Sexual and Gender-based violence, which includes domestic violence, rape, sexual assault and harassment, female genital mutilation, sex trafficking, child marriage, and socio-economic violence is one of the most pronounced expressions of the unequal power relations between women and men.
Let’s explore few reasons why Sexual and Gender-Based Violence and continues to be a problem in the 21st Century.
- Cultural norms, Gender stereotypes and prejudice, normative expectations of femininity and masculinity, are often used to justify violence against women. Cultural norms often dictate that men are aggressive, controlling, and dominant, while women are docile, subservient, and rely on men as providers. These norms can foster a culture of abuse outright, such as early and forced marriage or female genital mutilation, the latter spurred by obsolete and harmful notions of female sexuality and virginity.
- The lack of economic resources generally makes women vulnerable to violence and makes it extremely difficult for the victims to extricate themselves and leave abusive relationships or situations because they are financially dependent on their abusers especially in the case of intimate partner violence and domestic violence. Oftentimes the number one reason someone doesn’t leave an abusive relationship or doesn’t leave successfully, is that they don’t have the resources to stand on their own.
- War and Conflict is one factor that often leaves women more vulnerable and exposed to Sexual and Gender-Based Violence. As a result of displacement during wars or crises, women may experience not only sexual exploitation and abuse but also a gendered denial of access to basic services. Upon return to their communities, women face challenges that are conditioned by social roles, and their status as mothers, widows, property owners, or survivors of violence. These risks are all compounded by intersecting inequalities and vulnerabilities.
- The under-representation of women in power and politics means that they have fewer opportunities to affect policy changes or to adopt measures to combat sexual and gender-based violence and support equality. The topic of sexual and gender-based violence is in some cases deemed not to be important given insufficient resources and attention.
Being a victim of sexual and gender-based violence is perceived in many societies as shameful and weak, with many women still being considered guilty of attracting violence to themselves through their behaviors or even dressing.
Victim-blaming survivors of SGBV prevent many from speaking out when they experience SGBV because they fear being accused of attracting violence to themselves, this behavior encourages a culture of silence which gives perpetrators the liberty to keep perpetuating these crimes because their victims are less likely to report.
Ending Sexual and Gender-Based Violence is a necessity that we must all rise to for growth, development, and peaceful co-existence. To achieve this we must have zero tolerance for SGBV by reporting every case of SGBV we encounter.