Record of Meetings

Record of meeting 12/5/14

​The Social Impact of Violence against Women

​Chairperson Ms Neda Salmanpour, opened the meeting by welcoming everyone and introducing the speakers.

Dr Sean Tedjarati MD, MPH, FRCS, FACOD, Director of Gynaecological Oncology and Robotic Surgery, Westchester Medical Centre, New York.

Dr Tedjarati expressed concern about violence against women globally which he called the cancer of our time. He amde the following points as illustration.

Violence against women is not found in particular countries but is a global problem, almost equally severe in developed as well as developing countries.

Purely as a result of gender .a woman has a one in three chance of experiencing physical, mental or sexual abuse in her life time.

Violence against women arises in many different situations, viz

Selection at or before birth.

Sexual violence as a weapon of war.

70% of cases of violence against women are committed by a person known to them.

Ritual such as Female Genital Mutilation

If a child observes violence at home it is 10 times more likely to experience or commit similar abuse.

As a visual illustration, the prevalence of this crime globally equates to four Jumbo jets full of women being raped, murdered or mutilated every 15 minutes.

The problem is related to asymmetric power of the sexes which is in turn related to cultural attitudes. Men who commit violence against women are prisoners of their own weaknesses. Addressing this problem will benefit women and men, children and therefore community. He drew a parallel between the need for attitudinal change with that which occurred towards slavery.

The problem is multi-faceted and requires a broad spectrum of solutions, such as

Laws and enforcement.

States need to act not just proclaim.

Laws must be enforced and impunity ended.

Women must be given access to the courts for prosecution of these laws.

Raising global consciousness, advocating universal justice and examining the roles of both men and women.

Quoting Martin Luther King, “justice anywhere is justice everywhere.”

If a woman is raped in Africa, the violation we feel to our individual consciousness should be a violation to the global consciousness.

It should be unacceptable to all that women of capacity are prevented from realising their potential.

We should all ask ourselves how we can contribute to the solution. Dr Tedjarati decided that his contribution was to speak out.

Education and Empowerment.

Education is an important factor in changing the culture and belief which create power imbalances.

Women must be enabled to understand their self-worth.

Women must be seen as imperative to economic development and their economic empowerment is critical to the changes needed  .

A woman who is unable to read and write has a tenfold greater risk of violence and her children are ten times more likely to  suffer a preventable death.

Wider considerations

Educational solutions to the gender-based violence problem must be directed at both men and women.

The problem is rife in all societies, one in five of American college female students have been subjected to sexual violence .

Real peace nationally and internationally is dependent on the eradication of this problem.

Prosperity depends on gender equality. It is impossible if 50% of the population are not allowed to contribute to the economy.

Nations are no longer separate socio-economic entities and adverse effects of abuse of women in one country impacts on neighbours.

Questions

1 Observing countries with the worst abuse records, suggests that it is a Muslim problem. What can be done about this religious connection?

Answer

It is wrong to think of this as related to particular religions, it is a problem of humanity which transcends religious, cultural and national boundaries.

2 Education of girls and women is extremely important, but  do you agree that it is key to educate men and boys on the issue of violence against women. After working on this issue for many years, I’ve realised that we need to work with men and women together.

Answer

I completely agree. I reiterate that it is an issue for the whole of society and men should be at the forefront of the battle in partnership, hand in hand with women, because it is a cancer of our time.

Ms Gulser Canivar Corat, Director, Gender Equality, UNESCO

Violence against women is not a private or personal issue alone, it is also a public and economic issue which has a great impact on sustainable development annd peace in communities globally. It is widespread and not subject to  geographic, socio-economic, ethnic, cultural or other boundaries.

It effects women of all ages, origins and social backgrounds

Women suffer violence in many different situations, the home, communities, on the streets, at work, schools, refugee camps, hospitals.

It takes many forms, sexual, physical, mental and economic.

One in three women in the world will experience abuse during her life time.

Domestic violence is the major cause of death for women between 16 and 44 years of age.

It accounts for more deaths and ill-health in women than cancer or trauma.

