Around the world, violence against women is an everyday occurrence. Up to 70 percent of women experience violence in their lifetime. In Columbia, one woman is reportedly killed by her partner or former partner every six days. In the Congo, 1,100 rapes are reported each month. In China, there have been over 250 million births that have been prevented between the years of 1980 and 2000. Over 140 million women and girls worldwide have been affected by the consequences of female genital mutilation. There is an estimate of 24 people per minute that are victims of rape.
Women aged 15-44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war and malaria, according to World Bank data. The statistics can go on and on because gender based violence is real, alarming and needs to be addressed. The definition of gender based violence is “Any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivations of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.
” Throughout this paper, we will be focusing on four main topics of gender-based violence. The areas of female genital mutilation, rape, girls killed in China, and honour killings will all be addressed. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. Around the world over 140 million girls and women are currently living with the consequences of these procedures. The average age to have FGM carried out is between infancy and 15, especially, between the ages of 7 and 10.
Female Genital Mutilation is categorized into four major surgeries. Type one is considered a, clitoridectomy, which is the partial or total removal of the clitoris (a small, sensitive and erectile part of the female genitals) and, in very rare cases, only the prepuce (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris). Type two is considered an excision, which is the partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (the labia are “the lips” that surround the vagina).
Type three is Infibulation, the narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the inner, or outer, labia, with or without removal of the clitoris. Type four consists of all other surgeries and all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e. g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area. A traditional circumciser commonly performs the surgery and generally knives, scissors, razorblades, or shards of glass to make the cuts.
FGM is associated with cultural ideals of femininity and modesty, which include the notion that girls are “clean” and “beautiful” after removal of body parts that are considered “male” or “unclean”. FGM is often considered a necessary part of raising a girl properly, and a way to prepare her for adulthood and marriage. FGM is said to have no health benefits and only causes harm in many different ways. Many long-term consequences can include recurrent bladder and urinary tract infections, cysts, infertility, and an increased risk of childbirth complications and newborn deaths.
The World Health Organization is taking the necessary steps to see this practice eradicated across the globe. In 2008 WHO together with 9 other United Nations partners, issued a new statement on the elimination of FGM to support increased advocacy for the abandonment of FGM. Female Genital Mutilation is a prime example of gender-based violence that is performed all around the world and affects millions of women. Another major gender-based violence concern is rape. Globally, women under the age of 24 suffer the most from this violent act.
The Justice Department has estimated that one in five women will be raped or sexually assaulted in their college years and only a small five percent or less of these will be reported. Women are afraid to speak up about rape because they do not think they will receive a sympathetic response. In Liberia, South Africa, and India rape is a huge problem. In 2011, Liberia reported that 68% of all reported cases were rape related and many of these were adolescents under 15. In South America it is estimated that a women has a greater chance of being raped than learning how to read.
One in three of the 4,000 women questioned by the Committee of Information said that they had been raped. School aged boys were also questioned for a survey and reported that “Jackrolling”, a gang rape term, was fun. It is estimated that 500,000 rapes are committed on a yearly basis in South Africa. It is sad to think about all of the situations that go unheard and unreported. South Africa also has one of the highest rates of child and baby rape globally. In India, it is estimated that a women is raped every 20 minutes.
Knowing this statistic, it is sad that India has one of the lowest conviction rates of rapists. One incident raised awareness in India when a woman was gang raped on a city bus and died due to her injuries. Months following, more rapes similar to this were committed. Shockingly, very little action has been taken to convict these rapists or even look for them. The rape problem in India is continuing and is quite unnoticed. Women need to be encouraged to speak out when these crimes are committed. As a society, we can work to spread the word about ending rape and other sexual assaults.
By talking to women about the importance of speaking up and encouraging people to be aware of their surroundings I think that we can decrease the prevalence of rape. Rape occurs around the world because of men taking advantage of women. There is a lot of evidence stating that men feel superior to women and that it is acceptable for a man to force a women to have intercourse whether she agrees to or not. In the past, many cultures believed that wives were the properties of their husbands and that one of the rights that marriage gave to husbands and men was sex.
