Posts Tagged ‘gender inequality’


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.

Women suffer through numerous forms of violence throughout their lives.

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

Industrialized Countries

Canada

● 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.

Japan

● 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

Cambodia

● 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.

Korea

● 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.

Middle East

Egypt

● 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.

Africa

Kenya

● 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.

Uganda

● 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).

Zimbabwe

● 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

Chile

● 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.

Colombia

● 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.

Nicaragua

● 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

Estonia

● 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.

Poland

● 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-

Advertisements

Guest post on an attempt to understand the gender war as a result of fear leading to hatred on the part of both sexes by Ananya Gambhir:

Have you ever been pepper-sprayed? I have. Your eyes burn like the fires of Mordor and you experience pain the likes of which you’ve probably never experienced in recent memory.

Humorously enough, the incident was the result of a complete misunderstanding. The girl, whom I knew quite well at the time, mistook me for a stranger in the darkness and fog of Delhi’s winter. I was the victim of an incredibly paranoid individual, a seasonal phenomenon and the unnerving, ambient creepiness of the inner lanes of East Delhi.

In retrospect, I couldn’t be happier she did it.

Here I am, writing for an initiative that does the wonderful job of teaching women how to defend themselves against potential attackers (and in India, attackers are a plenty), and yet I’ve often wondered to myself: “Are the sexes at war?”

On one hand, we have generations of men raised in a shamelessly patriarchal social setup where, and I can’t say this often enough, we are constantly patted-on-the-back for having a penis. We are brought up in an environment that tells us we have the upper hand, and what way better to exert your dominance over the other sex than by establishing complete sexual control?

On the other, we have generations of women that have gone from being raised to serve their men to being raised to be scared of them. That, I think, is the biggest reason I write about this issue. Women are scared. They are scared of being out in the street unaccompanied by a man, they are scared of wearing the clothes they like, they are scared of having a drink too many at a party. The influence of fear is painfully prevalent in the decisions women are forced to make every day.

And nothing breeds hate like fear does.

So now we have two sections of the world unmistakably at loggerheads with each other, completely antagonistic to their intended symbiotic existence.

Which is why two articles on the internet caught my eye out of the scores of articles about rape that I read every day.

The first one is about Amrita Mohan, a Kalaripayattu champion and Karate black-belt from Kerala who single-handedly beat black and blue her alleged attackers, a couple of men in a government Jeep.

As passers-by stopped, stared and did nothing, Amrita reportedly beat her attackers to the ground all by herself, securing her the honour of being a symbol of the end of women’s oppression in her state. Amrita was a hero for women in Kerala and all around the country. Amrita had realised the innermost desires of thousands of girls that are harassed on the streets of India every day. She was going to go down in local history as the one who fought back, a hero, a shining beacon of change.

Amrita and four others present at the scene, including her father, now face charges of obstructing the duty of government employees and brutally assaulting them. If convicted, they face up to seven years in jail.

This has, obviously, sparked an outburst of rage across the country. The thought of two sexual offenders being able to turn around and drag their potential victim to court after being warded off by her is, no doubt, a huge blow to the sense of security of women across the country whose faith in the justice system has already been damaged beyond repair given the recent happenings.

I can’t say I blame them. India has changed after the events of December, 2012. The protests at India Gate may have died down, the news channels may have stopped flashing the images of violent agitations on the screen and angry, outspoken news-anchors may have moved on to being angry and outspoken about other issues, but the revolution (yes, I said revolution) of 2012 taught a country of women that they didn’t have to take it lying down. There is a fresh wave of active feminism tearing it’s way through the hearts and souls of women who are beginning to realise they have a choice to fight back.

Amrita symbolised that change for the women of Kerala and every other woman who heard her story. To have that symbol tied down and torn apart isn’t something that will go down with the fairer sex. To grant the two scoundrels the ability to turn this heroic act of Amrita and put her and her family through legislative hell is a luxury we, perhaps, cannot afford to give the men of a country that has already spoiled them too much for their own good. “Fry the bastards” echo the voices of the internet.

I find myself praying to a god I don’t believe in anymore that Amrita comes out of this acquitted with the guilty, whoever they may be, behind bars. I find myself hoping that she was justified in her assault, that the two men in the jeep were, in fact, harassers who deserve the harshest punishment.

I hope for these things because, should the judgement rule against her, we would lose more than a woman, we would lose a symbol. There are enough things in the world telling women NOT to fight back; I don’t think we can afford to lose one that tells them otherwise.

Which brings me to the second article that caught my eye.

The University of Colorado recently devised a list of things women can do to ward off sexual offenders.

Among other things, the list also included telling the attacker you had a disease or were menstruating and, disturbingly, vomiting or urinating to disgust the attacker out of the act.

I’ve always upheld the belief that rape is more than a crime of lust. I’ve always felt that man-on-woman rape is the result of a fierce global patriarchy and, thus, is more a crime of control and power. The idea here is to degrade the other party and assert your sexual dominance over their body.

In that context, supposed deterrents like urinating will not be as effective as say, a kick to the groin.

Conversely, if disgusting the attacker allows the potential victim even a window to escape, then I am, with great shame and horror, all for it.

The list has faced its share of backlash on the internet, becoming the butt of a twitter-joke too many, but what interested me more than the article were the comments that followed. I’ve always found that the comments sections on articles are truly the best places to have a true sense of how the people feel, which is why some of the comments on this particular piece were extremely disturbing.

1

Here’s one that talks about “Real rape” versus “Date rape”

2

Here’s one that talks about “sticking a knife in the psycho”

The comments carry on in a fierce inter-sexual debate which eventually extends into an out-of-control agitation from both sides.

Fear, once again, comes into the picture.

The fear of being subjected to sexual violence helps the university and the readers to justify the degradation of the victim to disgust the attacker out of the act.

The fear of being physically overpowered breeds ideas of extremely violent measures to protect one-self like “sticking a knife” in the attacker.

The fear of being falsely accused of sexual harassment leads men to question the validity of rape accusations.

The fear of being shouted down by “Feminazis” turns men into misogynistic  war-mongers that believe a woman should keep her mouth shut.

Men and women are at War. This is a bigger war than any other in the history of mankind, because it pits one half of the global population against the other. There are no casual bystanders, there are no neutral parties. We’re facing an all-out, no holds barred, win-or-die-trying global battlefield here, and no one will come out of this one an unscathed survivor.

You want to change the world? Start by not being afraid. Then help drive the fear out of your brothers and sisters. The day we can eliminate this inter-gender fear we will have eliminated the root of the problem of sexual violence. It’s an easy road thereon.

But till then, the solution starts with accepting the war, realising that the actions taken by either party in defence is the consequence of this global conflict. That is how we get there, through understanding and realisation.

Which is why, in retrospect, I understand completely why the girl sprayed me in the face with that horrible pepper-spray. She’s just a foot-soldier in this war, ready to strike at the first sign of agitation.

Excellent shot, soldier. Stand at ease.