On November 25, 2017, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign started and it would end on December 10, Human Rights Day.
This is a call to end violence against women and girls around the world. Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today.
Violence against women, also known as gender-based violence, is a term used to collectively refer to violent acts that are primarily or exclusively committed against women.
The theme for this year, Leave No One Behind, reiterates the commitment to a world free from violence for all women and girls around the world regardless of their status and background; whether underserved and marginalized, refugees or migrants, minorities, indigenous and even those affected by conflict and natural disasters. Leaving no one behind also identifies with all the different forms of violence that women suffer.
Some have argued that why a day to celebrate Violence against women when men also suffer violence. This became a hot topic for debate especially because of the recent reports of women stabbing their husbands in Nigeria resulting in the death of one of them. Yes, men equally suffer violence in the hands of their spouses but statistics show that women are at the receiving end most of the time.
Violence against women is the most extreme form of discrimination. According to available data by UN Women, from 2005 to 2016, 19 per cent of women in 87 countries between 15 and 49 years of age said they had experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner. In the most extreme cases, such violence can lead to death.
In 2012, almost half, that is 50 per cent of all women who were victims of intentional homicide worldwide were killed by an intimate partner or family member, compared to 6 per cent of male victims.
Also, women experience violence in many ways, from physical abuse to sexual assault and from financial abuse to sexual harassment or trafficking. Here are some of the major forms of violence women suffer.
RAPE: is forced, unwanted sexual intercourse. Rape knows no borders as it affects females in every country in the world. Rape has even been perpetrated on girls as young as a few months old and against women as old as 90. It is especially prevalent in the contexts of war and conflict.
SEXUAL ASSAULT: is unwanted sexual contact which is very close to rape or attempted rape, the difference is it may not end in actually intercourse. Example is when a man touches a woman without her consent. Sexual assault takes many forms and is very common in the workplace environment and should never be treated as anything less than a serious offense.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: the most common form of violence against women refers to physical and sexual attacks in the home within a family or an intimate relationship. It includes intimate partner violence, marital rape, assault and battery and sexual abuse in the household. Worldwide, an intimate partner kills 40–70 percent of all female murder victims. The men claim beating is a form of correction and discipline but that is wrong. It is a tool of power and control. She is a wife not a child!
EARLY MARRIAGE: Early marriage refers to a forced marriage of a girl under the age of 18; girls as young as six or seven have been victims. This is very common in this part of the world. Such girls are extremely vulnerable to sexual violence. Early or forced marriage jeopardises a girl’s physical, emotional and spiritual well-being as they are not physically, sexually, mentally, psychologically, physiologically and emotionally ready for the role yet.
FEMICIDE: Sex-selective abortion is a form of femicide. This involves the aborting of female fetus. This happens in societies where the female children are not valued and they have an obsession for male children.
FEMALE GENITAL CUTTING: Another extreme case of violence against women is female genital mutilation/cutting. Between 100 and 140 million women and girls in the world are estimated to have undergone female genital cutting. This harmful practice has declined by 24 per cent since around 2000. Nevertheless, prevalence remains high in some countries of the world including Nigeria.
The practice is deeply rooted in traditional understandings of purity and chastity, yet it can cause irreparable pain and health problems. Religious leaders can help in this regard and defend the right for all women to live healthy and peaceful lives by condemning this cruel act, which is often based on misused religious principles and misunderstandings.
PHYSICAL ABUSE: This is any unnecessary/unwanted physical contact, which is usually violent and hurtful and usually results in bodily harm, discomfort and/or injury. These include slapping, kicking, pushing, shoving, punching, choking and strangling.
PSYCHOLOGICAL/EMOTIONAL ABUSE: This refers to any act that provokes fear, diminishes the individual’s self worth, dignity or self-esteem, inflects psychological trauma on another person. In the family, acts of intimidation, silent treatment, yelling, talking down, playing on emotions, degradation, treating her as though she was a child, blackmailing, threatening, coming home drunk or stoned, refusing to provide support or help out with the children amounts to emotional abuse! My abuser used to tell me I could never live without him because I am useless and unintelligent. He said it to me repeatedly that it completely eroded my self-esteem and it took me a long time to get it back!
SEXUAL VIOLENCE: This is any unwelcome or forced sexual activity. Examples of this could include unwanted sexual contact, forcing her to have sex even if you are the husband, forcing her to have sex with others, uttering threats to obtain sex, forcing sex when she is sick, after childbirth or surgery, treating her as a sex object, refusing to allow or forcing her to use contraception. If all these amount to abuse, clearly, sexual violence is possible even in marriage!
VERBAL ABUSE: This is the use of negative comments that are unwelcome, embarrassing, offensive, threatening/or degrading to a woman. Examples of verbal abuse include name-calling, slut shaming, body shaming, labeling, false accusations, lying, insults, curses, etc.
FINANCIAL ABUSE: Any behavior that reduces, eliminates or deprives a woman of her financial independence. Examples are refusing her to work, run her own business or engage in any financial activity, taking her money, forging her signature or name, withholding money, spending money on addiction, gambling, sexual services at the expense of he well being and up-keep, keeping her in the dark concerning the family finances and assets.
SOCIAL ABUSE: This is isolating or alienating a woman from friends or family. That is, controlling who her friends are, where she goes, what she does, whom she sees and talks to, making her incommunicado by seizing her phone, barring her from public functions or and other social activities. My abuser would never let me visit even my parent’s house. If I must, he has to accompany me. Today I still can’t pick up myself to visit people. It is part of the damage of the social abuse I suffered.
RELIGIOUS ABUSE: Any tactics that exert power and control over a woman’s spirituality and religious orientation. That is, choosing where she can or cannot worship, dictating how she should and should not worship. It also involves using religion to justify abuse or dominance, using church position to pressure for sex or favours and to cover up domestic violence. This is happening everyday. The church played a major role in covering the abuse I suffered even when I almost got killed.
USING PRIVILEGE/SOCIAL STATUS: Any comments or actions that suggest she is inferior because she comes from a different socio-economic background. My abuser who was a Pilot used to say to me: “You daughter of a cook, do you have any pilot in your family? Have you seen a pilot before in your life?” He also used his social status and influence to hide and deny his abusive behaviour so I could not get help. At the end, he tried to use his position to engage me in expensive legal proceedings in another city far away from where we both live and he did everything possible to manipulate and prolong legal proceedings. These are the various ways men abuse women using their social status.
Clearly, violence against women is the most visible sign of pervasive patriarchy and chauvinism and directly impacts women’s physical and psychological health and her entire life!
Whatever form it takes, violence against women can have serious long-term physical and emotional effects. So let’s take steps to stop violence against women and girls today!
Source: Gurdian Woman