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Understanding Gender Based Violence

Updated: Jul 12, 2023

Its Origin, Manifestation, and effects.

By: Ana Palacios

Violence. The intentional harm to another, physical or otherwise.

Gender based violence is specifically distinctive from customary violence, as it is most widely agreed upon that an overwhelming amount of the gender based violence is committed by men, victimizing women. What is more, gender based violence targets women specifically (including female presenting gender non-conforming people and trans women, who are women*). Those who, categorically are considered inferior in many spheres: socially and consequently economically. This phenomena is ingrained in the belief of women's inferiority, and stresses the power inequity that exists amongst genders.

Gender based violence manifests in different manners: physical, psychological, sexual, economic and patrimonial. In this, the power dynamic between men and women is stressed: female presenting people and women identifiers have been, for decades, oppressed in a position of inferiority, and have become completely dependent on mens care: a patriarchal society.

Indices state that women and young girls are subject to the most abuse within their households. Meaning that the estimated 1 in 3 of women globally who experience violence, harassment or otherwise, have been subject to this abuse within the confines of their homes, by people they know.

What is more, perhaps the deadliest form of gender-based violence, femicides, are on the rise. Femicides is a term used to describe the murder of a woman or girl given her gender, and is usually categorized as a hate crime(*this term naturally includes female presenting gender non-conforming people and trans women, who are women*). Around the world, we see this violence towards women as stand alone: according to the UN, as the number of homicides in a country decreases, femicides continue to rise. As it seems, gender based violence lingers, even in developed or “safe,” societies. Violence disproportionately impacts women.

In Latin America especially, femicides have proved to be one of the most common causes of death for women, and a danger that persists. Yet; this danger presents itself differently for women sitting in different intersections. Our objectification highly contributes to our disposability: separating humanity from a body that is dissected and then seen as only servicial: only to serve and assist in a man's pleasure. Nonetheless, it is imperative to understand that different women are objectified in a different manner, corresponding to their race, socio economic status, or other prejudices society is ingrained with.

A painful example is the Atlanta shooting, one in which a white man entered a spa with predominantly Asian women workers and set loose in a rage-filled deadly rampage in order to “cease his urges.” There is little evidence pointing to sex work being done in that spa, regardless, the perpetrator, Robert Aaron Long, believed this. His motives were completely based on sexualized and fetishiszed ideals of Asian women, which became a life sentence for many. Patriarchy is life threatening.

Women are subjected to violence and oppression within the household in developed societies, across all incomes and races, although impacted differently. This begs the question: what type of violence are women subjected to when violence increases in a country, when there is war. In the book, “Radicalizing Her” Dr. Nimmi Gowrinathan,explores women's role in uprisings and revolutions. In her book, she explains women play an integral role in reconstruction and peace-building, often bearing the brunt of family responsibilities after men are killed. Paradoxically, women are an important tool for terror: their rape and murder used as a war tactic. An unfortunate example, the genocide of indigenous Mayan groups in Guatemala, where most women were raped various times as a tool for anti-guerilla efforts, those which did not exist.

With indeces of gendered based violence rising, and sexual assault remaining an ever present reality for women across the world, we must turn to what has been done to protect those most vulnerable. Most western women, specifically those of higher income and of caucasian decent deal with date rape drugs and the fear of rape within educational insitituations, amongst other types of harassment including in the workplace. Human trafficking as well as forced sex work is ever present amongst lower income communities and BIPOC communities. What is being done? Just a few weeks ago we saw the release of infamous serial rapist and unfortunate media personality, Bill Cosby, over a legal technicality. Impunity is rampant, and hope is harder to find.

Hope in war times is often seen as ludicrous. Internationally there is one force that has always promised to grant that: UN peacekeepers. For women, this hope has once again turned into terror. A Human Rights Watch reports indeces of abuse of power and rape by these peacekeepers. This report includes the testimony of a Haitan woman who was raped by a peacekeeper after he offered her a lift in his marked vehicle. Most times, these rapes end up in the conception of a baby, one many women keep. The stigmatization of fatherless children in countries with peacekeepers as well as the deepening poverty and struggle this presents for women only worsens their situation in conflict stricken territories. Given these are UN soldiers, offered by individual countries, prosecuting them for their crimes is almost never done. Once again women are left unprotected.


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