16 Facts About “Domestic” Violence and Peace

Would you believe it if I said that when a country reduces its rates of violence against girls and women it also lowers its propensity for engaging in military conflict?  There are meaningful, powerful and verifiable connections between violence in the home and a nation’s level of militarization and war. It turns out that the security of girls and women — how safe they are in their homes, in their schools, on their streets — is a measure of the security of the state they live in.

Such is the conclusion of a fascinating book, Sex and World Peace, by M. Hudson, Bonnie Ballif-Spanvill, Mary Caprioli, and Chad F. Emmett. Here is how they put it:
“The very best predictor of a state’s peacefulness is not its level of wealth, its level of democracy, or its ethno-religious identity; the best predictor of a state’s peacefulness is how well its women are treated. What’s more, democracies with higher levels of violence against women are as insecure and unstable as nondemocracies.”
The book’s conclusions are based on studies that spanned 10 years and resulted in the creation of the WomanSTATS database and project, the most comprehensive global source of statistics regarding the status of girls and women.  The database covers virtually every aspect of what might be considered violence from son preference to maternal mortality, female genital mutilation to child marriage
So, it is possible to really study the idea that what happens in the home – domestic violence – and to consider its butterfly effects.  But, how do you define violence?  Sex selection?  Girl malnutrition?  The sale of girl children?

Here are 16 Facts About Violence in Homes around the world:

1. Number of girls missing from planet due to son preference: 160,000,000

2. Sex ratio in parts of China: 120 boys to 100 girls

3. Worldwide, chances that a girl will be malnourished in the home compared to a boy: 3 to 1

4. Percentage of girls between 11-19 in India, where girls are frequently fed after boys, who are underweight: 47%
5. Number of girls worldwide that do not complete primary school education: 100 million

6. Gender gap in developed nations between boys completing secondary education and girls: >10%

7. Worldwide, estimated number of girls, per day, married before the age of 18: 25,000

8. Leading cause of death worldwide for girls 15-19: childbirth and pregnancy related death

9. Number of all women who will be victims of intimate partner abuse worldwide: 1 in 3

10. Percentage of female homicide victims in the US killed by an intimate partner: 33%

11. Country where women killed for giving birth to daughters instead of sons: Afghanistan

12. Number of women worldwide who have had their genitals mutilated, usually before the age of 18: 100 million and 140 million girls and women

13. Percentage of rape victims under the age of 18 (US): 44%

14. Percentage of their attackers who were family members (US): 34.2%

15. Percentage of honor killings in which girl is killed by her own family: 72%

16. Country in which a man killed his three young daughters by putting a snake in their bed because he finally had a son: Egypt

This list, which barely skims the surface, is a compilation of gender based crimes, all of which take place in homes.  The overwhelming targets of violence in the home are girls and women.  The home is often the seeding ground for violence and the cultural definition of girls and women as property.  The dynamics of this fundamental unit – the family – is then replicated at larger and larger scales: neighborhoods, regions, countries.
The 10 years of research that went into writing Sex and World Peace demonstrates that until girls and women are considered fully human, instead of subservient sub-humans, tradable property or expensive drains on family resources, and treated with respect within their own homes and by their families, we are unlikely to affect transformative changes in militarization at the national, regional and international levels. As the authors put it, “The very best predictor of a state’s peacefulness is not its level of wealth, its level of democracy, or its ethno-religious identity; the best predictor of a state’s peacefulness is how well its women are treated.”

by Soraya Chemaly

Soraya L. Chemaly writes about feminism, gender and culture. She writes in The Huffington Post, Fem2.0, Alternet, RHRealityCheck among others and has appeared on NPR’s Talk of the Nation, Siriux XM and other radio programs to talk about these topics. Follow her at @schemaly.

Community Radio – A Tool for Peace?

