The phrase violence against women (or known in short as VAW) is a technical term used to collectively refer to violent acts that are primarily or exclusively committed against women. Similar to a hate crime, which it is sometimes considered, this type of violence targets a specific group with the victim's gender as a primary motive.
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The phrase violence against women (or known in short as VAW) is a technical term used to collectively refer to violent acts that are primarily or exclusively committed against women. Similar to a hate crime, which it is sometimes considered, this type of violence targets a specific group with the victim's gender as a primary motive.
Many types of violence are considered to be violence against women. These include violence carried out by ‘individuals’ as well as ‘states.’ Some of the violence perpetrated by individuals are rape; domestic violence; harmful customary or traditional practices such as diagnosis planning, honor killings, dowry violence, female genital mutilation, forced marriages, sexual harassment; coercive use of contraceptives, female infanticide; prenatal sex selection; obstetric violence and mob violence. Some are perpetrated by state such as war rape; sexual violence and slavery during conflict; trafficking in women; forced prostitution; force sterilization; forced abortion; violence by the police and authoritative personnel; stoning and flogging.
The World Health Organization (WHO), in its research on violence against women, suggested that there is a chance that women can encounter violence and its devastating effects throughout their life cycle. They categorized phases of life cycle into five stages: “1) pre-birth, 2) infancy, 3) girlhood, 4) adolescence and adulthood and 5) elderly” and illustrated the types of violence that women in each phrase might face. The summary table of these categories are provided below:
|Violence against women throughout the life cycle|
|Phase||Type of violence|
|Pre-birth||Sex-selective abortion; effects of battering during pregnancy on birth
|Infancy||Female infanticide; physical, sexual and psychological abuse|
|Girlhood||Child marriage; female genital mutilation; physical, sexual and
psychological abuse; incest; child prostitution and pornography
|Adolescence and adulthood||Dating and courtship violence (e.g. acid throwing and date rape); economically coerced sex (e.g. school girls having sex with “sugar daddies” in return for school fees); incest; sexual abuse in the workplace; rape; sexual harassment; forced prostitution and pornography; trafficking in women; partner violence; marital rape; dowry abuse and murders; partner homicide; psychological abuse; abuse of women with disabilities; forced pregnancy|
|Elderly||Forced “suicide” or homicide of widows for economic reasons; sexual,
physical and psychological abuse
Significant progress towards the protection of women from violence has been made on international level as a product of collective effort of lobbying by many women’s rights movements; international organizations to civil society groups. As a result, worldwide governments and international as well as civil society organizations actively work to combat violence against women through a variety of programs. Among the major achievements of the women’s rights movements against violence on girls and women, the landmark accomplishments are the "Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women” that implies “political will towards addressing VAW ” and the legal binding agreement, “the Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).” In addition, the UN General Assembly resolution also designated 25 November as International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), in its resolution on the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, defines "violence against women" as "any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life." Also, the 1993 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women noted that this violence could be perpetrated by assailants of either gender from individual, communal to state levels.
In addition, the term 'gender-based violence' refers to "any acts or threats of acts intended to hurt or make women suffer physically, sexually or psychologically, and which affect women because they are women or affect women disproportionately." Added by arguments from several scholars that the definition of 'gender-based violence' "is used interchangeably with violence against women", these definitions seem to imply that women are inferior and subordinate to men. Some articles on VAW reiterate these conceptions by suggesting that men are the main perpetrators of these violence.
