advocacy for women; assistance for women that is appropriate, accessible and responsive; and a community that understands and accepts the right of all women to live their lives free of violence. It requires government agencies to develop action plans each year that identify tangible ways in which they will implement the goals of the framework.

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