International Women’s Day is celebrated by the United Nations with a new theme every year. This year it’s called ‘A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women’.
The focus this year is on prevention of violence and the provision of support services/responses to survivors of violence.
The United Nations General Assembly 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.”
“It is estimated that up to seven in ten women globally will be beaten, raped, abused or mutilated in their lifetimes- and most of this violence takes place in intimate relationships.” -United Nations
Violence against women is a global epidemic which is deeply rooted in the cultural history of various societies throughout the world. An evidence of this can be seen in the various proverbs across the globe. Some examples of these proverbs are as follows:
Beat your wife regularly… If you don’t know why, she will. (Zambia)
The nails of a cart and the head of a woman: they work only when they are hit hard. (Rajasthan, India)
Affection begins at the end of a rod. (Korea)
A woman, a dog and a walnut tree — the harder you beat them, the better they be. (Europe)
These proverbs seem to reflect a kind of society where wife-beating is not only considered manly but also a part of life. A life where woman is inferior, should be treated as one’s property and must be kept under a check. There is no equality.
To think that such proverbs result in domestic violence would be irrational & idiotic although they do reflect a misogynistic society where inequality is a norm.
Examples of Violence against Women Throughout the Life Cycle
Phase Type of violence
Pre-birth Sex-selective abortion; effects of battering during pregnancy on birth outcomes.
Infancy Female infanticide; physical, sexual and psychological abuse.
Girlhood Child marriage; female genital mutilation; physical, sexual and psychological abuse; incest; child prostitution and pornography.
Adolescence and Adulthood Dating and courtship violence (e.g. acid throwing and date rape) economically coerced sex (e.g. school girls having sex with “sugar daddies” in return for school fees); incest; sexual abuse in the workplace; rape
sexual harassment; forced prostitution and pornography; trafficking in women; partner violence; marital rape; dowry abuse and murders; partner homicide; psychological abuse; abuse of women with
disabilities; forced pregnancy.
Elderly Forced “suicide” or homicide of widows for economic reasons; sexual, physical and psychological abuse.
(Source: “Violence Against Women”, WHO., FRH/WHD/97.8)
The true prevalence of violence against women is concealed as a result of the under-recording by the police, and under-reporting by the women involved. Under-recording occurs when violence against women – particularly in the home – is viewed as a ‘normal’ part of gender relations. Ignorance & prejudice among police and other state officials means that women survivors of violence risk being blamed for the violence inflicted against them. Women who have been trafficked may experience arrest, harassment, or expulsion if they report their experiences to the police, especially where prostitution is illegal. Where arrests are made, it is often women and not the traffickers who are detained. Many women opt to remain silent about violence. This under-reporting may be the result of fear of the attacker, of the social taboos surrounding violence against women, or of a lack of support to women survivors of violence. — Ending Violence Against Women: A Challenge for Development and Humanitarian Work
Basically the reasons behind under-reporting on the part of women are:
- The attacker is known to the victim
- Cultural stigma attached to violence such as domestic violence occurs due to failure on victim’s part to fulfil her roles.
- Women don’t want to shame the family name
- Failure of formal institutions to provide effective protection for women
Despite these obstacles to uncovering prevalence of the problem, quantitative & qualitative research that gives a more accurate picture of the problem does exist. One such research drawn by the United Nations back in 1998 is as follows:
Domestic Violence against Women
● 29% of women (a nationally representative sample of 12,300 women) reported being physically assaulted by a current or former partner since the age of 16.
● 59% of 796 women surveyed in 1993 reported being physically abused by their partner. New Zealand
● 20% of 314 women surveyed reported being hit or physically abused by a male partner. Switzerland
● 20% of 1,500 women reported being physically assaulted according to a 1997 survey. United Kingdom
● 25% of women (a random sample of women from one district) had been punched or slapped by a partner or ex-partner in their lifetime. United States
● 28% of women (a nationally representative sample of women) reported at least one episode of physical violence from their partner.
Asia and the Pacific
● 16% of women (a nationally representative sample of women) reported being physically abused by a spouse; 8% report being injured. India
● Up to 45% of married men acknowledged physically abusing their wives, according to a 1996 survey of 6,902 men in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
● 38% of wives reported being physically abused by their spouse, based on a survey of a random sample of women. Thailand
● 20% of husbands (a representative sample of 619 husbands) acknowledged physically abusing their wives at least once in their marriage.
● 35% of women (a nationally representative sample of women) reported being beaten by their husband at some point in their marriage. Israel
● 32% of women reported at least one episode of physical abuse by their partner and 30% report sexual coercion by their husbands in the previous year, according to a 1997 survey of 1,826 Arab women.
● 42% of 612 women surveyed in one district reported having been beaten by a partner; of those 58% reported that they were beaten often or sometimes.
● 41% of women reported being beaten or physically harmed by a partner; 41% of men reported beating their partner (representative sample of women and their partners in two districts).
● 32% of 966 women in one province reported physical abuse by a family or household member since the age of 16, according to a 1996 survey.
Latin America and the Caribbean
● 26% of women (representative sample of women from Santiago) reported at least one episode of violence by a partner, 11% reported at least one episode of severe violence and 15% of women reported at least one episode of less severe violence.
● 19% of 6,097 women surveyed have been physically assaulted by their partner in their lifetime. Mexico
● 30% of 650 women surveyed in Guadalajara reported at least one episode of physical violence by a partner; 13% reported physical violence within the previous year, according to a 1997 report.
● 52% of women (representative sample of women in León) reported being physically abused by a partner at least once; 27% reported physical abuse in the previous year, according to a 1996 report.
Central and Eastern Europe/CIS/Baltic States
● 29% of women aged 18-24 fear domestic violence, and the share rises with age, affecting 52% of women 65 or older, according to a 1994 survey of 2,315 women.
● 60% of divorced women surveyed in 1993 by the Centre for the Examination of Public Opinion reported having been hit at least once by their ex-husbands; an additional 25% reported repeated violence.
Russia (St. Petersburg)
● 25% of girls (and 11% of boys) reported unwanted sexual contact, according to a survey of 174 boys and 172 girls in grade 10 (aged 14-17). Tajikistan
● 23% of 550 women aged 18-40 reported physical abuse, according to a survey.
(Adapted from “Violence Against Women,” WHO, FRH/WHD/97.8, “Women in Transition,” Regional Monitoring Report, UNICEF 1999, and a study by Domestic Violence Research Centre, Japan.)
Violence against women is a form of gender based hate crime that is gnawing at the foundation of this society, it is not only a human rights or public health issue, but an economic and development issue, slowing economic growth and undermining efforts to reduce poverty.
Evidence suggests domestic violence witnessed as a child is repeated in adulthood.
Men who have seen violence in childhood are two to three times more likely than other men to become perpetrators of violence as adults.
Girls who have witnessed violence as children are more likely to grow up to become the victims of violence as adults. — Viewpoint: The price of violence against women and girls
We don’t need more proof, claims, evidence or statistics to recognize the danger of an unequal society. It is time now to take a stand, fight for what’s right and hail an era of gender equality all over the world. This Women’s Day, let’s pledge to bring women to the forefront of economic progress and put an end to gender discrimination.
Citation: For more proverbs on violence against women check out http://www.intrahealth.org/page/the-power-of-proverbs-