Archive for the politics Category

Turning the Tide: Part 1

Posted in abortion, activism, child abuse, child marriage, child molestation, child pornography, child prostitution, child rape, Defining Violence, domestic violence, dowry crimes, elderly abuse, female genital mutilation, female infanticide, feminism, gender stereotypes, gender violence, HIV, honour crimes, human rights, India, intimate partner violence, mail-order brides, male perpetration, men, misogyny, molestation, pedophile, pedophiles, pedophilia, politics, porn, Pro-Feminist Men, Prostitution & Trafficking, rape, reproductive rights, sati, school violence, sex selective abortion, sex trafficking, sexual assault, sexual harassment, single mothers, slavery, social work, son preference, united nations, war, widow cleansing on December 6, 2007 by breatheinspirit

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

The fight to end violence against women is both historic and universal. Historic, because gender inequality, which lies at the root of this violence, has been embedded in human history for centuries and the movement to end it challenges history, custom and, most critically, the status quo. Universal, because no society is an exception to the fact that violence against women is perpetrated through social and cultural norms that reinforce male-dominated power structures. The struggle is nothing less than a demand for full human rights to be unconditionally extended to all people everywhere.Those engaged in this struggle recognize that despite important advances that have laid the foundation for universal human rights, the work has only just begun. In October 2004, on the 25th anniversary of the landmark Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the committee monitoring international implementation stated, “In no country in the world has women’s full de jure and de facto equality been achieved.”

In most countries, in fact, the reality remains bleak. Discriminatory social norms and practices continue to impede women’s full enjoyment of their human rights. Insufficient political will, the extensive under representation of women in decision-making positions and a lack of resources to address the issue are further impediments to progress.

Asserting human rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted without dissent by the United Nations in 1948, recognizes the “equal and inalienable rights” of all people, “without distinction of any kind.” Violence against women contravenes a number of the fundamental human rights laid out in this Declaration such as the right to security of person; the right not to be held in slavery or subjected to inhuman treatment; the right to equal protection before the law; and the right to equality in marriage. Nevertheless, states sometimes deploy the argument of cultural relativism to defend practices that abuse women. According to the first United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, “The universal standards of human rights are often denied full operation when it comes to the rights of women.”

This book highlights through written description and visual representation many of the persistent expressions of gender-based violence. The testimonies of women and girls emphasise that there is no room for complacency or a false sense of rapid progress in the fight against inequality. To the countless women still suffering today, any positive changes that have been achieved must bear little relevance to their immediate reality. Nevertheless, remarkable developments have taken place in recent years, due in large part to the commitment of a few to change the behavior of many. In the face of formidable forces maintaining the patriarchal systems that give rise to both discrimination and violence against women, there is evidence that the tide may be turning.

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Female Genital Mutilation: Part 2

Posted in activism, child abuse, female genital mutilation, feminism, gender stereotypes, gender violence, politics on January 18, 2007 by breatheinspirit

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

“Attitudes sustaining the practice

Custom, religious belief and, at the heart of these, the desire to maintain a woman’s purity by restraining her sexuality have prevailed over negative health effects of FGM to perpetuate the practice. A female circumcisor from Kenya explained that the ritual is a way to ensure purity and fidelity:

“When you cut a girl, you know she will remain pure until she gets, married, and that after marriage, she will be faithful. … But when you leave a girl uncut, she sleeps with any man in the community.”

While there is no definitive evidence documenting why or when FGM began, many theorize that it provided families a means to ensure virginity before marriage. Infibulation scars in particular form a “seal” that both guarantees and confirms a bride’s chastity, and even the less severe forms of FGM may diminish girls’ and women’s sexual desire, thus decreasing the likelihood of premarital relations.

Social control of women and girls remains a primary argument for FGM even today. According to a demographic and health researcher in Eritrea, the most common defence for FGM among survey respondents was that “Chastity is a woman’s only virtue and all measures have to be taken to maintain it. … Women have to be protected, and infibulation is the defense mechanism.” Chastity is not a universal goal, however. In some communities in Kenya, Uganda and select West African countries, a girl may be expected to produce a child before marriage to prove her fertility. If she successfully delivers a baby, she will then undergo FGM and be married. In these atypical examples, FGM is practiced on older girls and women.

