by Bosede Edwards
“Violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women” and “violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men”
-The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women “In South Asia, Violence Against Women is On the Rise” (Rashmi Sheila, in Fair Observer, 2017)
“China wants to stop domestic violence, but the legal system still treats it as a lesser crime” (Emily Rauhala, 2016)
‘Federal report finds 476 people died of domestic violence in Canada between 2010 and 2015’ and ‘At least 148 women were killed in Canada last year…’ (The Canadian Women’s Foundation, 2019)
“13-Year-Old’s Rape Case Dismissed Because Her Body Is ‘Well-Developed’ (Charlotte Lytton, 2015)
“A Kansas Law School Student Reported a Rape. Then Police Arrested Her.” (Emily Shugerman, 2019)
The above are just a few of the disturbing recent and not too recent headlines across the globe. With reports of courts acquitting the rapist of a 13-year-old girl in Sweden on the grounds that her body was ‘well-developed’ for her age” and so, the man couldn’t have known that the 13 year old was younger than she looked, the judiciary openly supported the idea that rape is okay if the victim is an adult. These headlines are not only screaming the absurdity of societal attitudes, but they remind us that we still don’t have much to show for all that have gone into advocacy for the prevention of Violence Against Women (VAW) or Gender-Based Violence (GBV).
In December 2016, Jane Gilmore, in The Sydney Herald addressed some horrible headlines about VAW that all attempted to excuse perpetrators while blaming the victims. She went further to address the manner in which the media report these cases, with ridiculous efforts at making the perpetrator appear like the victim. It is such a sad world. While it is outrageous that the media make light of the suffering of the victim and make cases to explain away the actions of perpetrators, it is far more disturbing that the judiciary gives the support of the law to perpetrators of these heinous acts. When rapists walk free because the victim is ‘not really young’ or with other less appealing excuses, we have subscribed to nursing the seeds of potential tragedies.
The United Nation defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.” From female genital mutilation-which over 200 million women have experienced-and domestic or intimate partner and workplace violence, to child rapes and gang rapes, the world in 2019 has a lot to be ashamed of with respect to GBV. While acknowledging that cases of domestic violence targeted at men, have been reported, disturbing facts emerging from the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that 38% of murders of women are committed by a male intimate partner. Men with certain qualities were also noted to have higher predisposition to perpetrating VAW. They include poorly educated men, those who have been previously exposed to domestic violence against their mothers and those from settings where gender inequality, including acceptance of violence, and a sense of entitlement over women, were the norm. In a way, it boils down to a never-ending cycle where violence breeds more violence. Women with similar qualities, including those that have been abused during childhood, and women raised in an environment that promotes male privilege, and women’s subordinate status also have a higher tendency to experience intimate partner violence.
While acts of violence against women is disturbing in itself as a violation of women’s rights, they are also capable of leading to several outcomes including injuries, post-traumatic stress, different types of disorders, life threatening infections like HIV or other STDs. They could bring about unwanted pregnancies or induced abortions, and in severe cases, homicide, or suicide. There are also socio-economic dimensions to VAW; for example, a World Bank report estimates that the economic cost of VAW in some nations is up to 3.7% of GDP, a value that doubles total education spending by most governments. The impacts on especially young children also has implications for both the present and the future as well as the continuity of VAW. The statistics are disturbing with a study covering more than 80 countries showing 1 in 3 women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner or non-partner sexual violence. A similar percentage of women in a relationship have also experienced physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner. Considering global effort towards closing inequality gaps and achieving the sustainable development goals of the United Nation, the extent of gender inequality, as highlighted by current level of GBV leaves much to be desired. As the voices of dissent gets louder on this issue, the question of what we all can do becomes important. From the simplest act of speaking up against VAW or GBV, and insisting that perpetrators of such actions be brought to book, to practically helping victims or potential victims, there is something in-between that each of us can do. The #MeToo movement took the bull by the horn, and gave a voice to victims. The #AfterMeToo movement is also following up. We can all get involved. Standing for, and with survivors, providing community support to prevent or address abuse, creating digital campaigns and, providing education to at-risk individuals, including potential perpetrators, are among the several things individuals or groups can do to contribute our quota. Above all, calling the media and the judiciary to action and speaking against the apathy which these violent acts are handled by them will go a long way in the achievement of a sane and peaceful society.
It will take our collective effort to achieve this goal. VAW is a continuous cycle which must be broken if anything of note will be achieved in that regard. All hands must be on deck; the campaign must be spearheaded by men as well, but above all, the keepers of the law must not become accomplices in its breaking. It is a shame if the judiciary openly and unashamedly support evil and violence, granting freedom to offenders and thereby promoting the continuation of violence. We all must say no to violence against women. They are our sisters, our mothers, our wives and friends. We cannot achieve a sustainable and peaceful society when half of the human race is being oppressed, and subjugated.
November is the month of campaign for the elimination of Violence Against Women and 25 November has been declared as the international day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Each of us can do something…something as simple as placing a poster on our social media platforms throughout this month.
Feel free to download a #StoptheViolence poster here and use on your social media profile in November.
Written by: Edwards
DID YOU KNOW?
Laws must Protect Women
Currently, 49 countries have no laws that protect women from family violence.
Build, Launch & Grow Your Dreams by Nurhazwani 16/11/19 @ 10am-12pm
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