Archive for October, 2006

The Prevalence of Male perpetration

Posted in child abuse, child marriage, domestic violence, gender violence, male perpetration, rape on October 25, 2006 by breatheinspirit

The below text is copyright, “Broken Bodies – Broken Dreams: Violence against Women Exposed”: 

“The overwhelming majority of violence against women and girls is committed every day and in every nation by men. Where sexual violence and exploitation takes place against men and/or boys, the perpetrators are, again, overwhelmingly male. In categories where violence is embedded in tradition, such as child marriage, female genital mutilation and “honour” crimes, women may also play an active role.

Despite the progress that has been made to introduce legal and social reforms to address gender inequality, violence against women and girls continues. Evidence suggests, in fact, that violations such as trafficking, rape, child abuse, child prostitution and pornography are on the rise. The majority of studies of gender-based violence echo the findings of two psychologists whose research led them to conclude, “Most sexual offenders are men. Men commit most of the aberrant and deviant sexual behaviours such as rape, child molestation and exhibitionism. …” Furthermore, and more relevantly, when females are involved in aberrant or illegal sexual behaviour, coercion and violence is less commonly employed.

Even though most acts of violence are committed by men – and studies confirm that men have a higher propensity for violent behaviour than women – not all men behave violently. Are men genetically motivated, or hard-wired, in a significantly different way than women? Or does society teach the sexes to act the way they do?

The nature/nurture polarity

Most researchers reject the notion that biology can be blamed for violent behavior. Male violence, they say, is not genetically based but is instead perpetuated by a model of masculinity that permits and even encourages men to be aggressive. “Men’s monopoly of violence stems from lifelong training in sexist models of masculinity.” Anthropological research shows that domestic violence is virtually nonexistent in some societies, and therefore not an inevitable human condition.

Generally, the “nurture” position rejects the idea that men have a natural propensity to violence of that men have “uncontrollable” violent and sexual urges. In the case of intimate-partner abuse, for example, observers point out that men are able to control themselves in settings where the social or professional cost of their behavior would be too high, but are unwilling to exercise the same restraint when they are behind closed doors.

Those advancing this perspective challenge apologists for male violence, who use biological arguments or the “psychopathological model” for male sexual violence to explain men’s behavior. Instead, they insist that these men are not “sick” or pathological and are responsible for their actions, behaving reprehensibly, with free, conscious choice.

The counterargument to this opinion – which is regularly reinforced and perpetuated via popular culture and religious dogma – claims that men are captive of their libidos. This view maintains that the historic and global evidence of male’s natural aggression and the biological imperative cannot be ignored. While socialization may play an important role in how people behave in different societies and at different points in history, the “nature” position argues that sexual violence is too widespread and too overwhelmingly perpetrated by males to suggest that men and women are not motivated by different forces. These arguments appear to echo 19th-century pseudo-medical claims promoted by some scientists that men were a breed apart and slaves to uncontrollable testosterone, where male promiscuity is seen as a critical vestige of evolutionary forces conferring “selective advantage” on men who impregnate multiple partners.

Other theorists, however, are situated between the two poles of “nature” and “nurture”. They acknowledge a degree of “natural male inclination”, which in combination with repeated negative socialisation reinforces violent characteristics. In patriarchal societies, a significant manifestation of male aggression is man’s perpetration of sexual coercion and violence against women.

Popular perceptions

Irrespective of this debate, there is a virtually univeral de facto acceptance amongst people and communities worldwide that men and women have different natures and different roles to play. Whatever the origin of male violence, most people are caught up in their societies and the times they live and, as a result, may play a strong part in the maintenance of these stereotypes.

In many countries, gender roles are deeply entrenched and reinforced by cultural norms, to such an extent that questioning the status quo involves risk. Even in countires that are seemingly less bound by tradition, where equal rights are codified in law and widely accepted, these stereotypes still dominate the popular mindset.

