Last week started with a barrage of black and white photos of women with the hastag #ChallengeAccepted or others such as #WomenSupportingWomen and #WomenEmpowerment on social media with women nominating each other to share their black and white photos.
Now I can appreciate and understand how several people might be unaware about this trend due to lack of social media presence. In fact, usually I am not the one to talk about social media trends. However, this time I feel it is important that the cause for this particular social media trend reaches majority of the masses both on, and off social media.
When women first started posting their black and white photos, it was unclear why this was happening, where it all started and what the end goal of this challenge was. However, a lot of women, including myself accepted the challenge because I will take any reason to support other women and shower them with positivity and love. The origins of the hashtag soon came to light and they are far more dark than simply about empowering women.
In recent years, more and more women in Turkey are being brutally killed every single day with the Turkish people waking up to black and white photos of these murdered women in their newspapers and on their news channels. While this is happening in Turkey, the Turkish government has been looking to back out of the Istanbul Convention, which is made to protect the high number of domestic abuse cases against women. Angered by this and tired of their government’s leniency and complacency, Turkish women started this movement to make the world aware of the femicides occurring in Turkey.
Very recently, 27-year old student Pinar Gültekin was beaten and strangled to death, half burnt and then disposed off in a bin later filled with concrete, by her former boyfriend.
A website dedicated to stopping femicide and making sure that women are protected from violence, called We Will Stop Femicide Platform, has this year alone recorded 27 such murders by close male relatives and an additional 23 suspected femicides in Turkey.
Femicides are not happening just in Turkey. Just last year, 151 women were killed by their partners in France. According to FBI data, approximately three women are murdered by a close male relative every day and in 2017 alone, 1,948 females were murdered in United States. According to the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability, a total of 118 women and girls were killed last year in Canada. To put this in perspective, on an average, every three days, one woman or girl is killed in this country. And let us never forget the mass femicide 31 years ago, where 14 women were killed at the École Polytechnique in Montreal.
A lot of these times, experts have observed that many of these women had come out of abusive relationships, had sought help, had taken out restraining orders against their former partners or relatives and yet, were failed by the system.
So yes, women’s empowerment and support for one another is amazing and beautiful but this challenge is so much more than that. It is to understand that femicide doesn’t happen because women are irresponsible, or not careful or because they actively put themselves in danger’s way — it happens because the system fails them again and again.
So this challenge is not just about a black and white photo but about awareness and about the fact that we all need to band together to take care of girls and women, everywhere.