What is gender-based violence and why is it so important?


Gender-based violence [GBV] and 'violence against women' are terms that are often used interchangeably as the most recorded gender-based violence is perpetrated by men on women and girls. With this in mind, we must consider the 'gender-based' notion which highlights that GBV in essence indicates the power inequalities entrenched within society. More precisely, boys and men can also experience GBV, as well as sexual and gender minorities. GBV is thus rooted in structural inequalities between men and women and characterised by the abuse of power in the forms of physical, emotional and financial control.

Violence that is directed at an individual based on his or her biological sex, gender identity, or perceived adherence to socially defined norms of masculinity and femininity. It includes physical, sexual, and psychological abuse; threats; coercion; arbitrary deprivation of liberty; and economic deprivation, whether occurring in public or private life. GBV takes on many forms and can occur throughout the life cycle.  Types of gender-based violence can include female infanticide; child sexual abuse; sex trafficking and forced labor; sexual coercion and abuse; neglect; domestic violence; elder abuse; and harmful traditional practices such as early and forced marriage, “honour” killings, and female genital mutilation/cutting. Women and girls are the most at risk and most affected by GBV.


The focus of this particular campaign is to raise awareness on the societal problem and shift away from the common rhetoric of victim blaming in which all the focus is on the individual who has survived such violence and not about individual perpetrators. The concept of victimhood alone is dangerous as automatically the person having been subjected to such heinous acts is belittled and sympathy is readily given as opposed to empathy.  This is not a battle between genders in which men are seen as the perpetrators - this is a battle with the way in which society has programmed humans to act. The media, the objectification of women in music videos, gender norms – have all played a significant role and merit constructive and in-depth analysis.  


The problem is societal here, in my opinion - the victim is humanity if we enable ourselves to be subjected to social constructionism without introspection or engaging in self-awareness. The problem is within the education system which serves to perpetuate as opposed to challenge gender norms, in which no classes exist on gender identity, sex education classes are explained from a heterosexual perspective ostracizing the homosexual, transsexual and transgendered perspectives.


With regards to domestic violence, so many times I cringe as a counsellor when I hear the comments ‘why didn’t she leave her abusive husband already?’ There seems to be a diffusion of responsibility with regards to gender based violence. In which the individuals subjected to GBV are encouraged to speak up and society at large are bystanders to this process. However, in my opinion, it is our responsibility to question and challenge the current system in place as ‘in the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends’.  


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