A World Health Organisation multi-country study found that 70% of women suffered violence from an intimate partner.

In France 121 women are killed by an intimate partner each year, ie one every three days.

Violence against women is a symptom of another issue, the inequalities between men and women which exist throughout the world. There is no country which has achieved gender equality even in those that profess otherwise. While there persists such power imbalance and women have unequal staus in society, gender based violence will not be eradicated.

​Significant work has been carried out by Nation States, NGO’s, UN entities and women’s groups addressing this problem but little progress has been made.

Effects of violence on women

Poor physical and reproductive health.

Poor mental health and social function.

Addictive tendencies

Sexual dysfunction.

Post-traumatic stress disorders.

Suicide rates are higher by multiples.

Aids related death.

Maternal deaths; a study in India revealed that 16% of all deathes during pregnancy were related to violence by a partner, similar to results in USA.

Impact on societies and nations.

Unwanted pregnancies.

In the context of war, rape is used as a tool for ethnic cleansing and terror.

Sex trafficking and modern day slavery is increasing resulting in death, disfigurement, disease, pain, malnutrition, psychological damage and isolation.

Female infanticide adversely effects demographics of succeeding generations and causes significant social problems within and outside the area. Women in certain South East Asian countries are abducted for marriage in neighbouring countries.

Children witnessing violence commit violence.

Economic costs of violence are difficult to ascertain with certainty as the abused often refuse to participate in such studies, especially third world research. In Canada the costs of the judicial and counselling services used in the management of this problem is C$ 1 Bn pa.

In UK, costs to the justice, legal, housing, health counselling and social services is £23 Bn pa or £440 per person pa.

Concluding remarks

New forms of violence are emerging, for example mobile phone stalking and cyber-bullying.

UNESCO is conducting educational programs for men in Sub Saharan African Universities to change attitudes and inform them of what they can do to help solve the problem.

In many countries laws are in place to protect women but they are not applied. Laws must be enforced and perpetrators must be held accountable by their communities removing the impunity factor.

At present, discussions are under way to formulate the replacements for the Millenium Development Goals which terminate in 2015. Eradication of gender based violence is not on the agenda and this must be rectified. There is a minority of vocal member states which is questioning the inclusion of advancing women’s rights.

Question 1

How can we empower women to stand up for their rights?

Answer

More needs to be done at every level particularly education. It is a question of changing mind sets from regarding violence against women as acceptable and not criminal. It is no longer acceptable to hold racist views but it is not so with gender discrimination. Equally the mind set of women must change from acceptance to protest. They must be made aware of what society says about social norms and what is unacceptable behaviour. The media are useful in implementing these changes.

Mr Yann Borgstedt, Founder and President of Womanity

Mr Borgstedt gave a brief summary of the practical work he has been pursuing across a number of countries to empower women, promote gender equality and more specifically, tackle the problem of violence against women. He became interested in the problem when made aware of the selling of young girls in Morocco into domestic bonded labour as maids which often entailed abuse. In 2005 he became involved in a project to help them back into education. He later participated in a project with Cherie Blare to transform the Al Fatah girls school  in Kabul into a model of educational excellence.

In 2009 his organisation was involved in setting up the first commercial women’s radio station in the Middle East, Radio Nisaa broadcasting to the West Bank and Gaza. The aim was to promote dialogue between women of the two areas, to highlight women’s achievements and to breakdown stereotypes. Shows are produced by female journalists and media professionals and concentrate on women’s issues. 

After the Arab Spring and due to the success of Radio Nisaa, Womanity attempted to start radio stations in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries but could not obtain licences. Eventually the problem was avoided by producing radio drama about an Egyptian woman’s trials such as early marriage, sexual harassment, violence etc. It has been broadcast in Palestine, Egypt, Iraq. Jordan. Syria and Yemen and discussions are under way to extend it to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and UAE.

Yann is aware that the problem is similar in developed countries, for example 60.000 women are raped annually in France.

He commissioned a study from Accenture which recommended that Womanity should launch an award system  for innovative projects tackling abuse of women and to support the organisations and individuals involved. In May 2014, Womanity announced the first of these awards.