Both men and women who embrace the practice say that FGM promotes cleanliness, attractiveness and good health. Implicit in their view is the perception that female genitalia are dirty, unsightly and, if left in their natural state, may breed disease or be susceptible to other maladies. The tradition also increase marriage ability. FGM is believed to confer a sense of general calm on its initiates and, insofar as it decreases sexual desire, to limit the risk of extramarital affairs. In the words of one tribal elder in Kenya, “A circumcised woman will choose a partner for love, not for sex.”

In some communities, in fact, FGM is a prerequisite to marriage. Failing to comply with the tradition may constitute grounds for divorce and/or forced excision. In others, bride price may be significantly lower for an uncircumcised woman. A smaller vaginal opening is thought to increase a husband’s sexual pleasure. Despite this, FGM cannot be assumed to be solely “male-driven”. Some men currently are acknowledging the negative impact of FGM and speaking out against it, even as societies of women continue to insist that FGM is a critical rite of passage for girls.

Practiced by followers of Christianity, Islam and traditional or animist faiths, as well as some Ethiopian Jews, FGM transcends religious belief. Nevertheless, and notwithstanding the fact that FGM predates Islam, research suggests that Muslims in particular associate FGM with sunnah, or “required practice”. In fact, clitoridectomy is referred to as “sunnah circumcision” in Arabic. Although most Islamic clerics actively discourage infibulation and an increasing number of imams are speaking out against any form of FGM, some maintain that lesser forms are acceptable. For example, one cleric from Ethiopia, speaking at a regional conference on female genital mutilation concluded, “This conference, and the medical research associated with it, does not show that the sunnah circumcision – cutting only the outer part of the clitoris – has caused any medical complications. … I believe that Islam condones the sunnah circumcision; it is acceptable.”

Across cultures, religions and continents, one common feature of the practice of FGM is the social conditioning of women and girls to accept and defend it. Longstanding traditions and social norms have ordained FGM as a social imperative that promotes the future wellbeing of girls. In most communities, song and poems are used to deride and taunt unexcised girls. Myths similarly help to ensure FGM’s perpetuation. In Nigeria, for example, some communities believe that if a baby’s head touches the clitoris during delivery, the infant will die. Community and family pressure to conform to traditional practices is great for both mothers and girls, and mothers are often the primary actors responsible for their ‘daughters’ mutilation. In the words of one mother who was interviewed at a refugee camp in Kenya, “The practice adds to a family’s prestige in the community. Who would not want to bring honour to her family?”

There are economic aspects to FGM as well. The practice is an important source of income for cicumcisors, who most often are female. In impoverished settings, the financial impetus can be strong. The social support of secret societies also can be compelling, as one 26-year-old female cicumcisor explained: “I was circumcised at 13 and have myself circumcised 23 girls since then. This is the only way I earn a living and feed my children. I was a school when my parents were killed – I had nobody to take care of me and entered the secret society. It was from there I got married.”

Response: from legislation to prevention

In the 1970s and 1980s, FGM gained international attention as a critical health issue for women and girls. As a result, women’s advocates have broadened the discourse surrounding FGM to include gendered considerations of women’s subordination and oppression, acknowledging FGM as a violation of internationally recognized human rights, including the rights to life, liberty and freedom from torture. Largely in response to the worldwide action of numerous local and international organizations, the WHO launched a 20-year-old plan in 1997 to accelerate the elimination of FGM. Since its inception, the WHO initiative has informed individual country plans to eradicate the practice.

Implicitly denounced in several international treaties and conventions that condemn harmful traditional practices, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (1990), FGM is explicitly condemned in the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination Against Violence Against Women (1993), the Declaration and Platform for Action of the Fourth World Conference on Women (1995) and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and its Protocol on Women’s Rights (2003).

Many Western countries receiving immigrants from settings where FGM is customary have passed laws forbidding the practice, including Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. France has used existing legislation to prosecute FGM cases.