The United States and Australia are examples of industrialized countries where sexual stereotyping and violence-supporting attitudes remain entrenched among the majority. High incidents of rape, domestic abuse and child abuse in these countries are thought to be linked to a general acceptance of these stereotypes. One study recently estimated that during a 12-month period in the United States, more than 302,000 women and almost 93,000 men experienced a completed or attempted rape. In a 1995 study in Australia, 37 percent of the male participants disagreed with the statement that “Women rarely make false claims of rape.” One in six respondents to the survey agreed that “Women who are raped often ask for it.” Rape is, of course, only an indirect indicator of such beliefs or stereotypes.

Psychological research demonstrates strong evidence that violence is a learned behavior that may be passed down the generations. “The highest risk marker for a man to use violence against his wife and child is early exposure to violence in his childhood home.” A negative finding when one considers the current number of boys witnessing their fathers’ violent behavior, but also one that offers hope, perhaps, that nonviolence can be similarly learned. ”

All text is copyright (IRIN). Full permission is given for reproduction for non-commercial.






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Violence against Girls in School: Part 2

Posted in child abuse, politics, rape, school violence, sexual harassment on October 16, 2006 by breatheinspirit

The below text is copyright, “Broken Bodies – Broken Dreams: Violence against Women Exposed”: 

“Leading by example

Even if they do not commit such acts against students personally, teachers who do nothing to combat verbal and physical harassment by other teachers and students (usually boys against girls) send out a clear message. Their failure to act is a tacit acceptance of the status quo and communicates to the students – especially boys – what behaviors is acceptable in school.

In the United States, a teacher refused to take action against a male student who was harassing a 14-year-old girl: “I was in class and the teacher was looking right at me when this guy grabbed my butt. The teacher saw it happen. I slapped the guy and told him not to do that and went on with the lesson like nothing out of the ordinary had happened.”

One 13-year-old South African girl explained her disappointment with the inaction of her teachers after two male classmates raped her: “All the people who I thought were my friends had turned against me. And they [the rapists] were still there. I felt disappointed. … If they [the teachers] had made the boys leave, I wouldn’t have felt so bad about it.” The girl stopped attending school because of the incident.

Such dynamics allow abuse to become an integral aspect of school life. Teachers who challenge the behavior of colleagues – by opposing acts of violence or questioning the judgment of those who tolerate it – also risk professional ostracism. Although it is less well-documented, anecdotal evidence suggests that in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, female teachers also are intimidated by sexual violence and harassment. Female teachers in Pakistan who travel each day to work in villages away from their homes, for example, risk verbal harassment and even physical assault from men en route.

The perception of risk to female teachers may be a significant factor in discouraging women from pursuing careers in education. Fathers or husbands my forbid their daughters or wives from teaching because of the threat of sexual violence against female teachers. This can have a negative impact in cultures where girls’ access to education depends on the presence of female teachers. There is also evidence of sexual violence against young women in teacher-education colleges. In one study in Ghana, women said they were intimidated by college lecturers and pressured for sex in exchange for good grades, but this phenomenon warrants much further study in different country contexts.

It would be wrong to assume that the presence of female teachers alone would prevent violence against girl students. If female teachers are marginalized and oppressed by the prevailing gender dynamics of an institution, they may be able to prevent sexual harassment and abuse or provide the support girls need.

In a 2001 study in Uganda, girls felt that female teachers ignored the very real issue of sexual harassment by boys and male teachers in the school: “The [female] teacher themselves do not challenge sexual harassment in school but just choose to tolerate it, thereby giving a helpless situation to the girls.” But when female teachers also are subject to sexual harassment by male teachers and students, there is little they can do to prevent it happening to their students.

A global problem

There is a correlation between a girl’s age and the likelihood of her falling prey to violence at school. Adolescent girls are at greatest risk. Such abuses, however, are not culture-specific. Girls of every ethnic, social and economic group can be targets. Although most recent research has concentrated on schools in sub-Saharan Africa, the problem is not unique to this region. Studies and interventions in North America, Europe, South Asia and Latin America suggest that violence against girls is a problem in schools around the world.

