The elusive goal of ending violence against women

Photo by Kat Jayne

November 25th is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.  Tragically, in 2018, this remains as urgent a cause as any.

According to the United Nations (UN), globally 1 in 3 women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.  While that number is disturbingly high, many researchers suggest that this is an underestimate due to the almost-certainly high prevalence of unreported instances.

Here in Canada, women experience violence at a higher rate than men.  And Indigenous women in this country experience nearly three times the rate of violence as their non-Indigenous counterparts.  Indigenous women continue to be murdered or go missing at an unconscionable rate with—despite increased awareness—no resolution to the crisis.

 

Family violence

Violence takes on many forms and is perpetrated by different actors.  The UN estimates that about half of all female homicides are at the hands of intimate partners or other family members.  In Canada, a quarter of all reported violence is domestic, with the overwhelming majority being against women and girls.

The pervasiveness of domestic violence is in part explained by its cyclical pattern.  There is an established relationship between witnessing violence as a child and becoming a perpetrator as an adult.  A trend that is very difficult to break.

 

Gender-based violence and conflict

Outside the home, women and girls remain vulnerable in settings of conflict and colonization.

In war zones, rape has become a commonplace tactic in war.  While conflict and rape have been synonymous since time in memoriam, UN observers note that while rape was once viewed—however horrifically—as a spoil of war, it has now transformed into a strategy, a kind of sadistic fusion of physical and psychological torture aimed to shred the very social fabric required to weave together communities.  

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