So why does community radio matter? Shouldn’t we be mainstreaming and making news, shaking things up in the mainstream media? I only wish it were that easy. After departing from a career in corporate media where I was constantly trying to find ways to take the messages from our women’s movement beyond the confines of International Women’s Day and 16 Days Campaign events, it has been more than a decade since I connected my work with the vision of Virginia Woolf for women to have the resources to define our spaces, including to be able to challenge war and violence.

For the last 3 years, FemLINKPACIFIC has linked the annual 16 Days Campaign to our rural women’s community media network “1325” network, building on the monthly meetings where rural women leaders share and articulate their Women, Peace and Human Security priorities using a United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 lens.

Last year 139 rural women and 24 young women shared their personal stories, the stories of their families, their community groups and clubs during our 16 Days Campaign in Suva, Labasa and Nausori.

UNSCR 1325 reaffirms that women are crucial partners in shoring up the three pillars of lasting peace: economic recovery, social cohesion and political system. But our political reality is that we still have a long way to go to be able to claim spaces in a legitimate political system, even to simply challenge spending priorities by the state.

The 2012 theme of UN Security Council Open Debate on 1325 reiterates the need to support women’s civil society roles in peacebuilding and conflict prevention, and that means that local and national action plans must be inclusive of women’s definitions of peace and human security. It also requires a transformation of structures to ensure the full and equal participation of women in decision making.

Here in Fiji, we are also awaiting the announcement of the 2013 national budget. The 2012 budget brief coincides with the 16 Days Campaign and we heard with dismay that there would be an increase in Fiji’s military budget by $5.2 million “due to the additional 42 troops for the Iraq Mission” with an additional $550,000 allocated for military infrastructure upgrade. This is the same amount allocated to the Women’s Plan of Action, which is focused on “(providing) training to women in the rural and urban areas and in the process assist in the implementing of their projects that promotes the social and empowerment of women,” while an additional $300K is provided for repairs and maintenance of health facilities, including health centres and 103 nursing stations in the 4 divisions.

This will be the 3rd year that FemLINKPACIFIC’s 16 days of community radio campaign will be staged in Suva, Labasa and other rural centres. Ahead of the campaign we organised an interactive learning programme for our current young women producers and broadcasters and a group of potential volunteers from the capital city and from our Nausori “1325” network to work with two outstanding feminist communicators – Vanessa Griffen and Shirley Tagi. They worked together to enhance their collective knowledge of the 16 Days Campaign as well as develop a series of messages which are airing during our 16 Days Campaign.

These are the spaces we have created to enable women including young women to talk about issues closest to them. To connect processes and define where the transformation is needed, especially as here in Fiji in the democratization process of our country.

This is thinking globally and acting locally.

by Sharon Bhagwan Rolls

Sharon Bhagwan Rolls is a broadcaster by profession and co-founder of FemLINKPACIFIC (Media Initiatives for Women) established in Suva, Fiji Islands in 2000 following the May 2000 coup. Today she is the Executive Director of the organisation which supports a “1325media and policy network” that includes a cadre of young women producers and broadcasters.

One Feminist’s Perspective

Chipped and cracked, I still have in my possession my childhood mug that reads, “A Woman’s Place is in the House…Senate and Supreme Court.” That statement, at such a young age, made an indelible mark on my sense of self and my view of the world around me. It seems as if I’ve spent my whole life defining and honoring my own personal interpretation of feminism.

What I have determined is that my feminism is not defined by the fact that I went to Douglass College, or by my personal perspectives on family or politics.  Nor is it defined by the fact that I have spent the majority of my career working to advance the social justice issues influencing the everyday lives of women.  My feminism is rooted in the inclusive philosophical considerations of “humanism,” which speaks to the self-determination and advancement of all peoples. It is the breadth with which humanism affirms the dignity of all peoples that most accurately aligns with my view of the feminist movement as being a part of the larger social justice framework.

Defining feminism in this context underscores the need for individuals and organizations to work together to overcome all oppressive norms. In order to effect sustainable change, advocates must be sensitive to the delicate ways in which gender is influenced by race, ethnicity, spirituality, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, educational attainment and age. To not evaluate gender-specific oppression in this larger context is to deny the rich and complex realities that shape the lives and identities of women. To address one of these influencers, as if it exists in its own isolated silo, is to disregard the way in which various forms of oppression intersect and overlap.