Consequently, some feminist and other academic scholars find such a definition provided by the UN as well as other definitions along the same line to be unsatisfactory and problematic. They argue that these definitions of 'violence against women' appear to be in a very patriarchal understanding that signifies unequal relations between men and women. In addition, the definitions disregard violence against ‘masculine body,’ or men and that the term “gender,” as used in 'gender based violence,' only refers to ‘women.’ Thus, employing the term ‘gender’ in this particular way may introduce notions of ‘inferiority’ and ‘subordination’ for femininity and 'superiority' for masculinity. Moreover, the definition stated by the 1993 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women also introduced the notion that violence is rooted in the inequality between men and women when the term violence is used together with the term 'gender-based.' So, there is no perfect definition as of now that can cover all the dimensions of 'gender based violence' rather than the one for women that tends to reproduce the concept of binary oppositions: masculinity versus femininity
The history of violence against women remains vague in scientific literature. This is in part due to the fact that many kinds of violence against women (specifically rape & sexual assault, and domestic violence) often go unreported or under-reported, often due to societal norms, taboos, stigma, and the sensitive nature of the subject. It is widely recognized that even today, a lack of reliable and continuous data is an obstacle in having a clear picture of violence against women, so an historical picture of violence against women becomes even more difficult to capture. Although the history of violence against women is difficult to track, some claim that violence against women has been accepted, and even condoned and legally sanctioned throughout history. Examples include the fact that Roman law gave men the right to chastise their wives, even to the point of death, the burning of witches, which was condoned by both the church and the state, and an 18th-century English common law allowing a man to punish his wife using a stick "no wider than his thumb" (thus coining the English phrase, "rule of thumb." This rule for punishment of wives prevailed in England and America until the late 19th century). Some historians believe that the history of violence against women is tied to the history of women being viewed as property and a gender role assigned to be subservient to men and also other women. Oftentimes, explanations of patriarchy and an overall world system or status quo in which gender inequalities exist and are perpetuated, are cited to explain the scope and history of violence against women. The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993) states that "violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women, and that violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men.” To the modern day, it is recognized that violence against women exists everywhere, and that "there is no region of the world, no country and no culture in which women’s freedom from violence has been secured." Attention is often drawn to the fact that some forms of violence are particularly more prevalent in some countries/parts of the world, often in developing countries or the Third-World; for example, the associations of Bride burning, Dowry death and acid throwing with countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka; Honor killing with these same places as well as certain predominantly-Muslim countries (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Egypt Lebanon); and Female genital mutilation with particular regions in Sub-Saharan and North-east Africa, and to a lesser extent in the Middle East & Asia. However, one should beware of using any explanation based on culture to justify specific forms of violence against women, and it is debatable in what ways cultural tradition can legitimize certain practices. Specifically, cultural justifications for certain violent acts against women are asserted by some States and by social groups within many countries claiming to defend cultural tradition (also historical tradition), but these justifications are questionable precisely because these defenses are generally voiced by political leaders or traditional authorities, not by those actually affected. But the need for sensitivity and respect of culture is an element which cannot be ignored either, thus a sensitive debate has ensued and is still ongoing.
However, there has also been a history of recognizing of the harmful & wrongful effects of this violence, and actions have been taken to classify it as unjust. In the 1870s, courts in the United States stopped recognizing the common-law principle that a husband had the right to "physically chastise an errant wife". In fact, the first state to rescind this right was Alabama in 1871. In the UK the traditional right of a husband to inflict moderate corporal punishment on his wife in order to keep her "within the bounds of duty" was removed in 1891. More recently, in the 20th and 21st centuries, and in particular since the 1990s, there has been a large incrase in activity on both the national and international levels to research, raise awareness and advocate for the prevention of all kinds of violence against women. Most often, violence against women has been framed as a health issue, and also as a violation of human rights. As for current information, a study from 2002 estimated that at least one in five women in the world had been physically or sexually abused by a man sometime in their lifetime, and that "gender-based violence accounts for as much death and ill-health in women aged 15–44 years as cancer, and is a greater cause of ill-health than malaria and traffic accidents combined." Although there are many different forms, certain characteristics of violence against women have emerged from the research, for example, quite often acts of violence against women are not unique episodes, but are ongoing over time, and that more often than not, the violence is perpetrated by someone the woman knows, not a stranger. However, all of the research seems to provide convincing evidence that violence against women is a severe and pervasive problem the world over, with devastating effects on the health and well-being of women and children.
Some of the largest milestones on the international level for the prevention of violence against women include:
Additionally, on the national level, individual countries have also organized efforts (legally, politically, socially) to prevent, reduce and punish violence against women. As a particular case study, here are some developments since the 1960s in the United States to oppose and treat violence against women:
Other countries have also enacted comparable legislative, political and social instruments to address violence against women. Experts in the international community generally believe, however, that solely enacting punitive legislation for prevention & punishment of violence against women is not sufficient to address the problem. For example, although much stricter laws on violence against women have been passed in Bangladesh, violence against women is still rising. Instead, it is thought that wide societal changes to address gender inequalities & women's empowerment will be the way to reduce violence against women.
