IntroductionOver the past three decades, women’s organizations havecreated a paradigm shift in understanding and acting to end violence againstwomen. Once confined to whispers and silent suffering, it is now part of thepublic agenda (Fried, 2003). According toWHO (2013), violence against women is not a new phenomenon, nor are itsconsequences to women’s physical, mental and reproductive health. What is newis the growing recognition that these are not isolated events and a globalpublic health problem that affects approximately one third of women globally (WHO, 2013). In 1993, the UN Declaration on the Elimination of ViolenceAgainst Women provided a consensus definition of violence against women as”any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to resultin, physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering to women, includingthreats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whetheroccurring in public or private life” (Assembly,1993).
This form of violence stems from gender inequality and it takes avariety of forms-physical, psychological, or economic; it includes acts ofviolence or the threat of such acts; and its manifestations in both public and privatelife are public issues requiring government action (Fried, 2003). The term gender based violence (GBV) has beendefined as ”acts or threats of acts intended to hurt or make women sufferphysically, sexually or psychologically, and which affect women because theyare women or affect women disproportionally” (Krantz,2005). Gender based violence is often used interchangeably with violenceagainst women. Both these definitions point at violence against women as aresult of gender inequality, seen as discrimination in opportunities andresponsibilities and in access to and control of resources that is rooted inthe socioculturally ascribed notion of masculinity as superior to femininity (Krantz, 2005). Violence against women remainsone of the most pervasive forms of human rights violations worldwide (Fried, 2003). According to WHO (2013), one out of three women in the world hasbeen beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime (WHO, 2013).
Gender-sensitive human rightsadvocacy has stressed that bringing a gender analysis to human rights showsthat women experience gender-specific forms of violence that are different fromthose experienced by men (Fried, 2003). There are several forms of GBV namely: domestic, sexual,physical, cultural, religious, socio-economic, patriarchy and family. Due tothe limitation in the amount of words for this assignment, just one type ofviolence against women will be looked at namely, domestic violence. In doingthis essay, the main aim will be to look at the extent to which it can be saidthat violence against women is an international development issue. Are women indeveloped countries experiencing it differently as to their sisters indeveloping countries? Is violence against women a development issue in relationto dynamics of poverty and inequality? Is domestic violence a global problem orjust a product of poverty? This essay will try to get some background into thistopic and hear what different stakeholding bodies are saying about it. It willgo on to look at the effect of this form of violence on the woman’s health,which has a knock on effect on her immediate surroundings, society, economy,development studies and globally.
Attention will also be paid to interventionsthat are in place to combat this form of violence from a micro to macro levelwith the help of current statistical figures.According to the UK Home Office (2013), domestic violence orabuse can be any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive,threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are,or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender orsexuality. The abuse can encompass, but is not limited to: psychological, physical,sexual, financial, and emotional (UK, 2013). Thisform of violence also called intimate partner violence (IPV) has great impacton the victims, their families, the immediate environment in which it occurs,and even on the future generations (as it is deemed to have intergenerationaleffects (WHO, 2010). Violence hinders allwomen’s abilities to exercise their human rights, and it circumscribes women’scapacity to function as full citizens in society(Fried, 2003). Violence at the hands of an intimate partner constitutes asocial and tragic problem of enormous proportions, affecting women in allspheres of life (Slabbert, 2017 ).
Itcuts across divisions of race, class, religion, age, ethnicity, sexuality, culture,and geographic region (Fried, 2003). In SouthAfrica, for instance, women have more rights and are represented to agreater degree in different formal institutions, yet violence against women isstill very prevalent in the country (Slabbert,2017 ). After Rwanda and Sweden, South Africa has the highest number offemale parliamentarians (Slabbert, 2017 ).It is estimated that a woman is killed by her male partner every 6 hr in SouthAfrica, the highest incidence of death by domestic violence in the world (Women in Action, 2010), although Slabbert (2017)argues that low-income women are more susceptible to domestic violence,as they have no means to escape their situation – ‘being poor” and beingdependent on their partners’ (Slabbert, 2017 ).
