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Ending violence against women

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines violence as the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community

Protesters in one of the demonstrations against violence on women and girls

Sir: The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines violence as the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either result in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation. 

Therefore, violence against women can be well understood as the intentional use of physical force or power against women in society, which inevitably exposes the victims to problems both socially, physiologically and emotionally. Whereas, this kind of violence against women is known as gender-based violence.

According to United Nations research journal, nearly one in three women have been abused in their lifetime. And in times of crisis, the numbers rise, as seen during the COVID-19 pandemic and in recent humanitarian crises, conflicts and climate disasters. A new report from UN Women, based on data from 13 countries since the pandemic, shows that two in three women reported that they or a woman they know experienced some form of violence and are more likely to face food insecurity. 

Violence impacts women’s health hampers their ability to participate fully in society, affects their enjoyment of sexual and reproductive health and rights, and is a source of tremendous physical and psychological suffering for both women and their families.

Violence against women can be said to be deeply rooted, according to UNHCR, in discriminatory cultural beliefs and attitudes that perpetuate inequality and powerlessness in particular of women and girls. On the other hand, UCH library says justifications for gender-based violence is based on gender norms – that is, social norms about the proper roles and responsibilities of men and women.
 
According to Giovetti: “Gender stereotypes are often used to justify violence against women. Cultural norms often dictate that men are aggressive, controlling, and dominant, while women are docile, subservient, and rely on men as providers. These norms can foster a culture of abuse outright, such as early and forced marriage or female genital mutilation, the latter spurred by outdated and harmful notions of female sexuality and virginity. And Hunger’s role in igniting the flame of violence is that, just as empowering women can help eliminate hunger, food scarcity also leads to increased gender-based violence. In Malawi, a 2013 survey revealed that 61 percent of women and girls said they had experienced sexual violence and 64 percent had experienced physical violence, and the ongoing food crisis only worsened the situation. 

Women should be given a voice to speak out in society; they should be seen as a way of strengthening the spine of the equality of both genders. The culture of rape, bullying of girls at school/home should be challenged. Also, it can be eliminated by engaging boys and men as agents of change as dittoed in Plan International Publication; youth and parents too should be mobilised about childhood and forced marriage. 

I close with what United Nations says on eliminating violence against women in the society: “Another future without violence against women is possible with education, essential services across policing, justice, health, and social sectors, and sufficient financing dedicated to women’s rights.”
  
Salim Yakubu Akko is a World Voices Magazine’s Nigerian correspondent and Applied Worldwide’s contributor.