According to an article in the Health and Human Rights Journal, regardless of many years of advocacy and involvement of many feminist activist organizations, the issue of violence against women still "remains one of the most pervasive forms of human rights violations worldwide." The violence against women can occur in both public and private spheres of life and at any time of their life span. Many women are terrified by these threats of violence and this essentially has an impact on their lives that they are impeded to exercise their human rights, for instance, the fear for contribution to the development of their communities socially, economically and politically. Apart from that, the causes that trigger 'VAW' or 'gender-based violence' can go beyond just the issue of gender and into the issues of age, class, culture, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and specific geographical area of their origins.
Importantly, other than the issue of social divisions, violence can also extend into the realm of health issues and become a direct concern of the public health sector. A health issue such as HIV/AIDS is another cause that also leads to violence. Women who have HIV/AIDS infection are also among the targets of the violence. The World Health Organization reports that violence against women puts an undue burden on health care services, as women who have suffered violence are more likely to need health services and at higher cost, compared to women who have not suffered violence. Another statement that confirms an understanding of 'VAW' as being a significant health issue is apparent in the recommendation adopted by the Council of Europe, violence against women in private sphere, at home or domestic violence, is the main reason of "death and disability" among the women who encountered violence.
In addition, several studies have shown a link between poor treatment of women and international violence. These studies show that one of the best predictors of inter- and intranational violence is the maltreatment of women in the society.
Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person's consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or with a person who is incapable of valid consent, such as one who is unconscious, incapacitated, or below the legal age of consent.
Internationally, the incidence of rapes recorded by the police during 2008 varied between 0.1 in Egypt per 100,000 people and 91.6 per 100,000 people in Lesotho with 4.9 per 100,000 people in Lithuania as the median. According to the American Medical Association (1995), sexual violence, and rape in particular, is considered the most underreported violent crime. The rate of reporting, prosecution and convictions for rape varies considerably in different jurisdictions. Rape by strangers is usually less common than rape by persons the victim knows.
Victims of rape can be severely traumatized and may suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder; in addition to psychological harm resulting from the act, rape may cause physical injury, or have additional effects on the victim, such as acquiring of a sexually transmitted infection or becoming pregnant.
Following a rape, a victim may face violence or threats of thereof from the rapist, and, in some cultures, from the victim's own family and relatives. Violence or intimidation of the victim may be perpetrated by the rapist or by friends and relatives of the rapist, as a way of preventing the victims from reporting the rape, of punishing them for reporting it, or of forcing them to withdraw the complaint; or it may be perpetrated by the relatives of the victim as a punishment for "bringing shame" to the family. This is especially the case in cultures where female virginity is highly valued and considered mandatory before marriage; in extreme cases, rape victims are killed in honor killings. Victims may also be forced by their families to marry the rapist in order to restore the family's "honor".
Women are more likely to be victimized by someone that they are intimate with, commonly called "Intimate Partner Violence" or (IPV). Instances of IPV tend not to be reported to police and thus many experts believe that the true magnitude of the problem is hard to estimate. Women are much more likely than men to be murdered by an intimate partner. In the United States, in 2005, 1181 women, in comparison with 329 men, were killed by their intimate partners. In England and Wales about 100 women are killed by partners or former partners each year while 21 men were killed in 2010. In 2008, in France, 156 women in comparison with 27 men were killed by their intimate partner.
According to WHO, globally, as many as 38% of murders of women are committed by an intimate partner. A UN report compiled from a number of different studies conducted in at least 71 countries found domestic violence against women to be most prevalent in Ethiopia.
In Western Europe, a country which has received major international criticism for the way it has dealt legally with the issue of violence against women is Finland; with authors pointing that a high level of equality for women in the public sphere (as in Finland) should never be equated with equality in all other aspects of women's lives.
Though this form of violence is often portrayed as an issue within the context of heterosexual relationships, it also occurs in lesbian relationships, daughter-mother relationships, roommate relationships and other domestic relationships involving two women. Violence against women in lesbian relationships is about as common as violence against women in heterosexual relationships.
The American Psychiatric Association planning and research committees for the forthcoming DSM-5 (2013) have canvassed a series of new Relational disorders which include Marital Conflict Disorder Without Violence or Marital Abuse Disorder (Marital Conflict Disorder With Violence). Couples with marital disorders sometimes come to clinical attention because the couple recognize long-standing dissatisfaction with their marriage and come to the clinician on their own initiative or are referred by an astute health care professional. Secondly, there is serious violence in the marriage which is -"usually the husband battering the wife". In these cases the emergency room or a legal authority often is the first to notify the clinician. Most importantly, marital violence "is a major risk factor for serious injury and even death and women in violent marriages are at much greater risk of being seriously injured or killed (National Advisory Council on Violence Against Women 2000)." The authors of this study add that "There is current considerable controversy over whether male-to-female marital violence is best regarded as a reflection of male psychopathology and control or whether there is an empirical base and clinical utility for conceptualizing these patterns as relational."