Threatto the masculinity plays a big role in causing this type of violence as the men feelthreatened when their women have jobs – the feeling of not being needed (Slabbert,2017 ).In the late 1960s and early 1970s in the U.S., mainstreamfeminist theory opened the doors to understanding domestic violence ascontextualized within the socially structured and culturally approved systemsof gender inequality in society (SOKOLOFF, 2008).In contrast to the earlier feminist approaches, the intersectional domesticviolence approach challenges gender inequality as the primary factor explainingdomestic violence: it is neither the most important nor the only factor that isneeded to understand violence against many marginalized women in the home(Crenshaw, 1994 in Sokoloff 2008). Intersectionality suggests that nodimension, such as gender inequality, is privileged as an explanatory constructof domestic violence and gender inequality itself is modified by itsintersection with other systems of power and oppression (Bograd, 1999). Bograd (1999).According to Bogard (1999), intersectionalities color the meaning and natureof domestic violence, and they are also patterned,as in the life of a poor immigrant woman of color (Bograd 1999, pg 276).
Even though a well recognized problem thathas a central place in the political, social, and economic realms of developedcountries, yet has received very little attention in the developing world —most especially in developing countries in Africa — probably due to culturalbarriers, level of poverty, lack of social support, absence of relevant statelaws and institutions, or due to some other reasons (Olayanju et al, 2013). The belief that such violence or relatedissues are private family matters that need to be treated or solveddomestically within the family without interference from outsiders, has led toa high level of occurrences in developing countries (Olayanju et al, 2013). The African continent has witnessed fewerresearch studies in the area of IPV in comparison with the rest of the world,especially in developed countries — prevalence of IPV against women varies from12% in Morocco to about 54% in Ethiopia, while the results also show thatlifetime prevalence of violence from an intimate partner ranges from 31% inNigeria to as high as 80% in Uganda (Olayanju etal, 2013). Based on a review of North American academic research onviolence from the perspective of anthropology, psychology and sociology andfrom cross-cultural comparative studies, a framework emerged to theorise thepossible causes of gender-based abuse (HEISE,1998). Factors related to violenceagainst women at different levels of the social ecology (HEISE, 1998)This framework of violence against women provides a way tounderstand much of the existing research with respect to gender based abuse (HEISE, 1998). It helps in understanding why apotentially abusive man will react to an incident in a certain manner and thenreact differently in the next moment (HEISE,1998). Researches into abuse in AfricanAmerican communities revealed that age, employment status, residence, poverty,social embeddedness, and isolation combine to explain higher rates of abusewithin black communities – not race or culture (Sokoloff, 2004).
The impact ofdomestic violence is far-reaching with serious consequences not only for thebattered woman but also for her children and society at large (Slabbert, 2017).According to WHO (2013), women exposed to intimate partner violence are twiceas likely to experience depression, almost as twice likey to develop alcoholabuse, 16% more likely to have a low birth-weight baby, 1,5 times more likelyto acquire HIV and 1.5 times more likely to contract syphilis infection,chlamydia or gonorrhoea, 42% of women whohave experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of a partner haveexperienced injuries as a result, 38% of all murders of women globally werereported as being committed by their intimate partners (WHO, 2013). Epidemiologicaland clinical studies have noted that physically and sexually violent acts byintimate partners are consistently associated with a broad array of negativehealth outcomes, including irritable bowel syndrome, gastrointestinaldisorders, and various chronic-pain syndromes (Ellsberg et al, 2008). These women have more physical symptoms ofpoor health, and more days in bed than do women who have not been abused. Physicaland sexual violence have also been associated with psychiatric problems,including depression, anxiety, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder,suicidality, and alcohol and drug abuse(Ellsberg et al, 2008). Besides the health issuesthat are attached to this abuse, there is also association between key economicaspects of gender-based power, namely the employment status of women and theirhusbands, and reported experience of physical domestic violence (Krishnan etal, 2010). The link between diminished work hours and domestic violenceraises concern about the economic well-being of domestic violence victimswithin the welfare system (Tolman, 2002 ).
InIndia, a husband’s ability to provide economically for the family is intimatelylinked to notions of masculinity as well as personal and family honor (Krishnan et al, 2010). Family stress theoryemphasizes the material or structural dimensions of employment and suggeststhat domestic violence results from the stress associated with unemployment andlack of economic resources (Dutton, 1988; Greenfield et al., 1998 in Krishnan et al, 2010).
