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.”
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.