Recommendations for clinicians making a diagnosis of Marital Relational Disorder should include the assessment of actual or "potential" male violence as regularly as they assess the potential for suicide in depressed patients. Further, "clinicians should not relax their vigilance after a battered wife leaves her husband, because some data suggest that the period immediately following a marital separation is the period of greatest risk for the women. Many men will stalk and batter their wives in an effort to get them to return or punish them for leaving. Initial assessments of the potential for violence in a marriage can be supplemented by standardized interviews and questionnaires, which have been reliable and valid aids in exploring marital violence more systematically."
The authors conclude with what they call "very recent information" on the course of violent marriages which suggests that "over time a husband's battering may abate somewhat, but perhaps because he has successfully intimidated his wife. The risk of violence remains strong in a marriage in which it has been a feature in the past. Thus, treatment is essential here; the clinician cannot just wait and watch." The most urgent clinical priority is the protection of the wife because she is the one most frequently at risk, and clinicians must be aware that supporting assertiveness by a battered wife may lead to more beatings or even death.
Honor killings are a common form of violence against women in certain parts of the world. In honor killings, women and girls are killed by family members (usually husbands, fathers, uncles or brothers) because the women are believed to have brought shame or dishonor upon the family. These killings are a traditional practice, believed to have originated from tribal customs where an allegation against a woman can be enough to defile a family's reputation. Women are killed for reasons such as refusing to enter an arranged marriage, being in a relationship that is disapproved by their relatives, attempting to leave a marriage, having sex outside marriage, becoming the victim of rape, dressing in ways which are deemed inappropriate.
Honor killings are common in countries such as Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Yemen. Honor killings also occur in immigrant communities in Europe, the United States and Canada. Although honor killings are most often associated with the Middle East and South Asia, they occur in other parts of the world too. In India, honor killings occur in the northern regions of the country, especially in the states of Punjab, Haryana, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. In Turkey, honor killings are a serious problem in Southeastern Anatolia.
The custom of dowry, which is common in South Asia, especially in India, is the trigger of many forms of violence against women. Bride burning is a form of violence against women in which a bride is killed at home by her husband or husband's family due to his dissatisfaction over the dowry provided by her family. Dowry death refers to the phenomenon of women and girls being killed or committing suicide due to disputes regarding dowry. Dowry violence is common in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. In India, in 2011 alone, the National Crime Records Bureau reported 8,618 dowry deaths, while unofficial figures suggest the numbers to be at least three times higher.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as "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." According to a 2013 UNICEF report, 125 million women and girls in Africa and the Middle East have experienced FGM. The WHO states that: "The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women" and "Procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, infertility as well as complications in childbirth increased risk of newborn deaths" and "FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women". According to a UNICEF report, the top rates for FGM are in Somalia (with 98 percent of women affected), Guinea (96 percent), Djibouti (93 percent), Egypt (91 percent), Eritrea (89 percent), Mali (89 percent), Sierra Leone (88 percent), Sudan (88 percent), Gambia (76 percent), Burkina Faso (76 percent), Ethiopia (74 percent), Mauritania (69 percent), Liberia (66 percent), and Guinea-Bissau (50 percent).
Acid throwing, also called acid attack, or vitriolage, is defined as the act of throwing acid onto the body of a person "with the intention of injuring or disfiguring [them] out of jealousy or revenge". The most common types of acid used in these attacks are sulfuric, nitric, or hydrochloric acid. Perpetrators of these attacks throw acid at their victims, usually at their faces, burning them, and damaging skin tissue, often exposing and sometimes dissolving the bones. The long term consequences of these attacks include blindness and permanent scarring of the face and body. Women and girls are the victims in 75-80% of cases. Acid attacks are often connected to domestic disputes, including dowry disputes, and refusal of a proposition for marriage, or of sexual advances. Such attacks are common in South Asia, in countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, India; and in Southeast Asia, especially in Cambodia.
