“Violence against women and girls continues unabated in every continent, country and culture. It is a devastating price on the lives of women, their families, and society as a whole. Most societies prohibit this violence – and yet the reality is that very often, it is covered or implicitly forgiven.” –Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General
Women have always played a central role in the evolution of the human species, not only because they get pregnant, but also because of their different roles in the family (eg mothers, spouses) and in society (eg they contribute to the economy). However, gender inequality still exists in almost every culture, and this is – directly or indirectly – a reason women miss opportunities for education or work. Unfortunately sometimes men are clinging to old perceptions (eg that women should only be responsible for children and housework), so they behave violently when women become independent because they feel they are not performing their obligations.
Violence against women can exist in many forms and in different contexts, thus reproducing the power relations between men and women, on a personal, professional and social level. Violence affects the fundamental rights of women / girls who exist and occur regardless of social class or economic status.
“Violence against women” as a term includes any act of violence (or the threat of such an act) based on gender (woman). It results in physical, sexual, emotional / psychological, verbal or financial abuse, as well as direct or indirect coercion or deprivation of liberty. Violence against women can occur in either in private or in public life.
Forms of violence can be:
Domestic violence against women is defined as any kind of physical, sexual or psychological violence perpetrated by a spouse or partner, as well as by members of his or her family. Two forms of domestic violence are:
- The economic exploitation. For example, the spouse may exploit the spouse’s property or salary for personal gain.
- Emotional violence. For example, a husband may not be physically violent but may reduce the woman as a human being, wife or mother.
Sexual harassment and rape
Sexual harassment is the behavior of sexual content that violates the dignity of women. This form of violence can occur in a family / friendly environment but also in the workplace. Such behavior creates a hostile and humiliating climate for the individual.
Trafficking is a modern form of slavery and violence against women of all ages. The official definition internationally comes from the “United Nations Protocol to Prevent and Suppress the Illicit Trafficking in Persons for the Sexual and Economic Exploitation of Especially Women and Children”. It is the illegal recruitment and movement of women through threat, coercion, use of force, abduction, or deception. The purpose is sexual exploitation, prostitution, or other forms of forced labor.
The profile of abused women
- Passive behavior. They take responsibility for the violent acts of the offender by enduring humiliation and insult.
- Low self-esteem. They usually have traditional family perceptions as well as gender stereotypes.
- Insecurity and invalidity. They do not feel capable of taking responsibility and taking initiatives in fear of failure. Also, financial independence plays a very important role. For example, it is much more difficult for a woman who does not work to make drastic decisions (eg to divorce her husband).
- Guilt and helplessness. They feel that they are doing something wrong and are themselves responsible for their abuse, believing that no one can support them. This situation drives the woman to live in constant fear. The shame and guilt they feel prevents them from seeking help because they feel they will expose their family. In reality, however, this aggressive behavior is passed down to future generations (if for example this family has children), teaching tolerance to tomorrow’s citizens. As a result of this constant stress, women suffer from many psychosomatic symptoms. They have severe anxiety reactions, panic attacks, depression, psychosomatic illnesses, and problems with their sex life.
Did you know that…
- The most common form of violence comes from a sexual partner. One in three women will experience physical violence, rape or will be abused in some other way by her partner, at some point in her life.
- Half of all female homicide victims have been murdered by a (current or former) spouse or partner.
- One in five women will at some point will fall victim to rape or attempted rape.
- Women aged 15-44 are at greater risk of rape or domestic violence than of cancer, traffic accidents, war or malaria.
- 130 million women and girls have genital mutilation.
- 2 million girls per year are at risk of genital mutilation.
- 40-50% of women in the European Union have reported some form of sexual harassment in the workplace.
- 55% -95% of women victims of domestic violence do not report the problem.
- The cost of violence against women is extremely high. It includes the immediate cost of services to treat and support abused women and their children as well as the prosecution of perpetrators