For International Women's Day, new blogger Ashley takes a look at domestic violence, and explores how we can confront an issue that has profound negative effects on many millions of women globally.
This year, the theme for International Women’s Day is “Pledge for Parity”. This theme, to me, addresses an eclectic range of gender issues, such as economic empowerment of females in the workforce and education for all. As females, it is important for those of us privileged enough to be born into first-world countries to think about our counterparts in regions of the world which are less developed. Although it may be difficult to put ourselves in their shoes, we need to strive to delve deeper to understand the issues such that we are better able to empathise with them. We are, after all, in this together.
Recently, I came across a video that aimed to illustrate not only the physical, but also emotional and psychological pain and distress faced by female victims of domestic violence through a series of monochrome photographs by Donna Ferrato. Before this, I had vaguely been aware of the ramifications brought about by domestic violence, but never truly understood the gravity of this situation till I watched the video.
In many countries where women are still viewed as subordinate to men and pegged to more subversive roles, males generally possess a greater decision-making power than females. Such gender inequalities facilitate the increased possibility of abusive and violent behaviour of men towards their female spouses or family members. It is currently estimated that 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their lives. This number increases even up to 70% in some national studies.
Not only are such statistics abominable, but they are also a testament to the amount of work that needs to be put in to eliminate this problem and end violence against all women around the world.
Some may profess that the issues of domestic violence stem primarily from cultural beliefs and traditional practices in certain developing countries. While it is important for us to respect the traditions and beliefs held by societies that differ from our own, creeds and cultures should never be viewed as an acceptable reason to even remotely justify physical assault. The emotional and psychological trauma that affected individuals suffer from as a result of such violence is frightening, and something that can, in actuality, be prevented right from the get-go.
It is comforting to note that several international frameworks have been adopted in an effort to preclude gender-based violence. Such legal policies include the Convention on the Elimination of Violence against Women as well as more individualised efforts like the U.S.’s U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security, which aid in combatting gender-based violence globally through foreign policy.
However, a lot more effort can still be put in to tackle this issue. Besides empowering women to take the courageous stand by making a firm stand to leave abusive spouses or households with males who accept and hence perpetuate domestic violence, we can also make efforts to integrate males in this pursuit for gender parity as agents of change. One approach to take would be to address issues surrounding gender stereotypes of masculinity versus femininity. Education here is key to curbing the propagation of typecasts, and is an important milestone in the arduous pursuit of ending gender-based violence.
In the video, one of Ferrato’s quotes that stuck out to me was, “we’re living in a home that should be our sanctuary, and it’s like living in a warzone”. When I clicked on the link to the video, I asked a friend of mine who happened to be sitting next to me to watch it together with me. A few seconds into the short film, my friend took out her earpiece and told me, “I can’t watch this. I’m too scared.”
It was right for her to be afraid. In fact, it would be right for her to be terrified. Gender-based violence is very real, and an issue that should never be tolerated. If we wish to play a part in galvanising change, we need to start by shedding light on the realities of this issue to the rest of the globe.
All of us in this world need to recognise that females are a force to be reckoned with. We are strong, we are powerful, and most of all, we are unbeatable.