A forced marriage is a marriage in which one or both of the parties is married against their will. Forced marriages are common in South Asia, the Middle East and Africa. The customs of bride price and dowry, that exist in many parts of the world, contribute to this practice. A forced marriage is also often the result of a dispute between families, where the dispute is 'resolved' by giving a female from one family to the ofter.
The custom of bride kidnapping continues to exist in some societies, such as Central Asia and the Caucasus, or parts of Africa, especially Ethiopia. A girl or a woman is abducted by the would be groom, who is often helped by his friends. The victim is often raped by the would be groom, after which he may try to negotiate a bride price with the village elders to legitimize the marriage.
In 2010 Amnesty International reported that mob attacks against single women were taking place in Hassi Messaoud, Algeria. According to Amnesty International, "some women have been sexually abused" and were targeted "not just because they are women, but because they are living alone and are economically independent."
Militarism produces special environments that allow for increased violence against women. War rapes have accompanied warfare in virtually every known historical era. Rape in the course of war is mentioned multiple times in the Bible: "For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped..." Zechariah 14:2 "Their little children will be dashed to death before their eyes. Their homes will be sacked, and their wives will be raped."Isaiah 13:16
War rapes are rapes committed by soldiers, other combatants or civilians during armed conflict or war, or during military occupation, distinguished from sexual assaults and rape committed amongst troops in military service. It also covers the situation where women are forced into prostitution or sexual slavery by an occupying power. During World War II the Japanese military established brothels filled with "comfort women", girls and women who were forced into sexual slavery for soldiers, exploiting women for the purpose of creating access and entitlement for men. 
Another example of violence against women incited by militarism during war took place in the Kovno Ghetto. Jewish male prisoners had access to (and used) Jewish women forced into camp brothels by the Nazis, who also used them.
Rape was committed during the Bangladesh Liberation War by members of the Pakistani military and the militias that supported them. Over a period of nine months, hundreds of thousands of women were raped. Susan Brownmiller, in her report on the atrocities, said that girls from the age of eight to grandmothers of seventy-five suffered attacks. (See also: Rape during the Bangladesh Liberation War)
Rape used as a weapon of war was practiced during the Bosnian War where rape was used as a highly systematized instrument of war by Serb armed forces predominantly targeting women and girls of the Bosniak ethnic group for physical and moral destruction. Estimates of the number of women raped during the war range from 50,000 to 60,000; as of 2010 only 12 cases have been prosecuted. (See also Rape during the Bosnian War).
The 1998 International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda recognized rape as a war crime. Presiding judge Navanethem Pillay said in a statement after the verdict: "From time immemorial, rape has been regarded as spoils of war. Now it will be considered a war crime. We want to send out a strong message that rape is no longer a trophy of war." (See also: Rwandan Genocide)
In 2006, five U.S. troops from a six-man unit gang raped and killed a 14-year-old girl in a village near the town of Al-Mahmudiyah, Iraq. After the rape the girl was shot in her head and the lower part of her body, from her stomach down to her feet, was set on fire. (See also: Mahmudiyah killings)
A 1995 study of female war veterans found that 90 percent had been sexually harassed. A 2003 survey found that 30 percent of female vets said they were raped in the military and a 2004 study of veterans who were seeking help for post-traumatic stress disorder found that 71 percent of the women said they were sexually assaulted or raped while serving.
Forced sterilization and forced abortion are forms of gender-based violence. These procedures are reported to be practiced in countries such as Uzbekistan and China.
When police officers misuse their power as agents of the state to physically and sexually harass and assault victims, the survivors, including women, feel much less able to report the violence. It is standard procedure for police to force entry into the victim's home even after the victim's numerous requests for them to go away. Government agencies often disregard the victim's right to freedom of association with their perpetrator. Shelter workers are often reduced themselves to contributing to violence against women by exploiting their vulnerability in exchange for a paying job.
Human rights violations perpetrated by police and military personnel in many countries are correlated with decreased access to public health services and increased practices of risky behavior among members of vulnerable groups, such as women and female sex workers. These practices are especially widespread in settings with a weak rule of law and low levels of police and military management and professionalism. Police abuse in this context has been linked to a wide range of risky behaviors and health outcomes, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance abuse. Extortion of sexual services and police sexual abuse have been linked to a decrease in condom use and an elevated risk of STI and HIV infections among vulnerable groups.
