Friday, 17 September 2010

Say No! To Violence against Women and Girls

Everyday a female is beaten, raped, verbally abused / belittled / intimidated / caused to live in fear of another person or sold into prostitution or some other form of slavery. This may sound like an exaggerated statement to some however it is the reality of countries all over the world including the first world. Offences against women of the violent and/or abusive nature do not only cause damage to the individual woman but it affects her children and family dynamics. I recently met with a woman who has survived domestic violence and she talked of the impact of this on her children. The breakdown of the family unit and had come to her home long before her husband left. He used tactics of manipulation and employed words which his used like fists to break down her resolve, remove all trace of self esteem in her and ensure that she is never strong enough in mind and spirit to make a stand for her rights. 

Womankind reports that least 1 out of every 3 women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime withthe abuser usually someone known to her." 
Click here for more info)
“A woman is more likely to be sexually assaulted than she is to get breast cancer. But, unlike cancer, sexual violence is rarely discussed. There is a stigma attached to sexual crime, the result of attitudes that lay the blame on the woman for the rape, not the perpetrator.
"Violence against women includes: domestic violence, rape
 and sexual violence,sexual harassment, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, crimes in the name of honour, trafficking and sexual exploitation.These are mostly committed by men that women know or are in close relationship with. 'A woman is more likely to be sexually assaulted than she is to get breast cancer. But, unlike breast cancer, sexual violence is rarely discussed. There is a stigma attached to sexual crime, the result of attitudes that lay the blame on the woman for the rape, not the perpetrator.'

Sexual Violence in the UK is 54% more likely to be committed by a woman
’s current or former partner. Sexual violence of any kind from the 'mild' sexual overtures in the office to the forced sex with a partner  / a known person. Rape is a crime that is not carried out exclusively on women but thousands of girls around the world have become victims also. I had the humbling experience of talking to a young girl who had been raped a few years ago, in her case by a stranger. The blessing in her situation is that she did not get pregnant or get any STI / STD's or HIV from this violation. However the psychological impact was so great and so damaging that this girl has been in and out of the social services system and placed in many different foster care environments due to her fear of men. Her innocence robbed so young that she initially blamed herself, felt dirty at the very thought of any man looking at her and she was ashamed of herself as if she had done something wrong... You may wonder what this girl did to provoke her attacker? Did she flirt, wear her school skirt too short, accept a ride from strange me, lie about her age? The answer is no. she was a 13 and a half year old tomboy who did everything with her parents and only walked to school alone. As she did one day the perpetrator abducted her. Had she fitted the former description of the flirtatious teen, it would still not be acceptable or in any way understandable that this inhumane character sought to violate her in this manner. Furthermore, sexual assault is about control and domination often coupled with anger and and the desire to violate than it is about attraction or lust. \The are no excusable set of circumstance in which a woman or girl should be raped.

Physical Violence against women and girls is a problem of pandemic proportions. The Home Office published statistics on violence against women which showed that; In the majority of incidents of domestic violence in the UK (2007/8), the victims were women 85% of the time. Furthermore, female victims are more likely to be killed by someone they know; 48% were killed by their partner, ex-partner or lover. These statistics highlight the gravity of the issue of violence against women, an inconvenient truth that is often ignored. Women who are murdered as a result of violence and abuse in the home will have engaged the emergency services at least once prior to their death however if a woman does not disclose that she has been abused the authorities are powerless to intervene and assist her. Her friends and family will experience a change in their relationship with her where she is vague, distant and increasingly unavailable, her countenance and character changed. Responding to these subtle changes before they  escalate can be the difference between life and death for many women, please do not ignore the signs.

Human Trafficking has been defined by the United Nations as, “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation". Human trafficking claims an estimated number of persons ranging from 500,000 to two million per year, the majority of victims are female, many of these come from poor families, third world countries. Some are sold into slavery by family members who are poor and have no way of ensuring their basic needs, others are lured in by promised a better life in another country, for example the United Kingdom, yet upon arrival their passports are confiscated and they are forced to work as sex workers to pay for their freedom. This is a reality today all over the western world not just in impoverished developing countries and it is essentially slavery in the 21st Century.

War Crimes against women are some of the most atrocious. According to Amnesty International every conflict zone they investigated in 1999 and 2000, showed that the torture of women was reported, most often in the form of sexual violence. They went on to say that; rape, when used as a weapon of war, is systematically employed for a variety of purposes, including intimidation, humiliation, political terror, extracting information, rewarding soldiers, and "ethnic cleansing".This is the reality of so many women and girls today in every war torn country whether the issue is internal conflict (such as dictatorship and military coups) or external conflict  with other countries. This tragic reality in our world today can not be accepted or ignored, particularly when young girls and women are taken from their homes and placed in 'rape camps' where they are systematically raped and beaten.  The Women's Refugee Commission state that; Gender-based violence (GBV) is any harm enacted against a person's will that is the result of power imbalances that exploit distinctions between males and females. Forms of GBV that occur during conflict and its aftermath include: sexual abuse and exploitation; domestic violence; trafficking; forced impregnation or sterilization; forced marriage; forced prostitution; forced recruitment; and harmful traditional practices, such as female genital mutilation or early marriage. Amnesty International highlight, that these acts are forms of hatred and those that result in prolific offence are tantamount to torture and are used as a rutal precursor to murder.

Where you live today...someone is being abused in one way or another...dont look the other the difference in the fight against brutality and violence against women.
There are many local, national and international organisations that have been set up specifically to raise awareness and fight against all forms of violence and abuse to women and girls. A notable organisation/movement is that of the White Ribbon Campaign which was started by and is run by men. They say of themselves, 'White Ribbon is a campaign led by men who condemn violence against women and take action to tackle it.  We are part of a global campaign of men and boys committed to ending violence against women'. If you are male and reading this, go to the website for your local white ribbon campaign and submit a pledge, ladies you can make a donation to this organisation as well as your local organisations that deal with helping women who have already been abusedYou can be the difference and violence against women can stop...Get involved!        

Violence against women continues to persist as one of the most heinous, systematic and prevalent human rights abuses in the world.
Ban K-moon, UN Secretary General 

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