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Collective Efforts Needed To Combat Gender-Based Violence

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Violence against women is a violation of basic human rights and an obstacle in achieving equality, and social and economic development.

The existing discrimination and violence against women have its roots in the historically unequal distribution of power between men and women. This inequality is a stumbling block for women to actualize their true potential. While violence against women is more prominent in some social contexts, it remains a global phenomenon. Women living in different parts of the world remain vulnerable to encountering discrimination, harassment, physical and sexual violence irrespective of their education level, social and economic background.

However, women belonging to special groups like minorities, refugees, migrants, and those living in remote communities are more at risk of experiencing a severe form of gender-based violence. Besides that, the pandemic has resulted in rising cases of domestic violence and abuse against women. The existing gender gap between men and women in terms of access to employment and economic opportunities has also increased manifold, severely hindering women’s chances of achieving upward social mobility. The sixteen day activism for the elimination of violence against women aims for highlighting the instances of brutality against women while reminding the world of the collective efforts needed to eradicate gender-based violence. Gender-based violence tends to have severe economic and psychological repercussions for women, along with major sociological implications for the world in general.

The case of Pakistan

During this year, numerous cases of violence against women have been reported in the country. The cases of domestic violence surged due to the lockdown restrictions as many women were confined within home boundaries at the mercy of their abusers; in addition to being overworked, and exhausted, having nowhere to escape to.

The increasing numbers of rape, murder, and abuse remained prevalent while authorities consistently failed to find plausible solutions for ensuring the protection of women. After the motorway gang-rape case sparked national outrage, the police officials and the relevant authorities pledged to take serious action against the culprit; however, atrocities against women continued across the country. A two-year-old child was raped, and brutally murdered in Charsadda, while a woman in Sargodha was gang-raped in front of her children and husband. Similarly, in Rawalpindi, a young girl was stripped and filmed by three men, and yet, another young girl in Darra Adam Khel was murdered by her family in the name of ‘honour’.

Besides, cases of harassment also continued to be reported from workplaces and educational institutes in the country, with little to no concrete efforts taken by the authorities to punish the culprits and ensure the safety of the victims.

While the government has recently taken some measures for eliminating violence against women after introducing an ordinance whereby rapists would be chemically castrated, real change and reforms are far from being identified and implemented. Considering the ‘nature’ of incidents marred with brutality and violence, there is a dire need to take precautionary steps for protecting women, instead of merely relying on punitive measures and punishments for the culprits.

The case of India

Although cases of violence and brutalities against women remain a norm in India (which has now earned the title ‘rape capital in the world’), the recent murder case of a young girl shook the entire world to the core. Gulnaz Khatoon, a 20-year-old Muslim woman, was burnt alive by a Hindu man and his friend after she refused to marry the man. According to the victim’s family, the culprit, molestor Satish Kumar was harassing the girl to marry him, and brutally murdered her after she refused to do so. The tragic incident sparked public outrage and many women rights activists and human rights organizations demanded immediate arrest and punishment of the accused. However, such instances of violence against women would continue unabated until and unless a holistic approach is taken to identify the root cause of the issue, and address and resolve the existing loopholes in the law and order apparatus which has failed to protect the vulnerable segment of the society.

The situation of women belonging to socially lower class such as Dalit is far from worse. According to a study, Dalit women in northern India are raped by upper-caste men who use it as a weapon to reinforce the existing caste and gender hierarchy. The report also reveals that only 10 percent of the 40 rape cases reported by Dalit women and girls in the state reached the stage of conviction. In the majority of cases, the survivors drop their cases, and accept out-of-the court settlement after the pressure from the unofficial village councils. Such cases reflect the sorry state of affairs for women in India especially those belonging to the disadvantaged segments of the society.

The case of the United Kingdom

Violence against women is not only limited to the developing nations, it is a global phenomenon as even the women in advanced societies remain at risk of undergoing severe forms of violence and abuse. Through the first report on Femicide Census published in the UK, it was revealed that every three days a woman is killed by a man in the country. The more horrifying is the fact that these statistics remained unchanged across the 10 years of the study.

The way forward

There is a dire need for collective and consistent efforts by the world governments to address the issue of gender-based violence. 1) The governments must allocate a separate budget for eliminating violence against women. 2) Massive awareness campaigns highlighting the vulnerable living conditions of women in detention, or those belonging to minorities and refugee communities, remain the need of the hour. 3) Gender sensitization training of the police and other officials involved in handling the cases of violence against women is yet another crucial step that must be taken so that women are no more reluctant to report any form of abuse. 4) The culture of blaming and shaming the victims needs to be completely eradicated as the women are blamed for horrific incidents like rape and domestic violence.

We must realize that gender-based violence hinders a woman’s ability to utilize her true potential, and have access to equal opportunities, and the rights of women must be protected for the development and betterment of societies.

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Naya Daur