At the national level, 14 of the 28 African countries with cultures that perform FGM have instituted legislation prohibiting the practice, most in the last decade, including Benin (enacted in 2003), Burkina Faso (1996), Central African Republic (1966), Chad (2003), Cote d’Ivoire Kenya (2001), Niger (2003), Senegal (1999), Tanzania (1998) and Togo (1998). Nigeria has state laws outlawing FGM (1999-2002), and Egypt’s health ministry declared FGM unlawful and punishable under the penal code (1996).

Infibulation was outlawed in Sudan in 1946 and again following Sudan’s independence in 1956, but the 1993 penal code does not explicitly prohibit FGM. Nor do several other countries with a high prevalence of FGM have laws proscribing the practice, including Eritrea (95 percent prevalence), the Gambia (60 percent to 90 percent), Guinea Bissau (50 percent), Liberia (50 to 60 percent), Sierra Leone (90 percent) and Mali (90 percent). Although no laws in Mali prohibit FGM, the Ministry of Women, Children and Family has developed a national plan for eliminating the practice by the year 2007.

Despite progress in legislation, enforcement of anti-FGM laws in countries where they exist is often poor. Even more importantly, according to the president of the Research , Action and Information Network for the Bodily Integrity of Women (RAINBO), “Social change will not be attained through legal or punitive action alone.” Many experts argue that laws preventing FGM are valuable for underpinning education efforts and giving credibility to those working to eradicate harmful practices, but criminalizing FGM practitioners can inhibit critical discussion and encourage those involved to “go underground” in order to continue the practice, making an already dangerous procedure even more perilous.”

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Male perpetration: Part 3

Posted in activism, domestic violence, feminism, gender stereotypes, gender violence, honour crimes, intimate partner violence, male perpetration, politics, rape on January 1, 2007 by breatheinspirit

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

“A dangerous catalyst

Studies of the link between intimate-partner violence and rape and substance abuse indicate that “a larger proportion of incidences of physical and sexual violence involve alcohol or drug use by perpetrator, victim or both.” Research has shown that sexually aggressive dates are more likely to drink heavily or use drugs. Other studies mention that while the consumption of alcohol may lower inhibition for some men who are predisposed to sexual aggression, the pharmacological effect of alcohol on physical arousal may actually impede a man’s ability to complete a rape.

Numerous testimonies from battered and sexually abused women confirm that alcohol – while not a cause of violence – can be a common catalyst to abuse. Research indicates an association between heavy alcohol consumption and sexual and physical violence against women, but it is unclear, however, how alcohol increases the risk of violence. Drunkenness can provide an excuse for antisocial behavior, such that men feel they will not be held accountable for their actions. There is evidence that men with alcohol problems tend to be violent more frequently and inflict more serious injuries on their partners.

Dishonouring women and girls

“Pakistani police have arrested five men on charges of kidnapping and gang-raping a woman in the latest of a string of so-called honour crimes. The married women was attacked because one of her male cousins had an affair with a woman whose father disapproved of the relationship, police said…”

Despite popular perceptions, the concept of “honour” as a pivotal force around which family and society are formed is by no means the monopoly of muslim culture. Research in Latin America, Mediterranean countries, the Middle East, Asia and the Far East, as well northern and sub-Saharan Africa, shows that patriarchal models of honour dominate cultural and social arrangements. The threat to women’s basic human rights and personal safety is severe in these environments, where perpetrators of honour-restoring violence neither see themselves as wrongdoers, nor as seen as wrongdoers by their society. In the preceding example from July 2005, the perpetrators were required to carry out the judgment on orders from a village council in a rural area in Pakistan where tribal customs still hold sway.

Honour crimes have been described as a “retrogressive patriarchal tradition”/. They are based on the idea that a man’s honour is predicated largely on his ability to control the behavior, especially sexual, of his womenfolk. Institutions that foster male domination and sexual segregation have accordingly become fundamental to the social order in such societies.

