GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE AND THE ENEMY AT HOME

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In 1993 countries in the General Assembly of the United Nations declared their commitment to end violence against women. To this date, UN Women has reported that “35 percent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner (not including sexual harassment) at some point in their lives”. According to the same office, the percentage goes as high as 70 in some countries.

Latin America and the Caribbean is a region where women and girls suffer from gender-based violence and the place in which a global movement started. According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), 3,529 femicides were committed in 2018. Governments have taken actions to legislate and create programs to address the issue. However, as with many laws, the problem is a lack of implementation rooted in pre-existing power dynamics: the patriarchal domination of women.

In October of this year, Chilean activists that seek to end gender-based violence came up with a performance (“un violador en tu camino“) that protested against one of the main tools of the existing structure; the song calls to highlight the constant practice of re-victimization. The song and choreography, which have resonated all over the world, voice the demand for States to recognize their complicity with rapists and sexual harassers by claiming that the victim was ‘on the wrong place and provoking their attacker’.

A study conducted by Oxfam shows that many young people in the region still believe that violence against women is justified in ‘domestic’ instances such as marriage. Governments also resort to the strategy of blaming the victims in order to justify their inability to address the issue. As such, the power structure is created and recreated by the same institution that is supposed to protect all the people who live in the State.

The Chilean movement however replicated all over the world given the fact that the same power structure affects women regardless of geographical location. Data shows that 58 percent of the women intentionally killed were murder by partners or family members. Movements like the one started in Chile voice a complaint that seeks to address the underlying structure behind the ‘acceptance’ of violence against certain groups of individuals, i.e. the life of a straight male is more valuable than that of others.

Men: Eliminate Violence Against Women

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The 25th of November has been marked since 1999 by the UN as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Particularly this year, the United Nations has chosen as its motto “orange the world: generation equality stands against rape”.

However, the origin of the day is less known. On the 25th of November 1960, the Dominican Dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo gave orders to execute the Mirabal sisters, three well-known political activists that had fervently opposed the dictatorship in the Dominican Republic. In 1981 the Latin American Feminist Movement,  paying homage to their assassination and raising awareness of the situation of women in Latin America & the Caribbean, declared the 25th of November as the day for the elimination of violence against women.

Let’s start by saying that violence against women is a structural phenomenon in mostly every society  in the world and despite the efforts in addressing this violence and working for its elimination via international instruments such as the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) or by including it on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the figures and facts in 2019 are still alarming and us, women, are right to fear.

But what do we fear? The main problem arising from all these initiatives is mostly its degree of abstraction. More often than not, we don’t see either in Conventions like the CEDAW or in different initiatives an appeal to the extremely likely and direct cause of violence: MEN.

This might seem obvious, but this fundamental cause of violence against women is usually absent, and the focus to end the problem instead of being on the cause is always on the consequences:

Who kills women and girls? The UN says:

-“1 in 2 women killed worldwide were killed by their partners or family in 2017; while only 1 out of 20 men were killed under similar circumstances”

-Let me ask: who are their partners? the Partners are highly likely MEN.

Who marries child brides? The UN says:

-“Almost 750 million women and girls alive today were married before their 18th birthday”

-But I ask. Who are they forced to marry? Girls are forced to marry MEN.

Who rapes women? The UN says:

-“1 in 3 women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, most frequently by an intimate partner”.

-I dare ask, again, who is the partner? and again, extremely likely, a MAN.

 

Today, on this very 25th November, I  challenge #allmen to start considering the ways you inhabit the world. I challenge you to think about all the times you weren’t scared when a woman was.

I challenge you to hold accountable other men around you. I challenge you to stop saying #notallmen (at least before you do, check these facts).

 

 

And to all the women, see you later on the streets.