Violence affects women AND men

by Priscilla Taiwo

Today, November 25th, is the start of 16 days of activism against *gender-based violence (GBV) internationally. GBV has existed for as long as society has existed, and it is deeply entrenched in some so-called cultural beliefs and values. These discriminatory practices contribute to gender inequity**, particularly in favour of men and boys. But this is not to say that men are not also victims of GBV.

Gender-based violence has infiltrated society’s very fabric, robbing both sexes of their individuality. It is, however, the least visible violation of human rights. As a result of imbalances between men and women, GBV causes harm to its victim. Even as women, in particular, search for themselves and try to assume a more dominant role in society, they are still frequently referred to and treated as the “weak(er) vessel”.

In times past, people found it easier to fit into socially prescribed roles, whether it hurt or not. Some were raised in a system that told them they were not good enough. The “matriarchal” or “patriarchal” societies emphasise this distinction by elevating one gender over the other.

The following are some examples of gender-based violence:

Psychological violence

The use of abusive words against the other, to infer that he or she is incapable of matching up to one’s gender. Often, words can cause more damage than action. It is more common in households where one sex is preferred. The “unlucky” other is left with no choice but to wonder why he or she can’t seem to measure up. Unfair treatment and unequal expectations of one can cause psychological trauma and lead to lack to confidence, or even hatred for the “favoured” one.

Physical violence

This seems to be more prevalent with the male gender who have the advantage of physical and bodily strength. More often than not, it is wives that are victims of GBV, with evidence of injuries inflicted by their husbands. Sadly, these acts of violence in many African homes are seen as the “norm”. Children watch in horror as this happens, then grow up with this mindset and the cycle continues.

Sexual violence

One of the most heinous acts that can be committed against another person is any form of sexual violence. The pain and trauma that a victim suffers from such an attack usually lasts a lifetime. Acts of sexual violence against people with less power include women molesting young boys, men viewing women as “sexual objects” and fathers exploiting their daughters or children under their care.

Female Genital Mutilation

In Asia and Africa, this female circumcision is done to “ensure” that the girls and women remain sexually pure, thereby inflicting a lifetime of pain and discomfort upon them.

There is NO justification for maltreating others.

  • A bad temper or anger isn’t an acceptable excuse!
  • It doesn’t matter what your background is!
  • It’s not an excuse to have “beliefs” about what gender roles should be!
  • A tyrannical or narcissistic attitude isn’t an excuse!
  • One’s dressing (or lack of it) is not a good enough reason!
Photo credit: World Vision International

Playing my part

According to UN Women, 436 million women and girls worldwide have experienced some form of GBV apart from sexual harassment. For men and boys, do read this piece titled: ‘Hidden traumas’ – when men are victims of gender-based and sexual violence – particularly in relation to Africa. It may be that you are, or may know someone who is, a victim. The statistics are certainly scary!

But what can we do about this menace, individually and collectively? We must:

  • Take responsibility!
  • Educate boys and girls as early as possible, to identify and speak out against GBV.
  • Find out more about the 16 days of activism campaign and how we can get involved in our own communities.
  • Listen to and find support for survivors.
  • Fight for humanity in our relationships with each other.
  • Unite to say “NO” to widespread inequities.

Gender-based violence must be eradicated! Let’s do it together.

*In this blog post, the term ‘gender’ refers to two sexes – men and women.

**Inequity = lack of fairness or justice.

The featured image shows a black girl displaying the words NO MORE VIOLENCE boldly written on her left palm. Photo credit: Amref Health Africa