It is in this intersection that my feminism resides, and if by chance my commitment to feminism should ever start to waver or a sense of false confidence regarding the status of women should try to emerge, I need only think of my work with Women Aware, the comprehensive domestic violence agency serving Middlesex County, New Jersey. It is the reality of my work that prevents me from falling into a place of complacency.

Each year, we provide free and confidential services to thousands of women and children moving beyond abuse – families who have been economically oppressed, emotionally tormented, physically and sexually assaulted, and psychologically demoralized. During the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, approximately 250 women will call our hotline, 15 women will escape violence by seeking refuge in our Safe House, and 50 women will seek the justices afforded them by law through our Legal Advocacy services. And we are just one organization, working within one county, in one state.

As a domestic violence service provider, I spend 365 days a year entrenched in the feminist movement and every day I am inspired by the strength and resiliency of women – women who are not defined by their past, but driven by their dreams of the future.

And so…I have my own dream for the future – one in which all people are able to live lives free of the fear of abuse and the oppression of institutionalized privilege. We can start with 16 Days, but it’s not enough time to right the wrongs of generations’ worth of gender-based oppression. Sixteen days is not enough time to heal the wounds caused by violence. But, if for 16 Days we can focus on our collective strength as women, we can shift the tides of change. Because the stakes are too high for us to allow ourselves to succumb to apathy. Because our foremothers have paved the way for us to be forces for change, so that our daughters and sons may live in a more just society. Because we are strong. Because we are humanists. Because we are feminists.  

by Patricia Teffenhart

Patricia Teffenhart is the Assistant Executive Director for Women Aware, the state-designated domestic violence organization serving Middlesex County, New Jersey.  She also is serving her second term as elected Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees for the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and is also a member of the Board’s Governance Committee.

Masculinities and Militarism

When, as women activists, we come together to discuss gender and militarism, we often end up discussing how militarism affects women’s lives. Men are also a recurring topic during these conversations: Men taking up arms to settle conflict; men raping women as a strategy of war; and men deciding who gets what at the peace table. Consciously or not, we often end up concluding that men are quite a problematic category of people in our struggle for gender justice and a more peaceful world.

But what if we would change our lens, and instead of perceiving men merely as perpetrators of violence and gender injustice, would focus on the fact that men also often end up as victims of war? Such a perspective could open the door for working with men as partners in the struggle for gender justice.

For this, it is worth considering the philosophy of active nonviolence, which looks beyond the direct perpetrator and instead focuses on the entire oppressive system upholding the injustice. This philosophy reasons that those oppressing others also oppress themselves. Ten years after the ratification of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325),[1] Women Peacemakers Program started to integrate this perspective in its work. Women activists informed us that one obstacle they continued to face in their peace work concerned the lack of male support. It made us realize that the full implementation of UNSCR 1325 remains obstructed by the fact that those who make the decisions on war and peace too often dismiss 1325 as a women’s issue only.

Still, 1325 is about gender and peacebuilding. And men also have a gender identity. We reasoned that we needed to get more personal if we wanted to engage men as allies for the cause, by pointing out how war, as the ultimate expression of patriarchy, also targets men because of their gender. Though at first it might seem that patriarchy only benefits them, in the end men also lose out. Militarism narrows the male gender identity to an intensely violent masculinity, which is measured according to one’s willingness to fight, mutilate, kill and die. Those men who want to escape this narrow “male box” often face severe consequences.

