Home » VAW: Violence Against Women

If you ask a woman about going out alone in the dead of the night, onto the streets, very many women may express fear. What fear is it? Fear of getting attacked may be getting molested or raped, maybe getting mugged. These are the fears that come to a woman’s mind. They would rather stay at home where they feel safer.

In reality, are our homes safer than the streets for our women?

Most studies show that public space is more dangerous for men than women but the fear of danger is more for women. At the same time, the idea that private space is safer than public space is purely a myth. Most violence a woman faces comes from her own home, from someone she knows well. It can be sexual, emotional, verbal, mental, financial or physical violence. It can be intimate partner violence, sexual violence or other violence from another family member or a well-known person to the woman.

According to WHO, 38% of murders of women are committed by intimate partners!

Why does it happen?

  1. Gender norms – the belief that women are supposed to do only certain things and not certain other things. If a woman does anything that is not typical of her gender, in that society, she can be ‘taught a lesson and ‘shown her place. For eg: Going out with a boy, going out later than the prescribed time for girls, drinking, smoking or any other activity that is not considered the norm for a girl/woman. Asking for one’s Rights could also be seen as a threat to the status quo of privileges for men, where women are seen as property, seen but not heard and not human beings.
  2. When there is a lack of money or financial freedom for women, they are forced to stay in abusive relationships. The irony is that well-placed women also find it difficult to move away from violent partners.
  3. When the Rights of women are not acknowledged or accepted. Even parents treat girls as property, so there is more curb on their freedoms. This is where family honour, sexual purity, caste, and class come to play, where girls do not have the freedom to choose their life partners. 
  4. When there is a lack of law enforcement for atrocities or a lack of laws.
  5. Cultural and religious beliefs perpetuate inequality, discrimination, a sense of privilege and a sense of powerlessness.
  6. Unequal distribution of wealth and access to opportunities.
  7. Restrictive lives of men about expressing their emotions and asking for support.

How can we prevent violence against women?

  1. Create awareness of gender equality starting from home and school – for parents, children, and teachers.
  2. Create policies and laws that ensure gender equality and penalize those who break them.
  3. Build a support system for victims and survivors. Make it easier for them to leave and start all over.
  4. Create a support system for perpetrators to get help in managing their anger and other issues.
  5. Equip the community, police and the health sector to respond appropriately to any complaints of violence.
  6. Create awareness that violence against women is no household matter but a crime against the State.
  7. Let voices be heard, of victims and survivors.
  8. Call out misogyny, patriarchy, and inequality, whether it be by people, organizations, media, etc.
  9. Appropriate sex education.
  10. Appropriate education on laws.
  11. Push for companies to adopt stringent rules against workplace harassment and violence.

The above is a larger picture. What if there is violence against a woman, closer home, in our own family or neighbourhood? How do we deal with it as part of a community? Most of us think of violence against women as a family matter if it happens in the family. Because the violence is mostly done by a male family member. What happens at home, stays at home. How can we help someone who is undergoing domestic violence?

  1. First and foremost, listen to the person without judgements.
  2. Help the person get medical help and save any proof of violence. In India, if the woman wants it reported, it is better to go to the government hospitals. Doctors in government hospitals must report DV.
  3. Support the survivor to file a complaint. It is her decision and it may not come that easily. Hand hold the person till she decides.
  4. Get support from lawyers, police, District Protection officers, etc.
  5. Get the victim or survivor to get psychological help for herself and the children if any.
  6. Assist in getting the woman financially independent.
  7. Get the community involved in reporting such crimes.

What if the violence is perpetrated by the leaders of the community or by the government or the rebels fighting the government? The international community, UN, WHO, etc. should intervene to stop the authority is the perpetrator. There should be more funds flowing into projects that help prevent VAW.

VAW has been recognised as an infringement on Human Rights but enough work has not been done to alleviate it. It has gained momentum only recently. It is like a pandemic that impacts the health and well-being of individuals, children, families and the community. Why did it take so long when 50% of the world’s population is female? It all boils down to economics. People invest time and effort where there is money. From time immemorial, women have been assigned caregiving roles where there is no direct financial benefit. Now, who would study their problems, make policies & laws, enforce them and fund these? Where there is not much of an economic benefit, people will not invest resources. If there is any momentum now, it is only because we have more women leaders emerging, people are aware of the disadvantages of VAW and how much harm it can cause. 

It sure is a herculean task to make people around the world and in our communities change their perspectives, question their privileges and make drastic changes. It is not easy but it is doable, slow and steady.

  • Sajitha Rasheed