EDITORIAL - Time to eradicate gender-based violence
Each year, beginning near the end of November, there are 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence. During this time the public gains more awareness and is inspired to join in the campaign, the aim of which is to galvanise action to end violence against women and girls especially, but also violence against men and boys around the world as well.
One would believe that in this age of enlightenment and sophistication, violence against women would fast be on its way to becoming a thing of the past. Considered a cultural norm historically where women were seen as chattel and possessions in some societies, this perspective remains true in many areas unfortunately, as far too many still consider girls and women unequal to males and do not afford them a similar level of respect.
A large part of this problem, as stated before, is cultural. Young boys are not raised to believe in gender equality and girls are raised to expect poor treatment. In India for example, some young males were reported as saying “girls are so foolish and silly, they have to be beaten so they can get some good ideas in their brains…” while the mothers and sisters in the same community asserted that “all men beat their wives… it’s what to do to be manly…”
Still, the unfortunate truth is that violence against women is also found in so-called liberated Western societies, especially in the form of domestic abuse. The recent onslaught of sexual abuse allegations in the US can in no way overshadow the endless cases of domestic abuse over the years, which prove that women are habitually victims of violence by male spouses.
Yet, this horrific action should not be seen as targeting females only. Males are increasingly coming forward to admit that they have been on the receiving end of violence from females. Most hesitate to admit such because they believe it diminishes them in the eyes of their peers, while others simply think that no one would believe their claim. Luckily, this stereotype is being knocked down one case at a time and gains momentum when victims come forward and highlight their plight; for instance, actress Naya Rivera of Glee fame was recently arrested on domestic battery charges against her husband Ryan Dorsey, after he called police.
Likewise, there is another segment of society which is constantly threatened with violence based on their gender identity – the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex (LGBTI) population. Many in this community were assigned a particular sex at birth, but identify as another, and since gender is a social construct, may even identify as different genders throughout their lifetime. They frequently experience discrimination in their daily interactions, but also can experience acts of violence against them by people who are homophobic or intolerant of their nature.
Therefore, one of the first steps to eradicating gender-based violence is to understand and accept that it does not mean violence against females alone. Following this realisation, efforts must be ongoing to address laws that favour perpetrators of violence and discourage victims from coming forward. A little over a week ago, registrar of the Supreme Court Barbara Cooke-Alleyne put forward a number of proposals to fight this violence, including introducing electronic monitoring equipment for violent offenders; appointing legal aid for victims without representation; increasing length of time for counselling for victims; and removing penalties for false accusations so victims would be less afraid to speak out.
These proposals would be a step in the right direction and we encourage their implementation. Yet, as a society we all have a hand in ending this type of violence. Let our actions speak out. As was stated by former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, “Everyone has a responsibility to prevent and end violence against women and girls, starting by challenging the culture of discrimination that allows it to continue.”