The term Gender-based Violence is used to describe acts of violence or oppression enacted against an individual, merely because of their gender. The term Gender-based Violence and ‘Violence against Women’ are often used interchangeably- as in most cases, women and girls are the most affected by this type of violence. As such, this article will be focused on this aspect.
Gender-based violence against women is based on women’s perceived ‘lower’ or ‘subordinate’ status in society. It includes any act or threat by men or male dominated institutions that inflict physical, sexual or psychological harm on a woman or girl because of her gender.
Some examples of Gender-based Violence include:
• Physical, sexual and psychological violence- an example of this is domestic violence
• Sexual abuse, including rape and sexual abuse of children by family members
• Forced pregnancy
• Sexual slavery
• Traditional practices harmful to women, for example: honor killings, burnings or acid throwing
• Cultural practices involving females, such as: female genital mutilation & dowry-related violence
• Violence in armed conflict- such as the rape and murder of women at times of war
• Emotional abuse – including coercion, belittling
• Trafficking of women and girls for prostitution
• Forced marriage
• Sexual harassment
In many instances, cultures, traditional beliefs, norms and social institutions legitimize and therefore perpetuate violence against women.
These forms of violence can occur anywhere; within the family, in the workplace, and in the general community. Gender-based violence happens in all societies, across all social classes, with women particularly at risk from men they know.
The family is usually a primary source of gender-based violence as it has the responsibility of socializing its members. While preparing young members for social life, they may perpetuate and encourage forms of gender stereotypes and perceptions of division of labor between the sexes. Spousal battery and domestic abuse can also occur in the family setting.
In the workplace, intimidation by male co-workers and the lack of opportunities given to women based on false assumptions that they cannot do certain jobs that men can, are also good examples of gender-based violence working in society.
The primary inequality that gives rise to gender-based violence is the power inequality between women and men. Most perpetrators of such violence include men. Many times, this is a person who is an intimate partner of the woman or previously was her intimate partner.
It should be noted that there are instances where gender-based violence is perpetuated by other women. A good example of this would include where some mothers-in-law are violent or oppressive towards their daughters-in-law.
According to studies, such as one done for Oxfam entitled ‘Ending Violence Against Women: A Challenge for Development and Humanitarian Work’ (Oxfam GB 2001), women commit violence as a way to ensuring their own survival and security within a social, economic and political context that is shaped and dominated by men.
In Guyana, Governmental and Non-Governmental Organizations have established policies and funding to deal with incidences of Gender-based Violence (GBV) in Guyanese society. Guyana’s Ministry of Human Services and Social Security has a Domestic Violence Policy Unit which implements and executes National Domestic Violence policies. These policies include the provision of temporary shelter, training about domestic violence for healthcare workers, social work services and provision of legal aid for victims among other actions.
The Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association has also spearheaded programs to help combat Gender-based Violence which started with young children in schools across Guyana. The GBV and Youth Project of GRPA, supported by the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives, was geared at enhancing young people’s capacity to contribute to the prevention and combating of Gender-based Violence by providing them with safe spaces to share their attitudes towards violence, to reassess their tolerance towards it and to empower them to become actively involved in developing an environment free from violence for themselves as well as for their peers.
The project was implemented from August 2017 to February 2018 using a gender equality and rights-based approach and has integrally included sexual and reproductive health and rights. This association also provides training via workshops for volunteers who can become peer counsellors for those who are victims of such violence.
DID YOU KNOW?
Some Global examples of Gender-based Violence:
• Around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused by a man in her lifetime.
• More than 20 % of women are reported to have been abused by men with whom they live.
• Approximately 60 million women, mostly in Asia, are “missing” – killed by infanticide, selective abortion, deliberate under-nutrition or lack of access to health care.
• Among women aged 15-44 years, gender-based violence accounts for more death and disability than the combined effects of cancer, malaria, traffic-related injuries and war.
• Trafficking in women and girls for sexual exploitation by men is most common among poor women and girls. Each year, two million girls, between ages 5 and 15, are introduced into the commercial sex industry.
• Women who are victims of domestic violence are 12 times more likely to attempt suicide than those who do not experience such violence.
• During war and civil conflict, women and girls are often targeted for special forms of violence by men as a way of attacking the morale of the enemy, both women and men. Such violence often redounds doubly against women, first through the direct experience of violence and its aftermath and secondly through the reactions of their families, particularly the men, to their status as survivors of sexual crime.
• Based on recent studies, more than 130 million women and girls in Africa, Middle East and Asia, have undergone female genital mutilation and an estimated 2 million girls are at risk for undergoing the procedure each year.
• In Canada, the cost of domestic violence amounts to $1.6 billion per year, including medical care and lost productivity. Estimates in the United States place this figure between $10 and $67 billion.
• A 1998 study found that in the United States, 1 out of every 6 women has experienced an attempted or completed rape. Of these women, 22 % were under 12 years old and 32 % were aged 12-17 at the time of the crime.
• Studies suggest that one-quarter to one-third of the 170 million women and girls currently living in the European Union are subjected to male violence.