Stoning, or lapidation, refers to a form of capital punishment whereby an organized group throws stones at an individual until the person dies. Stoning is a punishment that is included in the laws of several countries, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Pakistan, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, and some states in Nigeria, as punishment for adultery. Flogging or flagellation is the act of methodically beating or whipping the human body. It is a judicial punishment in various countries for specific crimes, including sex outside marriage. These punishments employed for sexual relations outside marriage, apart from constituting a form of violence in themselves, can also deter victims of sexual violence from reporting the crime, because the victims may themselves be punished (if they cannot prove their case, if they are deemed to have been in the company of an unrelated male, or if they were unmarried and not virgins at the time of the rape).
Violence against women is a topic of concern in the United States' collegiate athletic community. From the 2010 UVA lacrosse murder, in which a male athlete was charged guilty with second degree murder of his girlfriend, to the 2004 University of Colorado Football Scandal when players were charged with nine alleged sexual assaults, studies suggest that athletes are at higher risk for committing sexual assault against women than the average student. It is reported that one in three college assaults are committed by athletes. Surveys suggest that male student athletes who represent 3.3% of the college population, commit 19% of reported sexual assaults and 35% of domestic violence. The theories that surround these statistics range from misrepresentation of the student-athlete to an unhealthy mentality towards women within the team itself.
Sociologist Timothy Curry, after conducting an observational analysis of two big time sports’ locker room conversations, deduced that the high risk of male student athletes for gender abuse is a result of the team’s subculture. He states, "Their locker room talk generally treated women as objects, encouraged sexist attitudes toward women and, in its extreme, promoted rape culture." He proposes that this objectification is a way for the male to reaffirm his heterosexual status and hyper-masculinity. Claims have been made that the atmosphere changes when an outsider (especially women) intrude in the locker room. In the wake of the reporter Lisa Olson being harassed by a Patriots player in the locker room in 1990, she reflected, "We are taught to think we must have done something wrong and it took me a while to realize I hadn't done anything wrong." Other female sports reporters (college and professional) have claimed that they often brush off the players' comments which leads to further objectification. Other sociologists challenge this claim. Steve Chandler notes that because of their celebrity status on campus, “athletes are more likely to be scrutinized or falsely accused than non-athletes.” Another contender, Stephanie Mak, notes that, “if one considers the 1998 estimates that about three million women were battered and almost one million raped, the proportion of incidences that involve athletes in comparison to the regular population is relatively small."
In response to the proposed link between college athletes and gender-based violence, and media coverage holding Universities as responsible for these scandals more universities are requiring athletes to attend workshops that promote awareness. For example, St. John's University holds sexual assault awareness classes in the fall for its incoming student athletes. Other groups, such as the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes, have formed to provide support for the victims as their mission statement reads, "The NCAVA works to eliminate off the field violence by athletes through the implementation of prevention methods that recognize and promote the positive leadership potential of athletes within their communities. In order to eliminate violence, the NCAVA is dedicated to empowering individuals affected by athlete violence through comprehensive services including advocacy, education and counseling."
“Obstetric violence” refers to acts categorized as physically or psychologically violent in the context of labor and birth. In most developed and many developing countries, birth takes place in an increasingly medicalized environment; with numerous surgical interventions that women can sometimes be coerced into accepting, or which are done without her consent. Medicalized birthing practices and interventions such as Caesarean sections, episiotomies and hormonal birth induction; which should normally be restricted to only a minority of cases where risks for the mother are clear, are increasingly being used during births that could otherwise take place naturally. Some organizations and scholars consider this a violent act against the woman and her child.
The concept also includes the unjustified use of instruments and maneuvers that have been recognized as risky to the health of the mother and child, or whose benefits and risks have not been sufficiently examined (use of forceps, Kristeller maneuver, vacuum extraction). The World Health Organization warns that “the boom in unnecessary surgeries is jeopardizing women’s health”, that Caesarean sections have reached “epidemic proportions” in many countries (46% in China, 25% and above in many Asian, European and Latin American countries), and that sometimes financial incentives for doctors and hospitals have an influence too.
