Gender-Based Violence*Denial of care for women* The subjugation of women and deprivation of human rights and respect* Gender based violence is physical or emotional violence against women*Anything that doesn’t see the woman as a human being* Women are worth protecting and worth respecting* The old belief was that women are servants and used as procreation tools*
I’ve wanted to write this post for a long time but gender-based violence was something that I needed to mull over and give my full attention; the topic is that important. It is about life and death. It is human compassion. The scariest part is that this topic is not just happening in some far off land or third world country. Gender-based violence is happening right here where you live; maybe it’s next door, the next street over or maybe it’s happening in your own house. It has to stop. No woman deserves this.
The gravest threat to a woman’s life is violence inflicted upon her simply because she is a woman. How can you even comprehend or justify this sort of violence? You can’t. Enough time of being beaten down for it and eventually a woman will begin to hate herself because being a woman makes her a target for unimaginable and unprovoked violence.
Women between the ages of 15 and 45 are more likely to be maimed or die from male violence than from cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined. Often times, violent acts such as rape, female genital cutting, or extreme physical abuse are used to intimidate, humiliate and discredit women, denying them political weight in society and forcing them into silent, second-class citizenship. Beyond personal injury, gender-based violence also results in unwanted pregnancies, severe psychological trauma and an increase in maternal mortality.
Gender-based violence can take many different forms, and is constantly mutating into new forms, be it acid attacks, bride burnings, rape or domestic violence. Gender-based violence is often perpetrated by those closest to a woman; a family member, her partner or a friend; someone that she trusts. About one-third of all women globally face beatings in the home. In most countries, between 30 and 60 percent of women have experienced physical or sexual violence by a husband or a boyfriend. 30-60 percent! That means it is very likely that someone that you already know has been a victim of gender-based violence. The statistics for female murder by male partners are also astounding: Up to 70 percent of female murder victims were killed by their male partners, according to the World Health Organization.
In some countries, female genital mutilation is also a concern. Over 135 million girls and women have undergone genital mutilation and 2 million more girls are at risk each year. “Honor” killings, in which a woman’s relative murders her for disgracing the family, can also be a concern in parts of the world. Women are treated like property and inanimate objects. For some reason, there is the assumption that women are put on this earth to serve only the wants and needs of others. I have news for you, we are human with feelings and thoughts and being dismissed, used to satisfy man’s sexual appetite and abused hurts us at our very core. It undermines our very sense of self.
Many governments across the globe continue to turn a blind eye to this violence. To date, 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not outlawed and more than 2.6 billion live in countries where rape within marriage is not considered a crime. Without legal retribution, assailants rarely face consequences for their actions and the victims are less likely to report the abuse. In many cases, women are concerned that they will be the ones punished if they report the violence. Other times, rape and sexual assault are so stigmatized that the victim stays silent even if there are laws in place. How can we in good conscious live in a world where victims of unspeakable acts are treated like the perpetrator?
Rape and these other abuses often work to keep women down. Women who have experienced such violence can suffer isolation and depression and have increased drug and alcohol dependency or even poor reproductive health. They may become unable to work or care for their families because they have become so broken from the abuse.
While laws are important to help combat gender-based violence, the main solution is to change the way people think. Two things lie behind gender-based violence: sexism and misogyny. And it’s not just the men: women too adhere to discriminatory social customs, and frequently are the ones to transmit to the next generation. For instance, women are often the managers of brothels in poor countries or the ones who demand that their daughters’ genitals are cut. Women have been abused and treated so badly for so long that they have began to believe that they deserve the treatment, accept that the abuse is normal and even become perpetrators of the gender-based violence against other women.
It’s happening all over the world; in every country and every city, even in 2012 in the United States. Pay attention to the news; women’s rights and reproductive rights are being pushed and pulled and torn away from women by politicians who need to change their views. If our leaders view us as second-class citizens, how can we expect the rest of the men in our lives to be any different? The government makes the rules and sets the standards by which all others follow.
Since these attitudes are embedded in culture, they will only change with education. We need to help by acknowledging these harmful and sexist attitudes and traditions and refusing to accept them any longer. By not ignoring the issue we are helping quietly sanction this violence against women.
As women, we need to stand up and speak out. We need to demand that we are treated with the same respect as men. Just because we have a vagina that doesn’t make us weaker; that makes us stronger because we have always had to work harder to prove ourselves to society. I am afraid what might happen if we don’t. Is the world you want to raise your daughter in? We need to change so that our daughters and granddaughters don’t grow up to know this devastation.
Half the Sky Movement is helping reverse this devastating trend by shining a light on these horrific acts of violence and inspiring victims to champion gender equality and safety. They are making a real difference in the world. You can see the PBS special and learn more on October 1 & 2.
We are humans* We are worth protecting* We are deserving of love and respect* We are the givers of life* We are more than just what lies between our legs*
Disclaimer: This post (and my sharing on social media) was inspired by my participation in a compensated program initiated by Women Online/The Mission List to raise awareness about the Half the Sky. All commentary and opinions are, of course, my own.