Domestic violencewas associated with various forms of material deprivation (e.g foodinsufficiency, lack of stable housing and utility shut-offs) as well as welfaredependence, and decreased work reliance (Tolman, 2002 ). On the other hand,resource theory and the concept of hegemonic masculinity – a pattern of roles,expectations and practices (including violence) that facilitate male dominanceover women – emphasize the symbolic significance of spousal employment status (Krishnanet al, 2010). These theories posit that increases in women’s economic resourcesand/or reductions in men’s relative contributions to household economicresources can challenge masculine identities and provoke violence (Krishnan etal, 2010).
Women experiencing domestic violence are also more likely toexperience subjective hardship, i.e. they are more concerned about theircurrent and future ability to manage on the amount of family income they are orexpect to receive.
ex decreased work hours isone reason for the increased hardship that dome victims experience(Tolman, 2002). ConclusionViolence against women is not a small problem that onlyoccurs in some pockets of society, but rather is a global public health problemof epidemic proportions, requiring urgent action. (WHO, 2013). It can be said that violence against women is adevelopment issues in that, a topic that was whispered behind closed doors, hasnow taken the center stage in economic, political, development discussion fromthe UN meetings to grassroot meetings. Fried (2003) states that there is agrowth in the panorama of governmental, intergovernmental, nongovernmental, andinternational organizations that have initiatives to prevent and protect womenand girls from violence and to bring perpetrators to justice whether inconflict, post-conflict, or non- conflict situations (Fried, 2003).
These initiatives have been herald as achievementsand possible barriers which have been implemented to deal with violence onwomen in the world realizing the goals that have been identified (Fried, 2003). These are: Implementing international and regional norms and standards are being used as the basis for national legislation and policy. National and regional networks have expanded dramatically and are coming together to share information and experiences. The five-year review and appraisal of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in 2000 urged all countries to repeal discriminatory legislation by 2005. New institutions and mechanisms have been pioneered, such as women’s police stations in Brazil and Jordan, women’s and people’s courts in India and Guatemala, and one-stop shelter/services in Malaysia or Nicaragua.
The range and extent of support services for victims- survivors have significantly expanded to include legal-aid centers, shelters, and hotlines for victims of abuse, most recently in countries such as Jordan and Yemen. The fact that this form of violence cuts across divisions ofrace, class, religion, age, ethnicity, sexuality, culture, and geographicregion (Fried, 2003), goes to show that it hasn’t got anything to do with whichpart of the equator the woman finds herself. Domestic violence is part of thelarger systems of violence (e.g., imperialism, racism, colonialism, patriarchy,etc.) and as such domestic violence must be attacked at its root causes: thesocially structured systems of inequality – of race, class, gender, sexualorientation, immigrant status, and the like (Sokoloff,2004). While a great deal of progress has been made, obstacles to endingviolence against women remain substantial, and gaps continue to be identifiedin legislation, policies, and practices (Fried, 2003).
Despite this evidence, many still choose to view the violentexperiences of women as disconnected events, taking place in the private sphereof relationship conflict and beyond the realm of policy-makers and health-careproviders (WHO, 2013). Finally,interventions designed to combat violence against women will only be effectivewhen the level of available resources match the scale of the problem (Fried, 2003).Domestic violence knows no geographical, cultural, orlinguistic boundaries and can therefore be seen as a global epidemic (Slabbert, 2017 ).
When looking at the Africancontinent, it can be said that it harbors some peculiar risk factors for IPVthat are culture-induced, Widespread poverty in the African continent can alsobe presumed to have great influence on the occurrence of IPV (Olayanju et al,2013). Olayanju et al (2013) argue that even though the continent witnessedfewer research studies in the area of IPV in comparism with the rest of theworld, yet still the research carried out in African nations shows this form ofabuse to be pervasive (Olayanju et al, 2013).Besides being a breach of human rights, the high prevalenceof partner violence and its associations with poor health—including impliedcosts in terms of health expenditures and human suffering—highlight the urgentneed to address partner violence in national and global health-sector policiesand programmes (Ellsberg et al, 2008). Itis time for the world to take action: a life free of violence is a basic humanright, one that every woman, man and child deserves (Krantz, 2005)