According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, violence is defined as the use of physical force so as to injure, abuse, damage, or destroy. The term “violence against women” means any gender-based violence that leads to physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering in women.
35% of women worldwide have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a partner or non-partner. Around 120 million girls worldwide have experienced forced intercourse at some point in their lives. Trafficking of women and child marriages increase by 20-30% following natural disasters. This violence doesn’t just scar survivors during the process, but leaves them with long-term psychological and physical trauma.
Why is violence against women so prevalent?
According to an article from Radio National, international studies show that these are the 3 key factors that lead to violence against women:
1) Rigid adherence to gender stereotypes and norms
Gender stereotyping starts from young. From dads chiding their sons “real men don’t cry” to sexist playground insults such as “don’t be such a girl”, boys grow up developing an unhealthy mindset that men are tougher, stronger, and simply superior to women. As such, boys turn into men with toxic hyper-masculine attitudes, which involves derogatory attitudes towards women.
2) Status of women
At home and in the workplace, women are not treated as equals to men. In many traditional Asian cultures (e.g. Chinese, Indian, and Japanese), women are expected to stay home and take care of the household, giving up on their own personal career dreams. In addition, if you’re a woman in the Singaporean workplace and on the board of a publicly listed company, you earn on average 43% less than your male colleagues. These instances of unfair treatment towards women reinforce the mindset that women are of a lower status than men, and as such, they do not deserve the same respect as men do.
3) Gender bias
Particularly in Asian cultures, society prefers men over women, and as a consequence, baby boys over girls. In China, the ratio of males to females is now about 1.16 to 1. This gender bias stems from the belief that men will take care of their parents when they’re old, as opposed to women who have to leave the family to be with their husbands. The one-child policy worsens the situation as due to their preference for baby boys, women who are expecting girls may be pressured to abort. Boys who grow up in this biased society may be led to believe that they are indeed superior to women.
What you can do to help
Violence against women has been a serious social problem for decades, but this doesn’t mean we should just let it be. If we want to build a better and safer future for our daughters, we must act now. Here are some things that we can do to prevent and hopefully eliminate violence against women.
1. Voice out
It is important to raise public awareness on non-physical violence. Bruises are an indicator of physical violence, but women who have been emotionally assaulted and attacked will bear no scars. It is important for us to look out for these victims too.
We should inform and educate bystanders with knowledge and tools to eliminate such violence. The public needs to know that it is within their power to stop a female from being attacked verbally or physically, and that they have the responsibility to do so. If you feel that your safety will be threatened if you intervene, you can call the police.
Many women are unable to leave their abusive relationships for several reasons — they’re afraid of the repercussions from their partners; they’re used to suffering in their situation; or because they still hold hope that their partners can change for the better. However if we avoid victim-blaming, and show women that they deserve better and that leaving is the right thing to do, it might be easier for them to take that step out of these toxic relationships and work towards a better life.
Indeed, it is impossible to eliminate violence against women overnight. However, every little step counts. We must work towards a world where women can feel safe in their own countries and homes, and have the confidence and freedom to grow as they wish.
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