Today, Thursday 25th November is the International day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. I decided to broach this topic, because first of all, it is very important and unfortunately a lot of people are not educated enough, but also because that obviously concerns me a lot since I am a woman. I got educated on this subject thanks to social media, and today I want to share what I learnt. Especially since this subject is current due to the pandemic of COVID-19: violence against women increased since families had to stay at home for a long period of time.
What is violence against women exactly and how it takes place?
The United Nations defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.” So, it is not just physical violence, it can be psychological which we also have to take into consideration, it’s not less violent. It can also be both of them.
Nowadays, we live in a patriarchal society, which means according to Linda Napikoski who wrote a great article about patriarchy: “Patriarchal (adj.) describes a general structure in which men have power over women. Society (n.) is the entirety of relations of a community. A patriarchal society consists of a male-dominated power structure throughout organized society and in individual relationships.” This definition is in harmony with my vision of patriarchy that’s why I chose to share this one.
So, this domination can come down to visible or obvious actions or facts like the difference of salary between men and women, the vocabulary that we use in daily life. We never think about it, but even the swear words that we use are sexists. But it’s not because it’s visible that it’s not seen as normal for most people. It is also harassment in the street or at work.
Then, it can also be something internalized and invisible or inconspicuous for example: violence against women (or children) that takes place at home, in an intimate area. When it happens to someone, usually even his entourage does not suspect a thing because the man who mistreats his wife for example, is someone normal, who is never violent when he is surrounded by people. Also, rapes, because we all have a wrong idea of how most of the rapes take place. We all have this image of a rape that is happening in the street when it’s dark and a girl is going home alone at 3 am. No, this can happen of course, but the reality is way different. For example, in France, 74% of rapes are committed by someone known by the victim. It is usually happening within the family, or by someone known by the family.
Also, rapes can happen within the couple. The definition of rape, according to Wikipedia (French version) is the following: “Rape is the act by which a person is coerced into a sexual act by force, surprise, threat, trickery or, more broadly, by the absence of consent.” This definition should be read by everyone. A lot of women ignored themselves that they have been raped by their own husband because they don’t know that it’s actually a rape, and they are not educated about consent and the importance of this concept. They think that marital duty exists and they have to fill it for her husband so they accept everything even If they don’t want to. Men should also understand that when there is no answer (the person is sleeping, or too drunk to be able to give her consent), it means NO. So, it also exists, internalized rape, it can happen when a women accept to have sex under the pressure of the man.
I found a definition of what exactly consent is on this website: “Sexual consent is an agreement to participate in a sexual activity. Before being sexual with someone, you need to know if they want to be sexual with you too. It’s also important to be honest with your partner about what you want and don’t want. Consenting and asking for consent are all about setting your personal boundaries and respecting those of your partner — and checking in if things aren’t clear. Both people must agree to sex — every single time — for it to be consensual. Without consent, sexual activity (including oral sex, genital touching, and vaginal or anal penetration) is sexual assault or rape.”
Phrases like “she was asking for it” or “boys will be boys” attempt to blur the lines around sexual consent, placing blame on victims, and excusing perpetrators from the crimes they have committed.
Negative impact for everyone.
Contrary to what we think, patriarchy also has consequences on men. Men are expected to be strong, to not show any emotions and that also is the cause of bad behavior. Because instead of asking for help, communicating, or just talking to someone about their problem when it’s deep and it needs to be fixed, they just express themselves through violence. That’s their way of communication and unfortunately, it is women who have to deal with this, because men, by the spirit of domination, they attack people with less power as children or women. When men will understand that they can be calm, communicative and emotive people (it’s okay to cry for example), and that it shouldn’t be attributes that are linked with women, we will have done a big step already.
This paradox between men and women perpetuates gender-based violence because there is a relationship of domination and a feeling of superiority from men in general.
How to solve this problem
To know how to solve this problem, we should reflect about where the problem comes from. The answer that I found is: education and traditions. Our parents or grand-parents and the generations before were just living their life without questioning it, in sexism, because they always knew this, it was considered as normality. But now, in the age of technology and social media, it’s easier to denounce, educate and realize the violence that women undergo.
So, education is key, but instead of taking place on social networks, where it can be also not adapted to the age or misunderstood by some people, it should take place at school, when boys and girls can learn all together at the same level, and from the youngest age.
When we were young, we were raised differently by our parents if we were a boy or a girl, while we shouldn’t have. For example, a little boy always receives guns, cars or dinosaur toys and it’s always blue or red, while a girl receives a barbie, baby to take care of, make-up or kitchen toys and it’s always pink. Today, we are questioning this kind of sexism that increases this image of the strong man and the weak woman that needs her husband to control her life.
With the movement as #MeToo for example on Twitter, people realize how bad the situation is and that every women have suffered from sexism, violence or sexual assault. Or at least, they all know someone who has.
Second movement that took place these last years is demonstrations in a lot of countries. People, and women specially are fighting for their rights and for their security in denouncing the violences and the murders of women because of their sex in the street, to be heard and to be empowered.
Both of these movements allow men and women to be more educated in this topic, and then they can also protect themselves and the others more: for example, a man will understand that he shouldn’t talk or follow too close to a woman at night because she will be anxious that something bad will happen to her.
Also, if justice does its job better in the future, perhaps the harsh sentences will make men realize the gravity of their actions and change their behavior. This is what we have to fight for, both men and women together.
All of this has also now consequences about the open-mindedness of people. Homophobia and transphobia come also from the patriarchy, because two men together are seen like “weak” people who hold the “attributes of a woman”, and this is seen as negative and it also shows the fact that women are seen as weak people and inferior people by men. We have made a big step already, but it’s not enough and it’s not the case in every country obviously. Nowadays, women are still violented for being women: rape, excision (In the world, 6 girls are excised every minute, and this violence concern every religion and 5 continents), forced to be married, murders (During 2020 in France, almost 100 women were killed by their husband because they are women), street harassment, stalking, cyber- harassment… the list is long. To conclude and give the example of Croatia, the Covid-19 and mostly the lockdown has made some bad consequences: all forms of domestic violence were on the rise in Croatia in 2020 (Ministry of Interior Affairs. 2020, p.7-8). As an example, attempted rape cases were up by 34 percent, while reported cases soared from 73 in 2019 to 168 cases in 2020. Murders were up by 10 percent.
Thanks for reading and see you next month for another topic!