Gender-Based Violence - A Global Pandemic
Gender-based violence, broadly speaking, is violence perpetrated against someone because of their gender. However, it would be naïve not to recognize that in reality, it refers to violence against women for the world over, the main victims of gender-based violence are women and the main perpetrators, men. Article 1 of the Inter-American Convention on Prevention, Punishment and Elimination of Violence against Women "Convention of Belem Do Para"defines it as:
“Any act or conduct, based on gender, which causes death or physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women whether in the public or the private spheres”.
A Global Pandemic
Gender-based violence is a universal issue; there are thousands of victims all over the world. It represents a severe violation of human rights. Violence against women is linked to unequal power relations between men and women; it traverses age, class, income and cultural boundaries, invading and compromising the fundamental rights and freedoms of victims. Its effects are far reaching, pervading every sector of society and ultimately affecting everyone directly or indirectly. It therefore concerns every citizen of a country.
This global pandemic is an obstacle to socio-economic development and a threat to national stability and security when one considers the important societal functions of women, beginning with the woman’s role in the family. Consequently, it comes with high social and economic costs to the individual, the family, the workplace and society.
1. The Individual
On an individual level, women all over the world suffer discrimination and are victims of violence in its varied forms. Women are beaten, raped, neglected, abused, ignored and made to endure serious psychological torture. Some endure their suffering in silence out of fear of recriminations and further abuse while others join in the fight to eradicate violence against women throughout the world. The fear, insecurity and stigma experienced by women who have been victims of violence can be crippling and have the potential to hinder participation in activities, limit access to resources and impede mobility.
2. The Family
The family is known to be the core unit of society hence, any ills within this structure will eventually erode the fabric of the family and the effects will spill out into work places, schools, other institutions and the wider society. Broken women struggling to exist within difficult/impossible domestic situations cannot effectively carry out their functions as wives, mothers, daughters, teachers, etc. Children who grow up against a background of violence perpetrated against their mothers, sisters or even themselves may be seriously affected psychologically and spiritually and the effects though often delayed can have disastrous impacts on society. Often, we wonder about the monsters which emerge among us seemingly, from out of nowhere, committing heinous crimes against innocent victims. Actually, these monsters do not emerge out of nowhere, they are in fact, created by the actions of those among us who through jealousy, selfishness or lust for power, have stamped on the hearts and psyche of our women and created monsters out of them and the children who were affected as a result.
3. The Work Place
In the work place women continue to experience victimization at the hands of their male counterparts. They continue to endure all sorts of abuse – sexual, verbal, and psychological- as they struggle to make a place for themselves as professionals and in the business world. On a daily basis, women continue to be degraded, harassed or discriminated against in the work place. Why is it that women are denied job promotions because of their gender? Why do they have to pay for promotions with sexual favours when they in fact, meet all the requirements for promotion? Why are women disrespected, ignored and trampled on by their male associates? These things have been happening all over the world, it seems from the beginning of time and despite modernization and enlightenment, they continue to happen perhaps more insidiously.
4. The International Sphere
There are numerous international agencies engaged in the struggle to end gender based violence and to achieve gender equity and equality in the world. The United Nations has declared November 25 as Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and girls as a constant reminder to all, of those who continue to suffer from the very serious problem of violence against women. Also March 8 has been designated Internal Women’s Day. Moreover, there are a number of treaties and conventions aimed at relieving the plight of women and creating for all a free and just society where women can enjoy all the rights, benefits and privileges due to them as human beings.
All acts of violence against humanity must be condemned! In particular, it is high time that gender based violence is eradicated. The time for the end of all forms of violence against women is now!
Image of a White Ribbon to Commemorate the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
Illustration of Gender-Based Violence from the Story 'Maria' in the Book 'Four Strong Women' by Joyette H Fabien
The events played back in her mind as she descended the stairs frowning unconsciously. She remembered vividly her alarm when the irate client, a middle aged, heavy set man had sprung out of his chair and lunged at Ms. James, the worker who had been dealing with his case. For one who was big boned, Ms James was surprisingly nimble. She had quickly sprung out of her seat and side stepped her attacker who, following the momentum of his thrust, had crashed into the empty armchair which Ms. James had just vacated. The impact had sent him sprawling and the arm chair toppling over on him pinning him to the floor. In hindsight, he had cut a really ridiculous picture as he struggled to extricate himself from beneath the large, black arm chair.
The commotion had brought in other members of staff and someone had been quick thinking enough to call security. The man had been quickly subdued, much to his humiliation, by three female members of staff. When security arrived, he was, looking suitably abashed, escorted out of the building after being informed that a report would be made to the police. Both Maria and Ms James had been shaken by the incident. They were both aware that things could have ended very differently had not Ms James been alert and swift. There were no security officers in the offices; they were all on the ground floor. At the next staff meeting they were certainly going to look at what measures could be taken to protect staff against such attacks.
The problem with our society, Maria thought, is that our men can’t let go of that ‘big boss’ mentality. They can’t bear to see a woman running the show. Their first reaction is to use their fists. Hmmm, she thought irritably, they are not satisfied with battering their wives and victimizing female employees so now they want to have their own way by bullying any woman who appears to be an obstacle. We women have to put an end to this cycle of abuse. They will only intimidate us if we allow them to do so.
Maria’s reaction was not exaggerated. She had had her share of male victimization on the job as she had climbed up the executive ladder. In addition, her marriage had been short lived as she had been forced to flee from an abusive domestic situation where her life had constantly been at risk. Her ex-husband, Bernard, had cheated constantly and on three occasions, he had beaten her so brutally that she had been hospitalized. His excuse was that she could not give him children. Her father had almost got into trouble with the law when, after the first beating, he had attacked Bernard and threatened to kill him if he ever lay a hand on her again.
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