Six ways to end gender-based violence

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Six ways to end gender-based violence

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Intersectional Women’s March against GBV Pretoria 2018

What is gender-based violence?

There are different definitions of gender-based violence (GBV). GBV can broadly be defined as ‘…the general term used to capture violence that occurs as a result of the normative role expectations associated with each gender, along with the unequal power relationships between genders, within the context of a specific society.’ The expectations associated with each gender vary from society to society, but patriarchy is a common factor. Male leadership is seen as the norm and men hold most of the power. Patriarchy is a social and political system that treats men as superior to women. In a patriarchal society, women can’t fully protect their bodies from violence, meet their basic needs and participate in society. The root cause of gender-based violence globally is inequitable gender norms.

What are the forms of gender-based violence?

There are many forms of GBV. GBV can be physical, sexual, emotional, financial or structural. Violence can be perpetrated by intimate partners, acquaintances, strangers and institutions. The forms of GBV include violence against women and girls, violence against LGBTI people, intimate partner violence, domestic violence, sexual violence and indirect (structural) violence.

Structural violence is described as violence that is built into structures, resulting in unequal power relations and unequal opportunities affecting certain groups, classes, genders or nationalities of people. Political and social norms change can address structural violence.

Intimate partner violence is the most common form of GBV. It includes physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and controlling behaviours by a current or former intimate partner or spouse. Intimate partner violence can happen in heterosexual or same-sex couples.

We know that GBV levels are high but we don’t always have accurate statistics due to many factors, for example, under-reporting of incidents. GBV is very high in South Africa compared to other countries. On average, one in five South African women older than 18 has experienced physical violence. Thousands of women and children are psychologically harmed by GBV and suffer long-term trauma and harm to their lives. The main drivers as shown by the available statistics are intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence. Gender-based violence permeates all structures of society – political, economic and social -and is driven by entrenched patriarchy and complex and intersectional power inequalities found in race, gender, class and sexuality.

How can we end gender-based violence?

We’ve made some progress in addressing GBV. We are better at defining and understanding it. We are better at collecting data and evidence to identify and support effective interventions. We’ve seen relatively improved awareness and access to services. Despite the gains, gender-based violence is still a challenge. So, how can we effectively address the fundamental inequalities to end GBV? A good starting point is to recognise that women’s rights are human rights. South Africa has a strong legislative framework and is a signatory to several international treaties on GBV. Examples include the Domestic Violence Act (DVA), the Sexual Offences Act, and the Prevention and Combatting of Trafficking in Human Persons (2013) Act”. We urge South Africa’s government to ratify the ILO Convention 190, which addresses violence, discrimination and harassment in the world of work.

Six actions we can take to end GBV

  • Funding women’s full participation in civil society:

    Women who are active in civil society can influence the implementation of global, regional and national treaties, agreements and laws through exerting pressure. More money is needed to support women’s active participation in civil society.

  • Scaling the efforts for addressing unequal gender power relations

    Some programs have structured participatory activities that guide the examination of gender norms and their relationship to power inequities, violence and other harmful behaviours. These programs work with multiple stakeholders across the socio-ecological spectrum and multiple sectors and often at a small-scale. We need to replicate successful pilot collective impact programs and ensure the sustaining of norm changes.

  • Providing GBV clinical services in lower-level health facilities

    The provision of gender-based violence clinical services is focused on “one-stop shops” at high-level facilities. But the majority of people who access services at high-level facilities do so too late to receive key interventions, such as emergency contraception and HIV post-exposure prophylaxis. For faster access, we should focus on bringing services closer to the community, particularly in rural areas.

  • Addressing the needs of child survivors

    The children of women survivors in shelters have experienced trauma through witnessing violence against their mothers, or have experienced violence. Yet we lack enough professionals to work with the children. More support is required and especially when the perpetrators are parents or other family members.

  • Developing practical guidance for building whole systems

    There is ample guidance on how to address gender-based violence in specific sectors or through actions like providing standards for shelters or training for counsellors. More practical support is needed in building whole GBV prevention systems, from developing and implementing of laws to creating awareness and training.

  • Developing support programs for professionals with vicarious trauma

    Burnout of professionals is a reality. When professionals suffer ‘vicarious trauma’ – the emotional residue of exposure from working with traumatised people – they can’t be effective at the job.

The LRS response to GBV in the workplace and communities

Watch: Education unions take action to end school-related gender-based violence in Africa.

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