In a context that would be considered extraordinary outside of these communities, a father, a brother or uncle may be the perpetrator of femicide and not consider it a crime or anything other than the right thing to do. “This is my daughter’s wedding night and those people are pretending my daughter is not a virgin,” an Algerian father shouts to doctors at 3 a.m. in a hospital emergency room. “I want you to examine her and clear my honour. I swear if she is not a virgin I will kill her right now.” Loss of virginity, or perceived loss of virginity, brings permanent dishonour to an unmarried woman and her family. The only way to cleanse the family honour is to kill the woman.

In these cultures, the police and judiciary display gender bias in favour of men who have killed women or girls for alleged breaches of honour. Where there is legislation, it is often ineffective in prosecutions and frequently regarded as Western or modern/urban by communities that predominantly live according to centuries-old customary law and informal tribal jurisdiction.

Documented cases from Brazil, Palestine, Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco, Syria and Lebanon (amongst many other countries) illustrate present-day examples of lenient judgments for wife murdering. This exists on a universal scale and therefore does “not result from religious or cultural factors but from a shared attitude to do with a woman’s worth and their proper role in society. In such cases the perpetrator may even be exonerated.

In these contexts what can we say of the perpetrators? Are they individuals guilty of gross human rights abuses and murder or are they part of a culture, a system which is collectively perpetrating these abuses?”

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Dowry crimes and bride-price abuse

Posted in Asia, Defining Violence, domestic violence, dowry crimes, gender stereotypes, gender violence, India, intimate partner violence, male perpetration, politics on December 17, 2006 by breatheinspirit

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

“The persistence of dowry crimes

As many analysts and women’s activists are quick to point out, femicide by husbands is not unique to India, nor is it more prevalent there than in many other parts of the world. The rate of intimate-partner violence in the United States, for example, is at least commensurate with that of India when compared on the basis of population. The women’s movement in India, however, has gone to great lengths to publicize this particular form of violence against women, shedding light on the combined forces – including the lack of basic human rights and the tolerance of violence against them – that put some women and girls in mortal danger at the hands of their partners.

Although India outlawed the modern dowry system in 1961, the practice has escalated among the expanding middle class, crossing religious, socioeconomic and ethnic boundaries. The National Crimes Record Bureau of the Government of India recorded 6,917 dowry-related deaths in 1998, a 15 percent increase over the number reported in 1997. Because incidents are grossly underreported, these statistics probably represent only a small sampling of the violence occurring across India every day. In 1999, the founder of the International Society against Dowry and Bride Burning in India estimated that 25,000 brides are killed or maimed each year as a result of dowry disputes. In 2000, a United Nations report estimated that on average five Indian women a day were killed in “accidental” kitchen fires by husbands whose demands for dowry payments had not been met. “Mina” is one of these statistics.

Beaten and harassed by her husband for almost four years for not bringing in enough dowry, Mina eventually left him and filed a harassment case with the local police. Her husband convinced her to return to him, however, and shortly thereafter she suffered a fatal “accident”. According to her husband and his family, Mina “fell on a chimney.” As she lay dying from the burns that covered more than 94 percent of her body, Mina was asked by police – as is customary – to make a declaration regarding the accident. She did so, absolving her husband and his family of any responsibility for her death.

From empowerment to exploitation

A chief historic motivation for bestowing dowry, as practiced in ancient Greece, Rome, India and medieval Europe, was to provide a degree of financial autonomy to a bride, how otherwise had little or no right to property after marriage. According to various traditions, dowry might flow from the groom and/or his family to the bride – thus ensuring her economic wellbeing in the event of her husband’s death or the dissolution of the marriage – or from the bride’s parents to the bride and her new husband, as a form of bequest, or premortem inheritance, for their daughter.

Now practiced primarily in Asian cultures, dowry payment in its current manifestation typically involves the transfer of wealth from the parents of the bride to the groom and his family. Although women and girls are no longer the direct beneficiaries, some researchers maintain that the practice still confers benefits to the bride by enhancing her status in the marital home. Evidence from India, however, indicates that the positive effects of dowry for wives have more than diminished. Once considered a beneficent and even spiritual act observed only by the wealthiest and holiest castes (with the lower castes practicing the more pragmatic tradition of bride price, involving compensation by the groom’s family to the bride’s family for the loss of human capital), the dowry system today often functions more as a commercial transaction and has been resolutely embraced by the middle and lower classes.

