Confronting Violence against Women: What Has Worked Well-And Why: How Have Women Confronted the Scourge of Gender-Based Violence? What Pathways, Strategies and Actions Have They Evolved to Defend Their Bodily Integrity and Build Coalitions and Alliances for Justice and Gender Equality? What Has Worked Well and Why, and How Can Their Efforts Be Supported and Scaled Up?

Article excerpt

Violence against women and girls is a virulent form of abuse and discrimination that transcends race, class and national identity. It takes many forms and may be physical, sexual, psychological and economic, but all are usually interrelated as they trigger complex feedback effects. Other specific types of violence, such as trafficking in women and girls, often occurs across national boundaries. It is estimated that annually up to 2 million people, many of who are from the 150 and more countries constituting the "global South", are trafficked into prostitution, forced labour, slavery or servitude, By threatening the safety, freedom and autonomy of women and girls, gender-based violence violates women's human rights and prevents their full participation in society and from fulfilling their potential as human beings.


While global statistics on gender-based violence are uneven, estimates show that one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Between 30 and 60 per cent of ever-partnered women have experienced physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner, and between 7 and 48 per cent of girls and young women aged 10 to 24 years report their first sexual encounter as coerced, with the attendant risks of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS.

The costs of violence are extremely high as they include the direct expenses for services to treat and support abused women and their children and to bring perpetrators to justice, as well as untold costs that may be inflicted on families and communities across generations, reinforcing other forms of violence prevalent in society.

However, women have not accepted these violations of their bodily and mental integrity, and they have confronted gender-based violence on a daily basis and through big and small actions, with or without the support of States and international agencies. Through the use of socially sanctioned actions, including "naming and shaming", songs and other performative acts, the use of faith-based networks, or new and transnational forms of organizing, women have made alliances, lobbied States and municipal governments, and used international human rights law and continental and regional organizations to draw attention and to seek redress from oppressive social relations and practices.


In our studies of women in the global South, violence is often inflicted by intimate partners or family members, through rape and defilement; via practices of female genital mutilation in parts of Africa and the Near and Middle East; by means of dowry murders in South Asia; and female infanticide, prenatal sex selection and systematic neglect of girl children, particularly in South and East Asia, North Africa and the Middle East. But gender-based violence may also involve persons in positions of trust, such as international peacekeepers or national police officers in conflict zones, who engage in rape, sexual harassment and sexual exploitation, often as a conscious strategy to humiliate opponents, terrify individuals and destroy societies, as has happened recently in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or Guinea.

In addition, violence may be also inflicted at the State level through direct acts of commission and omission, or through militaristic acts and postures effected by assorted apparatus of repression, while government economic and social policies may routinely subject large proportions of populations, particularly the poor, women and rural dwellers, to lives of poverty, deprivation and indignity, all of which can also be regarded as forms of violence. Economic pressures aggravate the severity of existing constraints particularly on poor women, for example, many remain in abusive relationships or engage in risky behaviours including the sex trade, in order to survive. Even where women work hard to pull themselves out of the drudgery of extreme poverty, they may be physically assaulted for attaining economic independence, while other women may endure accusations of witchcraft or of engaging in immoral acts. …


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