Violence against Women: Ringing the Alarm to Awake the Conscience of Society

Article excerpt

Everywhere and in all ages, women have experienced violence. Often powerless to protect themselves, they have been raped, mutilated, battered and murdered. In most societies, gender-based violence has long been tolerated, letting the perpetrators go unpunished, their crime tacitly condoned.

A parliamentarian in a South Pacific country, taking part in a debate on wife battering, went as far as to say: "Wife beating is an accepted custom. We are wasting our time debating this issue."

Recent reports have begun to broadcast just how widespread and multifaceted the situation is.

* In Canada, a 1993 study found that 54 per cent of 420 randomly selected women had experienced some form of sexual abuse before the age of 16.

* In Bombay, India, where dowry-related "bride burning" is a known practice, 1 of every 5 deaths among women aged 15 to 44 was reported to be a case of "accidental burns".

* Genital mutilation is a traditional practice still conducted in parts of Africa and Asia. Globally, approximately 5 girls are genitally mutilated every minute.

* At a police station in Sao Paulo, Brazil, 70 per cent of all reported cases of violence against women took place in the home. In Santiago, Chile,three quarters of all assault injuries to women were caused by family members.

Yet, the seriousness and scope of the problem is often ignored. "If the leading newspapers were to announce tomorrow a new disease that, over the past year, had afflicted 3 to 4 million citizens, few would fail to appreciate the seriousness of the illness. …