December 6, 2013
Violence against women has many forms

Fri Dec 6, 2013

Just over a week ago, a wide range of activities was held worldwide in commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, officially designated by the United Nations to fall on November 25. Yet even while calls were being repeated forcefully for an end to this scourge against our women folk, there were gruesome reminders that it is very much alive among us.{{more}}

Police in Trinidad and Tobago were still investigating the brutal murder of a six-year-old girl who appeared to have been sexually molested during her dying throes. In Barbados, a 22-year-old female was murdered in another unsavoury reminder of how our women suffer daily. You can bet your very life that on November 25, millions of women all over the world had some form of violence perpetrated against them.

According to the World Health Organisation, one in every three women in the world has experienced either physical or sexual violence, and some studies show that in a number of countries, this figure is as high as 70 per cent of females. An estimated 80 per cent of the 2 million victims of human trafficking are women and girls, sold for prostitution, forced labour and slavery – in the 21st century? Some 130 million women, mainly in Africa, still have to endure the horrors of female genital mutilation.

In spite of heightened awareness of the problem, not enough progress has been made in ending these gross violations of the rights of our women. Laws are either not severe enough or inadequately enforced. Courts are too often still too lenient with violators and there are many instances of rapists and female molesters being freed from jail only to commit more heinous crimes.

In addition, social attitudes to the exercise of violence against women are far from satisfactory. Frequently the victims are blamed for being “too loose”; young girls who are sexually assaulted are sometimes accused of being “bad”, and a man’s “right” to physically punish his spouse or partner is upheld by many in society, including, sadly, some women themselves. A local lawyer recently attempted to defend his client, accused of physical assault, on the grounds that one should not be too harsh on him because men are “the weaker sex”!

But while the physical and sexual abuse comes to light, there are other, more subtle forms of violence against women. There is also psychological and economic violence against them, not as easily recognisable as physical violence. Social stigmas and barriers result in discriminatory practices, denying women their equal place in society.

Currently in Saudi Arabia, courageous women are battling the Saudi regime on an issue that we would take for granted, even in this imperfect state of ours. Those women are defying a law forbidding women to drive. Some have been arrested, charged, tried and punished; one woman was only released when her husband assured the court that he would see to it that she does not drive again.

This may be an outrageous example, but it demonstrates the problems that women face. Employing them in menial jobs, for long hours and starvation wages, is economic violence, to be as equally combatted as physical violence. Our women here need to speak out more and stand up to eliminate these evils. Our men must lend their support, for an injustice against women is an injustice against humanity.