India’s modern dowry: groom price

Several theories have been advanced to explain why the middle and lower classes in India replaced the custom of bride price with the dowry system. Some suggest that it was an attempt by lower casts to emulate higher castes. Dowry payment became a status symbol, one that bestowed greater respectability on the bride and her family and increased the likelihood of the bride “marrying up”. It continues today because of caste-related systems of wealth dispersion. Another hypothesis contends that the interrelated influences of colonialism and the rise of a male-dominated market economy led to the devaluation of women, who lost their productive worth.

Others cite demographic shifts in South Asia as a possible reason for the change. Reductions in overall mortality that began about 60 years ago have resulted in there being more young people than old in the region. Because women are likely to marry at a younger age than men, there is a surplus of marriageable women. Increasingly inflated dowry payments are sometimes six times the bride’s family’s annual income. These dowries now function as a groom price – a means for young women to compete for respectable husbands. According to this hypothesis, recent declines in fertility and increases in sex-selective abortions should reverse the trend of escalating dowries over time and may even result in a return to bride price as the shortage of eligible women and girls results in men competing for wives.”

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Honour Crimes

Posted in domestic violence, feminism, gender stereotypes, gender violence, honour crimes, intimate partner violence, male perpetration, politics, rape on November 14, 2006 by breatheinspirit

All text is copyright, “Broken Bodies – Broken Dreams: Violence Against Women Exposed”:

“A culturally condoned atrocity

A young Bangladesh woman was flogged to death by order of village clerics for “immoral behaviour”. An Egyptian man paraded the head of his daughter on a stick through the streets of his neighborhood after he killed her for besmirching his name. A teenager’s throat was slit in Turkey because a love ballad was dedicated to her over the radio. A Pakistani woman was gunned down by her own family in the presence of her human rights lawyer for pursuing a divorce from her abusive husband. A 13-year-old Turkish girl’s husband slit her throat in a public square after pulling her out of a cinema and accusing her of being a prostitute. A 35-year-old Jordanian man shot and killed his sister for reporting to the police that she had been raped. A Turkish girl was killed by her father for telling the authorities that she had been raped and then refusing his demand that she marry the rapist. A 29-year-old woman was dragged from her house in Afghanistan by her husband and local officials stoned her to death for committing adultery, while the man with whom she was alleged to have had an affair was whipped and then freed.

Each of these executions was committed within the past five years in the name of “honour”. Many of the perpetrators received no criminal penalties; others served only short sentences. Considered justifiable punishment for a wide range of perceived offences, contemporary honour crimes are based on archaic codes of social conduct that severely circumscribe female behavior while at the same time legitimizing male violence against women.

Honour crimes are typically engineered by male family members but often tacitly or explicitly condoned by the community and/or the state. In many countries the responsibility for the murder itself is assigned to an underage male, thus ensuring a (reduced) juvenile sentence in the event the case is prosecuted. In most instances, the murderer is hailed as a “true man”. It is also not unheard of for female family members to act as accomplices to the killing or even to carry out the murder itself.

Global prevalence

In recent reports, both the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial and Summary Executions have highlighted the egregious type of violence against women, citing incidents in Bangladesh, Turkey, Jordan, Israel, India, Italy, Pakistan, Brazil, Ecuador, Uganda, Morocco, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Iran and Yemen, as well as among migrant communities in Germany, France, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Honour crimes also have been reported in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The actual scale of the problem is impossible to determine. In many cases deaths are not registered; in others murders are made to look like suicides, or women are forced or induced by their families to kill themselves. Burns or acid attacks not resulting in death often are attributed to accidents, a claim which victims may not refute for fear of further reprisals. In societies where these crimes occur, protection and support are often extended to the perpetrator rather than to the victim.

Despite the lack of reliable statistical data, estimates based on reviews of police reports and court dockets, newspaper articles and other sources in a variety of countries suggest that thousands of women and girls are murdered each year in the name of honour. Anecdotal evidence from Pakistan, for example, suggests that more than 1,000 women are victims of honour crimes annually. Over one-third of femicides in Jordan are thought to be such killings. In Turkey, an annual report of the Human Rights Association concluded that more than half of women killed by family members in 2003 were victims of honour crimes.

