Every year, on the last Wednesday of April, we wear jeans in solidarity with victims of sexual violence. Thus, we join the worldwide campaign Denim Day that promotes zero tolerance towards sexual violence. This year, the national campaign Denim Day Moldova 2023 aims to increase the society’s understanding of zero tolerance towards sexual violence by promoting consent-based relationships in any couple.
In this context, 50 public figures, influencers, journalists, but also women and men of different ages joined the campaign and explained through video messages the meaning of consent between partners, mentioning that it is the basis of a trusting relationship and that a couple can resist only in consent. Their messages were shared on the social networking pages of protagonists and of the International Center La Strada, the organizer of the awareness campaign.
“Consent is what makes us feel good and safe in a relationship. It’s when both partners want the same thing and when decisions are made freely by each of them. Consent is about respecting the boundaries of the other person and not placing your desires above those of your partner. Consent is a must in any relationship, and its absence is abuse,” said Elena Botezatu, executive director of the International Center La Strada.
Lack of consent leads to abuse or violence. Sexual violence is the least recognized and reported form of violence due to stereotypes, fear of victims, unawareness of its forms, etc.
According to the data of the General Police Inspectorate, the share of sexual offences in the total number of crimes in the period of 2016-2022 grew from 1.67% in 2016 to 2.36% in 2022 (+0.69 p.p. for the analyzed years). Over those years, most sexual offences took place in Chisinau (557) and in the districts of Cahul (229), Causeni (185), Orhei (170), Hincesti (163), Ialoveni (159). Of these, most are cases of rape, followed by sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 16 and violent actions of a sexual nature.
Most sexual violence crimes, 60%, occur in rural areas, and most victims are underage (60%) and female (93%). Most suspects of sexual offences are male (99%) and are aged 18-35 (61.5%).
Over the past year, 1,530 women affected by domestic violence and sexual violence were counselled via a helpline for women and girls managed by the International Center La Strada.
For more than 30 years, on the last Wednesday of April, people in Europe and the USA have been holding Denim Day, dedicated to raising awareness and promoting zero tolerance towards sexual violence.
Initially, the campaign was sparked by a ruling of the Italian Supreme Court that overturned a conviction on a rape case, which triggered a strong protest reaction from civil society. In 1990, an 18-year-old girl was taken by her driving instructor, a 45-year-old married man, for her first lesson. He took her to an isolated road, pulled her out of the car, pulled one of her legs out of her jeans, and raped her. Having threatened her with death if she told anyone, he then made her drive home. On the same night, the girl told her parents what had happened to her. They supported her and started a criminal case. The perpetrator was convicted of rape and sentenced to jail. But he appealed the sentence and the case eventually got to the Italian Supreme Court. Thus, in 1992, a Supreme Court judge decided to overturn the conviction by arguing that, since the victim was wearing tight jeans, she must have helped the rapist to remove them. According to the judge, it meant the victim consented to it.
The next day, women from the Italian Parliament came to work wearing jeans, contrary to the dress code, as a sign of solidarity with the victim. Since that year, the Denim Day is celebrated, an initiative that takes place in many countries in Europe and the USA on the last Wednesday of April as a symbol of protest against misconceptions surrounding sexual violence.
Since April 2018, the Denim Day awareness campaign is also carried out in Moldova, at the initiative of the International Center La Strada.