In the United States, a 2001 survey of more than 2,000 students between 13 and 17 years of age found that 83 percent of the girls and 79 percent of the boys had experienced harassment. In the United Kingdom, research conducted with children aged 10 to 11 and 14 to 15 indicated that sexualized teasing of girls by boys in mixed secondary schools is common. Girls explained that boys called them names such as “prossie” [prostitute], flicked their bra straps, looked up their skirts and grabbed and fondled them.

In refugee camps and other conflict-affected settings, abuse of power by men in positions of authority over vulnerable women and girls is also a major issue. Teachers may exploit their status within the community and use their economic power, however slight, to manipulate students, which can jeopardize the future of entire families. Refugee children see education as a critical means to improve their families’ financial situation. Their desperation to succeed in school makes them all the more susceptible to abuse.

In a 2001 survey of 560 secondary-school girls in Botswana, 67 percent said that they had experienced unwanted touching, pressure for dates and other forms of sexual harassment. For 25 percent of them, this was a regular occurrence. A report in 2002 found that girls at refugee schools in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia were subjected to abuse and exploitation, often by their teachers. The study revealed that in most cases good grades were exchanged for sex. The problem was widespread and integrated into the culture of the schools, in part because there was no system of checks and balances to protect the girls.”

All text is copyright (IRIN). Full permission is given for reproduction for non-commercial purposes.





Violence against Girls in School: Part 1

Posted in child abuse, child rape, feminism, gender stereotypes, gender violence, politics, rape, school violence, sexual harassment on October 7, 2006 by breatheinspirit

The below text is copyright, “Broken Bodies – Broken Dreams: Violence against Women Exposed.”

“A hostile learning environment

Gender-based violence is one dimension of the broader problem of violence in schools, and it manifests itself in a variety of ways. Whatever form it takes, violence against female students and teachers creates an atmosphere of intimidation and danger in an environment that should nurture and inspire.

While both boys and girls can be victimized at school, there are specific forms of gender-based violence to which girls most often are subjected. It may be verbal harassment – in the form of so-called teasing – or it may be of a more physical nature, such as unwanted touching and contact. It can also be more overtly violent, as in cases where girls are sexually assaulted or raped on or near school premises. Research in schools in Ghana, Zimbabwe and Malawi has shown that violence against girls includes sexual propositions to girls by older male students and teachers, as well as the use of sexually explicit language by teachers and students. Overtly sexual graffiti also can intimidate young women and create a hostile school environment.

Girls are more susceptible to violence because of inequities of power and status in society. Boys who are abused, however, usually are victimized by other boys as punishment for not conforming to the prevailing norms about what constitutes suitable male behavior or appearance. Their perceived weakness lowers their standing in the school hierarchy, making them vulnerable to taunting , bullying and other forms of aggression. One boy in the United States was scared to admit to his male friends that he disagreed with their harassment of female students: “Some of the boys that I considered my friends even began to do it [sexually taunt girls]. It felt awful to watch, but if I said anything, it wound not stop them and they would hurt me.” While it was difficult enough for girls to speak out about their experiences of violence, notions of appropriate masculine behavior make it even harder for boys to admit that they, too, are targets of abuse.

Such oppressive control of sexuality in schools also pressures boys to follow certain models of masculine an heterosexual behavior – which can result in greater acts of violence against girls. These notions are reinforced in many ways – formally through the curriculum and teaching materials, and informally, through the words and actions of teachers and other role models. Boys may feel the need to “prove” themselves, and one way of doing so is to sexually harass girls, either verbally or physically – and to do so publicly. In some circumstances this may go as far as gang rape. Human Rights Watch, for example, has documented cases in South Africa where girls as young as nine years of age were raped by two or more boys on the school campus.