Concerning episiotomies, the World Health Organization informs that they “carry a greater risk of getting infected, and can cause a higher blood loss, than (natural) tears”, and that “Limiting the use of episiotomy to strict indications has a number of benefits: less posterior perineal trauma, less need for suturing and fewer complications”. England’s National Health Service informs that episiotomies may cause pain and discomfort for the woman for many months after their child’s birth, and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also recommends a restriction on their use. Some sources refer to North American obstetricians and gynecologists, especially between the 1950s and 1980's, practicing what was called “the husband’s stitch”: placing extra stitches in the woman’s vagina after the episiotomy or natural tearing, supposedly to increase the husband’s future sexual pleasure and often causing long-term pain and discomfort to the woman. However, there is no proof that such a practice was widespread in North America, but mentions of it frequently appear in studies about episiotomy, also in other American countries such as Brazil.
The WHO recently stated that “in normal birth, there should be a valid reason to interfere with the natural process. The aim of care is to achieve a healthy mother and child with the least possible level of intervention compatible with safety”. Practices that should be stopped (in normal labor), according to the WHO:
In Latin America, with the increasingly medicalized and surgical context of birth, many organizations propose a rediscovery of natural, unmedicated birth. Different scholars such as O. Fernández have analyzed the link between Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and obstetric violence, as have Olde et al. Various NGO’s around the world have the purpose of defending “the right to a respectful and humane birth”, such as the Canadian organization Humanize Birth, or the Spanish association El Parto es Nuestro (“Birth Is Ours”). Other organizations such as The Birth Trauma Association claim to “support women suffering from Post Natal Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or birth trauma”; which rather than being the result of the birth process itself, is caused by “factors such as loss of control, loss of dignity, the hostile or difficult attitudes of the people around them, feelings of not being heard or the absence of informed consent to medical procedures”. The WHO’s Reproductive Health library states that a de-humanized, highly medical context for normal births can “promote the use of unnecessary interventions, neglect women's emotional needs and contribute to a high overall cost of medical services”.
In Venezuela, as well as in the Mexican states of Veracruz, Chiapas, Guanajuato and Durango, laws have been passed to give women the right to a life free of obstetric violence. Venezuela’s Organic Law on the Right of Women to a Life Free of Violence, approved November 2006, defines on its Article 51 the following acts as forms of obstetric violence:
Mexico’s GIRE (Group for Information on Planned Reproduction) has issued a report where it also mentions the “normalization of obstetric violence”, as well as psychological and emotional mistreatment by care providers being common during childbirth. It also mentions forced sterilization as a form of severe violence against women; one which might disproportionally affect indigenous women. Psychological and verbal abuse during childbirth, as well as coercion into accepting surgical intervention, are also documented in Goer’s “Cruelty in Maternity Wards: Fifty Years Later”; published in the Journal of Perinatal Education.
Activism refers to “a doctrine or practice that emphasizes direct vigorous action especially in support of or opposition to one side of a controversial issue.” In the activism for violence against women, the objectives are to address and draw public attention on the issues of VAW as well as seek and recommend measures to prevent and eliminate this violence. Many scholarly articles suggest that the VAW is considered as a violation of human rights as well as “public health issue.”
In order to better comprehend the anti-violence movements against VAW, there is a need to also understand the generic historical background of feminist movements in a holistic manner. Talking about the international women’s movement, many feminist scholars have categorized these movements into three waves according to their different beliefs, strategies and goals.
The emergence of the first women’s movements, or so called the first wave of feminism, dated back in the years of the late 19th Century and early 20th Century in the United States and Europe. During this period, the first series of feminist movements developed from the context of “industrial society and liberal politics” that trigger the ‘feminist groups’ with the concern of equal access and opportunity for women. This wave marks a period of “suffrage, independence, rights to nationality, work and equal pay” for women.
The second wave of feminist movement was the series of movements from the period of the “late 1960s to early 1970s.” It was noted by feminist scholars that this wave could be characterized as a period of women’s liberation and the rise of a branch of feminism known as ‘radical feminism.’ This wave of feminism emerged in the context of postwar period and society where other mainstream movements also played a large role; for instance, the civil rights movements, which meant to condemn ‘capitalism,’ ‘ imperialism’ and ‘oppression’ of people based on the notion of race, ethnicity, gender identity and sexual orientation. This wave marks a period of equal rights at home and workplace as well as rights to development in regardless of race, social class, economic status and gender identity.
The third wave of feminism is the newest wave of feminism led by young feminists whose understanding and context are of the globalized world order with an invention of many new technologies Also, this wave is a transition of the fall communism to more complex issues of new kinds of ‘warfare,’ threats and violence. This new wave also “embraces ambiguity” and introduced a feminist approach of ‘intersectionality’ that includes the issues of “gender, race, class and age-related.” Other than that, the third wave marks a period of feminism dealing with identity politics, body politics as well as the issues of violence.