Another common type of gender based violence around the world and especially in Asia is killing girls at birth. Some people do not want to know whether they are having a baby boy or girl before birth, while secretly hoping for one of them. The nurse comes in with a little pink blanket and you have overwhelming joy about the birth of your new baby girl. Having a child is usually a beautiful thing. Sadly, this is not the case in all parts of the world. In parts of Asia, mainly China and India, baby girls are not wanted. There was a growing ratio of women to men which forced the state to take action. In China they have a “one-child” policy.
This means that the state forces sterilizations and abortions if a family is pregnant with two children. This being said, some parents do the deeds themselves. If a family already has a girl, they do not want another one. If they find out they have another one they will most likely get an abortion or wait until the child is born and then kill it. In some Asian cultures men are valued much more than women so the family’s want boys. Boys have been most desired for a long time because they were better for work on the farm. Today, men are most desired because once a women gets married she “belongs” to her husband.
“Baby girls are stuck in sacks and thrown in rivers, down wells, and even dumped upside-down in buckets of water” says Kristen Walker, Vice President of New Wave of Feminists. “The United Nations estimates that about 200 million girls are missing from the world due to this rampant genocide—now commonly called ‘gendercide,’” Walker says. If this continues there will be a disturbing realization when men realize that there are not women left. This practice has gone too far. In a documentary called, It’s A Girl, an Indian woman calmly explains how she killed eight of her new born babies because they are girls.
If a women did this in America she would get life in prison, but in parts of Asia it is a normal practice. It is not abnormal for parents to kill as many girls as they can until they get the baby boy that they so much desire. The killing of 200 million baby girls is going to have lasting devastating effects on their population. One last form of gender-based violence is an Honour killing. An Honour killing is an extreme form of honour based violence in which a girl acts against family ‘honour’ and is killed by the family to store ‘honour’ which has supposedly been lost through her behavior.
Honour killings may involve both sexes, but are primarily done against women, because the burden of upholding morality of a family usually falls on women. Behaviors that may provoke a family to kill their daughter are the daughter’s choice of a sexual or marital partner, her education and employment, the way the she chooses to dress, her behavior and contact with the opposite sex, her sexuality, and her general conformity to the family and community’s culture and expectations.
If a woman chooses to sway from her family’s cultural normal in these categories, her family believes she is polluting her domestic group as well as herself. This causes her family to turn to murder in order to restore their honour in the eyes of their culture. These killings may happen to girls of any age, but most victims are in their late teens and twenties, a lot of the times around the age of the first marriage. The United Nations Population Fund says that internationally there are a total of 5,000 honour killings each year.
These killings are mostly associated with the Middle East and South Asia, but also have been recorded in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. India and Pakistan have recorded rates of honour killings around 1000 per year. These killings have also been shown to happen in North America, Canada, and Australia within immigrant populations, but this phenomenon is more recent and at an early state of recognition so these records are much less organized. It is not unusual for people to quickly question why a family would kill their own daughter.
Some families that participate in honour killings would agree that the act horrendous. But when a community is bonded social ties are incredibly important, so even if a family has no desire to murder their child, pressure persuades them to choose murder over social exclusion and harassment from their community. Social pressure has the ability to force an unwilling parent to sacrifice his or her daughter for the sake of the greater good of the rest of the family. These forms of gender based violence are practiced all around the world and are quite common in many cultures.
It is horrific to think about the violence that women suffer through on a daily basis. FGM, Rape, Babies girls dying, and Honour Killings are just four of the many gender based violence acts that are being practiced today. The facts we have presented are startling, but they only scratch the surface of the gravity of what is truly going on in the world. Awareness is the first step to seeing these practices stop, and it is our part to take a stand against the violence.