In 1997, the former attorney general of the Palestinian National Authority suggested that 70 percent of all murders of women in Gaza and the West Bank were honour crimes. In the same year, as many as 400 honour killings took place in Yemen, and 57 were reported in Egypt. In late 2004, 117 murders in the United Kingdom were being investigated as possible honour killings. In Lebanon, 36 honour crimes were reported between 1996 and 1998.

According to the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, the number of honour killings “is on the rise as the perception of what constitutes honour and what damages it widens.” Its global prevalence suggests that honour crimes are not unique to specific cultures, religions or classes. In fact, the justification has its roots in various social and legal systems around the world.”

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Male Perpetration: Part 2

Posted in Defining Violence, domestic violence, feminism, gender stereotypes, gender violence, intimate partner violence, male perpetration, politics, Prostitution & Trafficking, rape on November 2, 2006 by breatheinspirit

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

“Making man myths

Cross-cultural studies reveal that in most communities simple anatomical maleness is not enough to be a man. Real manhood lies elsewhere and is often a “precarious or artificial state that boys must win against powerful odds.” Does this “masculine mystique” encourage toughness, dominance and extreme competitiveness at the expense of honest emotion, empathy and communication?

Violence against women is more predominant in cultures where the idea of manhood is linked to entitlement to power or male honor. Historically, wars have been intensely masculine endeavors and the majority of all warriors, soldiers, admirals, police, militias and prison wardens are and have been men. In addition, bureaucrats, politicians and those who monopolize the systems of collective institutional violence throughout the world are men.

As boys become men within these societies, attributes of action, decisiveness, aggression and supremacy are prized and closely associated with “manhood”. These qualities, however fallacious, are perpetuated and considered the “natural” order and the preserve of masculinity. The expression of these characteristics in different societies can range from subtle to overt. Socialization of this kind negatively impacts both women and men. A recent publication from Brazil called Dying to Be Men – based on studies of violent male behavior in the United States, the Caribbean, Brazil and Nigeria – suggests that because young men are losing their lives in their attempts to embody certain models of masculinity, they are literally “dying to be men”.

In many non-Western societies, strict social rules that perpetuate the notion of the dominant male also deny women access to public life, private property, or even joint custody of their children. A woman is the protected possession of a man – his housekeeper, cook, monogamous sex partner and mother of his children. Even in countries that are considered more advanced in terms of democracy and representation – those with gender-sensitive legislation and significant structural equality between the sexes – violence against women continues. Many observers blame the influence of modern media, in particular television, films and advertising, for both subtly and explicitly perpetuating patriarchal role models for men and women.

Myriam Miedzan’s Boys Will Be Boys: Breaking the Link Between Maculinity and Violence examines how and why males are increasingly resorting to violence and what society can do about it. “As long as male behavior is taken to be the norm,” she writes, “there can be no serious questioning of male traits and behavior. A norm is by definition a standard of judging; it is not itself subject to judgment.”

Violence and Sexual Abuse in marriage

In South Africa, researchers for the Medical Research Council estimated in 2004 that male partners kill their girlfriends or spouses at the rate of one every six hours – the highest mortality rate for domestic violence ever recorded, they claim. According to the United Nations report that same year, domestic violence accounted for more than 60 percent of murder cases in court in Harare, Zimbabwe. In Zambia, a recent study found that nearly half the women surveyed had been beaten by a male partner.

Outside Africa and throughout the world, similar statistics for domestic abuse are staggering, with only a small minority of communities apparently free from violence. “For God’s Sake!” exploded one Nigerian when questioned about his wife-beating. “You are head of the home as the man – you must have a home submissive to you.”

A high number of women who report domestic violence also report rape within their relationship. “My sex life in marriage has been dominated by rape, rape, rape – and nothing to do with love,” concluded one woman from Latin America, echoing similar claims by women interviewed in different contexts around the world.

All too often sex in marriage is not a mutually pleasurable act but a brutal service exacted by force, threat or social convention.

