Violence against Women – Evil at rage, Lives at stake.

Screams here, screams there
Bruises, scars, darkness everywhere,
Epitome of beauty living lifeless somewhere.

Hatred, suffering, beating and even death, such awful and heartbreaking emotions, yet defining lives of numerous women out there. Women, considered as an epitome of a goddess in our Indian culture, the pride of every house, the backbone of our families and whatnot, deserves to be treated like queens, but the reality is harsh and scary.

Violence against women and girls is among the most universal and pervasive human rights violations, affecting at least a billion women across the globe. Violence, according to the dictionary meaning, means a behaviour which harms or damages somebody or something physically. But violence necessarily doesn’t always involve physical torture, it can be mental extortion as well. Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today that remains largely unreported due to the impunity, silence, stigma and shame surrounding it. Violence against women also known as gender-based violence, are violent acts the victims of which are primarily or exclusively women or girls. Such violence is often considered a form of hate crime, committed against women or girls specifically because they are female and considered inferior.

The United Nations defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.” Women and girls face violence at home, in school, on the street, at work, on public transportation and even online. They experience violence in times of peace and in times of conflict. Some women face a heightened risk of experiencing physical or sexual violence, including those married before age 18, living in conflict and fragility, with low levels of education or who are sexual and gender minorities.

Violence against women has many faces around the world. Certain forms of violence have cultural and economic roots such as dowry violence, honour killings, female genital mutilation, marriage abduction, forced marriage, so on. Physical or sexual violence from their partners or non-partner sexual violence are just a few highly prevalent forms of violence.

Violence against women can fit into several broad categories. These include violence carried out by individuals as well as states. Some of the forms of violence perpetrated by individuals are rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment, acid throwing, reproductive coercion, female infanticide, prenatal sex selection, obstetric violence and mob violence. There are forms of violence which may be condoned by the government, such as war rape, sexual violence and sexual slavery during any conflict, forced sterilization, forced abortion, violence by police and authoritative personnel, stoning and flogging. Many forms of violence against women, such as trafficking in women and forced prostitution are often perpetrated by organized criminal networks.

Women and girls worldwide experience various forms of violence by close and extended family members, neighbours, acquaintances and by men in positions of power and authority. Them, who are displaced within their own country and those who seek political asylum elsewhere often live in isolated or temporary accommodation are more vulnerable to such violence. Women who leave an abusive spouse may face additional social and legal consequences.

A 2013 analysis conducted by WHO with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the South Africa Medical Research Council, used existing data from over 80 countries and found that worldwide, 1 in 3, or 35% of women have experienced physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner or non-partner sexual violence. Globally as many as 38% of all murders of women are committed by intimate partners. In addition to this, globally 7% of women report having been sexually assaulted by someone other than a partner, although data for non-partner sexual violence is limited.

The history of violence against women remains vague in the scientific literature. This is mainly because any kind of violence against women is under-reported due to societal norms, taboos, stigma and sensitive nature of the subject. Although the history of violence against women is difficult to track, it is clear that much of the violence was accepted, condoned and even legally sanctioned. The history of violence against women is closely related to the historical view of women as property and a gender role of subservience. There are various factors that result in violence, some factors can be the lower level of education, witnessing family violence, antisocial personality disorder, harmful use of alcohol, having multiple partners, low levels of women’s access to paid employment, male controlling behaviours towards their partners, weak legal sanction for sexual violence and so on.

Gender inequality and norms on the acceptability of violence against women are the root cause of violence against women. Violence against women and girls incurs high costs for individual women, their families and whole communities, stymying progress to achieving development goals. All violence has a lasting impact, but some forms of violence are especially likely to have long – term implications that predispose women to secondary health risks. It also affects their children, victims of violence tend to deliver babies with lower birth weights and higher risks of prematurity and complications.

Children who are exposed to abuse between their parents are also at risk of being assaulted and of developing emotional and behavioural problems. Such violence can have fatal outcomes like homicide or suicide, lead to injuries, unintended pregnancies, induced abortions, sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. It can also lead to depression, post-traumatic stress and other anxiety disorders, sleep difficulties, eating disorders. Health effects can also include headaches, back pain, abdominal pain, gastrointestinal disorders, limited mobility and poor overall health. The economic cost to society is also substantial. Not only it places a high-cost burden on the healthcare system for the treatment of physical and mental consequences but also has a ripple effect on society. Women may suffer isolation, inability to work, loss of wages, lack of participation in regular activities. It is thus a major barrier to the economic and social development of women.

I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

There is one universal truth, applicable to all countries, cultures and communities; violence against women is never acceptable, never excusable, never tolerable. The high time has come to eradicate the evil of society from its roots. While the criminal nature of violence against women is certainly not sufficient to reduce the endemic incidence of this phenomenon, it is important to make such violence a punishable offence. Lack of recognition of specific forms of violence against women as crime symptomless a lack of commitment on the part of the state to tackle the problem. There are many steps that can be taken to make it easier for victims of violence to come forward and participate in the judicial process. Victims could receive free legal assistance and be provided protection from unnecessary publicity.

Placing violence against women in a legal framework needs to be followed by enforcement and active support from authorities. It is important to enact and enforce legislation and develop policies that promote gender equality by ending discrimination against women in marriage, divorces and custody laws, improving women’s access to paid employment, prevent recurrence of violence through early identification of women experiencing violence and providing appropriate referral and support. It is important to provide avenues for women to address sexual harassment and abuse at the workplace.

However, given the pervasive nature of violence against women and the attitudes and behaviours that sustain it, leadership and active participation at every level in every society are required to address this issue. It calls for a range of measures-curative and preventive, immediate and long-term. The pervasive and persistent nature of this violation of human rights requires an equally broad response aimed at changing the mindset of individuals and influencing the criminal justice system and the development of public policy.

There is a wall of silence against women and violence, and every time a woman speaks out, it breaks a crack in that wall. Equality cannot come eventually, it’s something we must fight for now. The protection against domestic violence, sexual abuse, is to raise men who both understand that women are different and would never dare take advantage of this difference. We must unite. Violence against women can’t be tolerated, in any form, in any context, under any circumstance. It’s time for females to realise that the hands that can rock the cradle, can run the country as well. Stand up for the innocent not because you have a sister, not because you have a mother, not because you have a daughter, but because she’s a person.

Voice raised is voice heard , voice heard is evil eradicated.

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