It is hence important to disclose the unspoken reality of suffering, which often lies beyond the superficial image of the war hero. I want to refer here to some of the personal stories I heard from young men during the late nineties, who grew up in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. They told me that joining the paramilitaries for them was part of becoming a man, somebody to be respected. In this world, you were either a real man and committed to defending the community, or you were labeled as weak and a traitor. Returning to normal life was a real challenge for several of them, manifesting itself in depression, suicide attempts, alcoholism, and broken marriages. I clearly recall one former paramilitary, who spoke of his loneliness and isolation because society did not allow him to share his experiences and feelings of regret and doubt. He experienced this because real men are not supposed to have “these kind of emotions,” nor express any insecurity in relation to the acts they commit during war times.

Building peace therefore requires looking critically at boys’ socialization.  If we want UNSCR 1325 and what it stands for to succeed, we need to reveal that we live in cultures that chronically dehumanize their men as well. We have to go to the root of the problem and start addressing the construction of male and female identities, including a male gender identity that supports men’s violence and militarization. We need to start opening up this narrow male box, so that more constructive masculinities can take root.

Several groups and networks are already actively working towards this, and the number of men who are getting on board is growing every day. Once women and men start working together as allies, the foundation will be laid for the transformation of the peace-and-security agenda from a radical gender perspective.

by Isabelle Geuskens

Isabelle Geuskens is the Director of the Women Peacemakers Program, which works since 1997 to support women peace activists  worldwide. During 2009-2010, WPP pioneered a program on engaging men for gender-sensitive peacebuilding, and since then has integrated a masculinities perspective in its work.

[1] United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 was adopted by the Security Council in October 2000. It specifically addresses the impact of war on women as well as women’s contributions to conflict resolution and sustainable peace.

Women Mobilize To Tackle Gender-Based Violence

Violence against women and girls is the most frequent, silenced and unpunished type of human rights violation. It is a global problem that impacts on women of all ages, cultures and socio-economic backgrounds, and is rooted in the power inequalities between men and women which are based on cultural values and norms.

One of the main obstacles to eliminating violence against women and girls is that cultural norms continue to be considered something that are “natural”, which impedes their recognition as a human rights violation. In the framework of this year’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence Campaign, the Fundación para Estudio e Investigación de la Mujer (FEIM) will perform two public activities in Buenos Aires City that aim to sensitize people on this problem that involves all of society.

The first activity will be a poster exhibition, which will use art and culture as a way to make the problem of violence against women and girls visible. The images that will be exhibited were created by a group of young artists during a project developed by FEIM and Casa Escuela de Arte.

The works of art, originally made with stencil and serigraphy techniques, are the result of the collective analysis of, and work around, the causes and different types of violence against women and girls, as well as the rights that protect women. The messages were created by young people aimed to target other young people and address symbolic and media violence. They are aimed to deconstruct stereotypical roles of women and men and to intervene in the early stages of violent relationships that are seen more and more often.

The proposal draws on the power of art and culture to contribute to changing cultural norms that maintain gender-based violence and inequalities between women and men. In the framework of this project, visual production is used as a means of aesthetic expression at community level and as a tool of communication for social action and transformation.

The second activity will address the reciprocal link between violence against women and the feminization of the HIV/AIDS epidemic through an activity targeting young students at the University of Buenos Aires.

Violence against women increases women’s vulnerability to HIV, and, at the same time, HIV/AIDS is a risk factor that increases the possibility of women suffering from violence. The context of inequality between men and women is a common factor that lends itself to violence and HIV infection. Therefore, prevention among young women and men is vital.

FEIM, together with the National Network of Youth and Adolescents for Sexual and Reproductive Health (RedNAC) and the First Year Basic Cycle of the University of Buenos Aires will organize and set up an informational stand to sensitize and inform students. Visitors will receive information on the different forms of violence that women and girls suffer, the risks that increase vulnerability to HIV, and how to prevent it. Female and male condoms will be exhibited, and there will be demonstrations on their correct use. Moreover, materials will be distributed that explain how all forms of violence against women and girls are both cause and effect of the feminization of HIV/AIDS.

by Mabel Bianco

Mabel Bianco, MD, MPH, is an epidemiologist and President of Fundacion para Estudio e Investigación de la Mujer (FEIM) in Argentina.