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Abuse in the wider context

Updated on August 19, 2016

Knowledge is empowerment. Young women and men need to know a few things like these:

  • The difference between sex (my biological function) and gender (how society has scripted my life role).
  • Insight into the checks and balances of the power relations - what pays-off are needed.
  • Changes in society also usher in changes in gender roles and how men and women are portrayed. These are new social realities to keep in mind. The roles of women have changed , with a continuous focus on women's rights. This means that more tasks are shared and there is even an incidence of role change between men and women.

Abuse of power

Power has the ability to corrupt. When the power balance is not maintained between men and women, there is the pontential for abusive relations. In the power struggle between the sexes, the one who can get his/her own way and prevent the other from getting theirs takes control of the relationship. In a family and community these abusive relations can be ingrained.

Hidden abuse

This abuse can take on two forms : covert (hidden) and overt (openly). Hidden abuse : In power relations, especially where the roles are set to favour the males, there already are some forms of power abuse. Within the power struggle, women have learnt to hit back. Tey do it by acting out the script society has forced upon them, to their own advantage. So women manupulate the rules of the gender role, to exert power over men. The children model on their parents and act out these roles in turn.

Within the power relations there can also be emotional abuse, where the other person's value as a fellow human being is undermined. In this sense, gender roles can lead to emotional blackmail.

Abuse towards an individual

The strongest form of abuse, however , is direct physical abuse - gender-based violence. This abuse in our age usually hangs together with a few factors:

  • Traditional gender roles give license to male domination of women. Men thus fell entitled to assert themselves against their women. These perceptions are also carried by vtraditional culture.
  • There is a shifting of gender roles owing to the new economic situation where many women are joining the workforce. Women , therefore, become breadwinners and sometimes heads of households. Because they earn the money , they have more power.
  • The new reality of high unemployment among men and loss of their status as head of the family. Men are hitting back, trying to establish themselves through violence : showing "who's the boss".
  • Because of traditional gender roles, men and women use different coping mechanisms in interaction where frustratin or anger is involved.

Gender abuse in the family

The traditional power relations run the strongest in the family environment. Gender roles may have changed, but perceptions have not. The father stands ut as the strong authority figure. He acts out the role of dominant male. Sometimes the brothers can also enforce this role sexually. This could lead to gender violence in terms of sexual molestation :

  • The father exploiting the daughter as sexual partner. This is a criminal offence and could lead to incest, which means sexual relations within the same blood.
  • The mother's boyfriend may also feel entitled to extend his sexual relationship by including the daughter.
  • Increasingly, child-led families are developing, for example where they lost both parents because of HIV or accidents. The "parent' child may take license to act out the male dominance role and force sexual relations on the sister.

Those are all criminal offences that may also lead to jail.


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