Girls, too, are under considerable peer pressure to conform to gender norms, such as making themselves physically attractive, tolerating harassment and allowing themselves to be the target of sexual jokes and innuendo. While there may be initiatives in place to make schools more “girl-friendly”, the underlying dynamic is one of gendered power imbalances, with boys and men – and their perspectives – dominant. In much of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, for example, girls who attend upper primary and secondary schools are a very small minority. In countries such as India, Chad, Malawi and Mozambique, less than 50 percent of girls who start school remain until Grade 5. Their institutions are dominated by male teachers and male students, and decision-making at all levels rests clearly in male hands. In Southern Sudan, for example, less than 7 percent of teachers are women, and in Bolivia only 16 percent of all head teachers are women. Women hold only 30 percent or less of teaching posts in 16 countries of sub-Saharan Africa. Female teachers usually are concentrated in urban settings, with far fewer in rural and remote areas.

Such male-dominated contexts make it very difficult for girls to assert themselves and to challenge male power. Doing so may men ostracism and losing the support of friends and family. Reports from South Africa, for example, indicate that boys specifically target girls they perceive to be arrogant and assertive, such as prefects, student leaders or girls who perform well in school. Girls who are subjected to violence in school often have little recourse for complaint or even support – especially at the secondary level, where there are usually fewer girls compared with boys and very few female teachers. The majority of teachers are men, many of whom condone the behavior of boys – or even worse, are perpetrators themselves. Girls may fear retaliation or negative consequences, such as exam failure or undue punishments, if they speak out and especially if they name the perpetrators.

A violation of trust

In many instances, the very people who are in positions of trust in a school and responsible for the well-being of students are the perpetrators of gender-based violence. A number of studies highlight the prevalence of sexual misconduct by teachers and the extent to which they neglect their duty to care.

A male teacher in Kenya was accused of grading girls based on their looks after making them parade in front of him at the head of the class while he studied their figures. In a study in Botswana, 20 percent of girl students said that they had been propositioned for sex by teachers. Ten out of 16 girls at a school in Ghana had been asked for sex by teachers, and five of them knew of a girl in their class who was having sex with a teacher. In a similar study in Zimbabwe, 19 percent of the girls interviewed had been propositioned by a teacher, and a much larger number of them (63 percent) knew other girls who had been approached. Girls reported that teachers were quite open about their intentions, making advances on girls during class and sports activities. Some girls were thought to accept such propositions for financial benefit, to be favored in class, to avoid punishment or to gain better marks. In South Africa, one teacher who sexually abused a number of students offered a young woman high grades in exchange for sex:

“I went to his dorm and walked to the lounge. He gave me a hooch [an alcoholic drink]. I was lame. I knew what was happening to me, but I couldn’t move. He picked me up and took me to his room and started taking my clothes off. He took his clothes off. He’s twice my size and, like, five times my weight and has so many muscles. Then he penetrated me. When I came to, I got up and went to my dorm. … I was scared to tell anyone because I was afraid no one would believe me. I had been raped before, and no one believed me then. … The next day he asked me to come back. I gave him back his key and said I didn’t want to have anything to do with him. … About a week later he asked me if I would come do Afrikaans with him, and that he would give me good marks.”

Students who were the subjects of a study in Pakistan reported that teachers forced them to perform sexual acts by threatening them with or inflicting corporal punishment. Physical punishment, with its sexual undertones, is another way in which male teachers assert their power over female students, and in which the sex-power-gender dynamics between men and women in society at large are played out in the school setting.]

Where teachers are underpaid and lack access to professional support and development opportunities, sexual relations with students may be considered a “fringe benefit”. This is especially true in remote areas, where there are rarely effective systems in place to supervise teacher conduct or prosecute incidences of violation. Girls and their families may think it is futile to seek justice. Futhermore, not all parents, teachers and students disapprove of such relationships. If a girl becomes pregnant by a teacher, parents may be reluctant to pursue prosecution. In some very poor communities – in Southern Sudan, for example – families actually may welcome the pregnancy, as it might compel the teacher to marry the girl or pay compensation. In other contexts, parents feel disempowered and are unaware of how to challenge a teacher’s behavior.”

All text is copyright (IRIN). Full permission is given for reproduction for non-commercial purposes.