According to one expert on domestic violence, “At an individual level, some men are more likely to sexually assault women: men who have hostile and negative sexual attitudes towards women, who identify with traditional images of masculinity and male gender role privilege, who believe in rape stereotypes, and who see violence as manly and desirable. … Men with more traditional, rigid and misogynistic gender-role attitudes are more likely to practice marital violence.”

The perpetrators of rape within marriage are not readily characterized as any particular group. Using force in marriage to gain sexual access is a cross-cultural and cross-societal is not the monopoly of any economic or social class. In many cases those who are accused or – in isolated instances – convicted of rape in marriage may not conform to popular notions of what a rapist is. Perpetrators of rape in cultures that expect and condone the brutal deflowering of a young bride (sometimes with knives) may be committing a severe assault and rights abuse, but they would be surprised to be labeled a rapist, which illustrates the complexity of dealing with these issues on a global basis.

There are common myths about perpetrators of domestic violence. These include the notion that domestic violence is rare or that perpetrators are somehow “abnormal” men who cannot control their anger. In reality, most men who beat their wives do not exhibit violent or antisocial traits outside the home. The idea that perpetrators are driven to violence by the behavior of their partners is also a myth, as perpetrators are often unaffected by their partners’ efforts to change or avoid so-called “provocative” behavior. The notion that poverty causes violence is a myth as well: Poverty can be a contributing factor to domestic abuse, but intimate-partner violence exists at every socioeconomic level.

Whatever the myths may be, it is indisputable that domestic violence has especially frightening and tragic implications for victims, who are locked socially, economically and often emotionally into the abusing relationship and share a home with their abuser. In many countries, the environment outside the home is fiercely unwelcoming to women who leave or divorce violent husbands, seek refuge or protective custody away from their partners, or seek legal redress. In Nigeria, where there are over 130 million people and wife battering is widespread, there are only two shelters for battered women.

Law enforcement in many countries will not intervene in what is still regarded as a domestic quarrel, despite evidence indicating that without intervention (legal or social) abusers are unlikely to seek rehabilitation or stop their battering behavior. In most cases law enforcement and the judiciary are run entirely by men, who are part of the patriarchal society that tacitly or overtly perpetuates attitudes that tolerate beating women. Numerous reports from Latin America, the Middle East and Central and South Asia cite examples where law enforcement officials have delivered wives who had been beaten back to the very families and perpetrators from whom they sought refuge.

Training programs and special units of law enforcement to assist victims of domestic violence have been developed only recently in a select number of countries. It was originally believed that if a victim of domestic violence could leave the abusive relationship the violence would stop, but now it is widely accepted that leaving does not guarantee an end to the abuse. In fact, separation is often the riskiest time for women, as many abusive men continue to harass, stalk and harm their victims long after the separation, sometimes resulting in murder. In one United States study, 70 percent of the reported injuries from domestic violence occurred after a couple separated.

Many working in the field maintain that the most effective way to stop perpetrators abusing their partners is arrest and incarceration. Legally and socially, however, societies still struggle with the complexities of domestic violence, the gravity of the crime and their overall commitment to tackling it.

Great strides have been made in terms of highlighting the scale and scope of intimate-partner violence over the last two decades. While the problem remains great, there is some evidence of progress, particularly in settings where women’s rights and choices have increased and they have gained more economic independence. But in more traditional societies, where a woman is secondary to the male head of the house and where male domination or patriarchy is more overt, the overwhelming majority of violence against women goes unreported, forcing women to suffer in silence. Documenting the prevalence of male violence against women in the home in more traditional cultures warrants further research.

In recent years, much has been made of certain studies indicating that men are also victims of domestic abuse where the perpetrators are women. Some suggest that there is a degree of “gender symmetry” in domestic violence – that women abuse their partners at similar rates as men – but a closer look at the methodology used in these studies casts doubts over the veracity of these claims. Opposing studies show that only 5 percent of domestic violence cases involve female perpetrators. An examination of the reality of power relations, access to economic resources and possibilities for separation or divorce indicates that by any standards the violence and vulnerability of men who are abused by female partners is of a different calibre that the pandemic of abuse of women by male partners throughout the world.”

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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.”

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