Gender-based violence creates significant human rights violations globally. Far from a problem of developing nations only, this form of abuse crosses boundaries of nationality and socioeconomic status. Even wealthy women in most affluent countries still face many threats.
Understanding the causes of gender-based violence can help society develop practical solutions to this issue. Furthermore, people need to address stereotypes that perpetuate the myth of females as subservient and inferior. Solving the problem will entail multifaceted solutions that include prevention, education and response.
Societal norms and gender-based violence
In many parts of the world, cultural norms dictate that men are aggressive and dominant while women are docile. These notions can foster outright abuse, such as in the case of female genital mutilation arising from mistaken ideas about sexuality and virginity.
Such mindsets don’t only occur in developing nations or those with a devout state religion, however. Even western politicians use tradition to justify horrors like forcing incest victims to give birth. While many countries ban practices like polygamy and child brides, adherents to such customs remain everywhere, even if they are more prevalent in some regions.
In the developed world, access to alcohol and firearms often spurs or exacerbates gender-based violence. Two-thirds of domestic or partner violence victims reported the involvement of alcohol during the offense. When other drugs, such as methamphetamines, enter the mix, violence rates likewise soar.
Unchecked access to firearms puts women in danger of their lives. The presence of a gun increases the risk of homicide by 500% — and the majority of female homicides occur at the hands of intimate partners. Disturbingly, many jurisdictions still allow people with histories of domestic violence to purchase firearms.
Particularly vulnerable populations
While all people who identify as female run a higher risk of gender-based violence, particular populations have unique vulnerabilities:
While this applies to women in developing nations, those in wealthier countries also fall prey to violence more readily if they lack adequate means. According to research, half of all homeless women report falling victim to domestic violence and abuse.
Financial tensions in the home make partners more likely to act out, especially if they embrace traditional male-female stereotypes. A man who thinks his job is to provide for his spouse and children may lash out at them in anger when he can’t meet their needs.
Disabled women who can’t work can find themselves at the economic mercy of abusive partners. Often, those in this community have to make a Sophie’s choice between staying in a situation that may kill them or life on the streets.
Even if they divorce their partners and apply for disability benefits, they may wait years to win approval if the authorities deny their initial claim. If they don’t have outside friends and family who can take them in, these women find themselves with nowhere to go.
Members of the LGBTQ+ community continue to experience violence at higher rates than their cis and heteronormative peers. Bisexual or lesbian women may suffer abuse as some interpret their sexuality as an invitation for unwanted contact.
Transgender women face enormous rates of hate crimes, too. In America, at least 26 transgender individuals lost their lives due to fatal gun violence or other crimes in 2019 alone. Sadly, the actual rates likely soar much higher, as many crimes go unreported.
Ending gender-based violence
Ending gender-based violence requires a multifaceted approach that involves both prevention and response. Preventing this form of abuse requires working toward eliminating economic and social disparities that keep women dependent on patriarchal systems for survival.
It entails ensuring equal pay for equal work and access to family planning and child care services. It also involves providing all workers — male and female — with an income sufficient to meet their basic needs, since poverty often exacerbates the problem.
Many organizations, such as USAID and Concern Worldwide US, partner with other entities around the globe to address this issue. However, the most considerable challenge remains — changing attitudes and mindsets.
Many religions, for example, teach that women are subservient to men. If they want to end violence, leaders of such groups need to express to their congregations that cruelty and abuse are never acceptable.
It’s time to stand up to gender-based violence
It’s far past time for gender-based violence to end. If everyone does their part to educate others about this issue, society can move toward higher equality and safety for all citizens.
About today’s writer
Kate is a lifestyle and wellness journalist from Pennsylvania. She particularly enjoys writing about topics related to women’s health and well-being. If you like her work, you can subscribe to her blog, So Well, So Woman.