Nonetheless, the VAW movement was initiated in the 1970s when some feminist movements started to bring the discussion on the issue of violence into the feminist discourse and that many other groups, on the national as well as international levels, had attempted to push for the betterment of women through lobbying of the state officials and delegates, demanding the conferences on ‘gender issues’ and thus made the VAW known to a wider range of population.
Efforts to fight violence against women can take many forms and access to justice, or lack thereof, for such violence varies greatly depending on the justice system. International and regional instruments are increasingly used as the basis for national legislation and policies to eradicate violence against women.
The Inter-American Convention to Prevent, Eradicate and Punish Violence Against Women – also known as the Belém do Parà Convention, for instance, has been applied by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in its first case of domestic violence to condemn Brazil in the Maria da Penha case. This led the Brazilian government to enact in 2006 the Maria da Penha Law, the country’s first law against domestic violence against women. There is also, for instance, the South Asian Agreement on Regional Cooperation’s (SAARC) Protocol to End Trafficking in Women and Children.
As violence is often committed by a family member, women first started by lobbying their governments to set up shelters for domestic violence survivors. The Julia Burgos Protected House established in Puerto Rico in 1979 was the first shelter in Latin America and the Caribbean for « battered women ». In 2003, 18 out of the 20 countries in the region had legislation on domestic or family violence, and 11 countries addressed sexual violence in their laws. Legislative measures to protect victims can include restraining orders, which can be found in Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Paraguay, Venezuela, Turkey, the United States and many western European countries for instance.
Courts can also be allowed by law (Germany, 2001) to order the perpetrator to leave the home so that victims do not have to seek shelter. Countries were urged to repeal discriminatory legislation by 2005 following the review of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in 2000. Egypt, for instance, abolished a law that exempted men from rape charges when marrying their victims. However, the goal of antiviolence legislation is often to keep the families together, regardless of the best interests of women, which perpetuate domestic violence.
Innovative measures have been pioneered in a number of countries to end violence against women. In Brazil and Jordan, women’s police stations have been introduced, and one-stop shelthers were created in Malaysia and Nicaragua.
There can be a de jure or de facto lack of criminalization of violent behaviors.
* Lack of criminalization. Female Genital Mutilation is still legal in a number of countries for instance. In Pakistan, the use of acid in attacks on women was not a crime until the Criminal Law Act 2011 provided for the first time the levy of prison sentences and fines for such attacks. There are instances where crimes against women are also categorized as minor offences.
* Challenges in making a case in court. The burden of proof can be placed on the victim. For instance in the Philipines, before a change in law in 1997, rape used to be described as a crime against chastity and a woman had to prove she did not consent to losing her virginity. It can also be difficult to make a case of sexual assault in court when members of the judiciary, in some instances, continue to take evidence of a struggle and injury as determinative medical evidence. On the other hand, there are measures like the 2012 law in Brazil that allow for cases to be filed even without the representation of the victim.
* Existing laws are insufficient and have no effect in practice. Some laws on domestic violence, for instance, conflict with other provisions and ultimately contradict their goals. In Ukraine, a law on domestic violence also provides that the police can arrest the victim for « provocation ». Legal frameworks can also be flawed when laws that integrate protection do so in isolation, notably in relation to immigration laws. Undocumented women in countries where they would have, in theory, access to justice, don’t in practice for fear of being denounced and deported. The CEDAW Committee recommends that a State authority’s obligation to report undocumented persons be repealed in national legislation.
Measures to address violence against women range from access to legal-aid to the provision of shelters and hotlines for victims. Despite advances in legislation and policies, the lack of implementation of the measures put in place prevents significant progress in eradicating violence against women globally. This failure to apply existing laws and procedures is often due to the persisting issue of gender stereotyping.
The barriers that women face in participating in the justice system as lawyers, law enforcement officers etc. also plays an important role in perpetuating a lack of concern for women victims of violence. In war and post-conflict times, women are often denied a seat at the negotiation table despite the role they may have played in peacebuilding processes, thus preventing issues such as sexual violence to be pushed forward on the agenda.
Measurement of the impact of these measures is also difficult due to a lack of data and coordination of efforts between policy-makers and implementing partners.