Ending violence against women


THE United Nations has dedicated the 25th of November every year as “International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.” This day must not only mark a date to recount statistics and talk about mistreatment meted out to one of society’s vulnerable, but also be accompanied by a redoubling of efforts to end the violence and sanction those who perpetrate it.
Violence against women has been declared a global pandemic and human rights violation. In the male dominated world-view, the role of women in the family, home, relationship and society have been taken for granted and this taken-for-granted-ness has led to the perpetuation of violence in several forms. From seeing women as physically and genetically inferior to men, objectification and promotion of violence to women in lyrics, unequal pay for equal work, domestic/spousal violence,and limitations of opportunities to marginalisation in a nation’s decision-making processes; the list is long and angst numerous. Such acts of discrimination having been ingrained in the society often come as a shock to even the well-meaning, when these are pointed out as acts of violence. Yet these impact the socio-economic well-being of women and girls impeding progress in areas such as poverty eradication, HIV/AIDS, peace and security.
According to the World Health Organisation, violence is “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation.” Such as manifested in this classification is distinguished in four modes, namely: physical; sexual; and psychological attack; and deprivation.
This general definition of violence which is based on the same World Report on Violence and Health is further divided into three sub-types according to the victim-perpetrator relationship. These are: 1) Self-directed violence in which the perpetrator and the victim are the same individual and is sub-divided into self-abuse and suicide; 2) Interpersonal violence which is between individuals, and is sub-divided into family and intimate-partner violence and community violence, where the former category includes child maltreatment; intimate-partner violence; and elder abuse, while the latter is broken down into acquaintance and stranger violence and includes youth violence; assault by strangers; violence related to property crimes; and violence in workplaces and other institutions; and 3) Collective violence which is committed by larger groups of individuals and can be sub-divided into social, political and economic violence.
Every member of society, including woman and girl, man and boy, needs to be educated on what constitutes violence against women, since this is the first and most important step in moving to eliminate the violation. In this regard, it becomes even more important for women to play a leading role in shaping, influencing and developing laws and executing national policies and programmes that would be shaped out of recognition of the problems and measures needed to eliminate the problems.
To this end, it is worthy to recall the counsel of social activist Dr Dawn Stewart in her address to the Guyana Women’s Roundtable in May this year during the elections season. In addressing the issue of women and their role in politics, Dr Stewart noted that there remain concerns about the lack of respect for women, lack of encouragement of women to participate without fear, or verbal or physical abuse. She went on to say leadership and tolerance and understanding must be shown in order to address the anomalies. In our society, women comprise more than half of the population and also make up more than 50 percent of the electorate. Theirs is a potent voice and force with the power to change political fortunes and the circumstances of their lives and family. But this is achievable only in an atmosphere where there is an absence of fear, violence is eschewed, and women stand up and demand their rightful and equal place in society, be it in politics, government or non-governmental organisations, in the community, in the home, and towards self and each other.
As the United Nations Secretary-General’s Campaign, “UNiTE to End Violence against Women” invites the world to galvanise action to end violence against women and girls around the world, it carries recognition and responsibility that violence against women is preventable and essential. It therefore behooves men and boys to join hands with women and girls to fight negative, long-held traditions and actions. Both sexes must be in this together and as each one can teach one and self, the elimination of violence against women will not be a concept or yearly event to mark, but a spirited campaign buttressed by meaningful actions to stamp it out.