Reducing Domestic Violence
The Australian government is reducing domestic violence through laws and policies, which is also good for reducing poverty. Here is some information about the link between domestic violence and poverty, in addition to how Australia is attempting to alleviate the issues.

The Link Between Domestic Violence and Poverty

Julie Henson told the Indianapolis Recorder that “the lower the income, the higher prevalence for abuse. Poverty can be a cause of domestic violence, and domestic violence can be a cause for poverty.”

For women who are victims of domestic violence, countercurrents.org explained that attempting to leave an abusive situation may lead to the victim losing her “job, housing, health care, child care, or access to her partner’s income.

About 97% of domestic abuse victims also experience economic abuse, which is when the perpetrator will exploit the victim’s finances. When the victim leaves, economic abuse often increases, leaving them at risk of sinking further into poverty.

Reducing Domestic Violence in Australia

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 17% of women and 6% of men experience physical and/or sexual violence. Additionally, one in four women and one in six men experience emotional abuse.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) explains that domestic abuse laws can have a powerful impact to discourage abusers, protect victims and improve women’s employment. Here are some ways the Australian government is reducing domestic violence.

Ways the Australian Government is Reducing Domestic Violence

  1. The Family Violence Act. Australia passed this Act in 2011, which is aiming to improve the law’s response to family violence and is still undergoing revisions today. It emphasizes children’s well-being and maintaining a good relationship with both parents. The Act defines what constitutes abuse, including emotional abuse as part of the definition. It also improves court proceedings by ensuring access to evidence and making it easier for child protective services to be part of the process.
  2. The National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children. This plan includes measures to decrease the number of deaths due to domestic violence and sexual assault and reduce the number of children who witness violence at home. The plan aims to accomplish its goals mainly by educating the public and improving the way media outlets cover the topic of violence. This plan has been in effect since 2010 and is still active to this day.
  3. Banning Domestic Abusers From Entering the Country. Another way the Australian government is reducing domestic violence is by sending a message to abusers that they are not welcome in their country. In 2019, Australia banned those convicted of domestic violence from visiting or moving to the country. Australia can even force abusers already living in the country out. While this may keep Australia safer, New Zealand criticized this policy, claiming that it just perpetuates the cycle of abuse in other countries.
  4. The Coercive Control Bill. Coercive control is when abusers continuously deny victims of their independence. In 2021, the Australian government proposed a bill to criminalize these actions, proposing a jail sentence of up to seven years. If passed, the bill could reduce domestic murders, as coercive control is often a warning sign for this. To comment on how the Australian government is reducing domestic violence, The Borgen Project spoke with Rosemary O’Malley, CEO of the Domestic Violence Prevention Centre (DVPC) in Queensland. O’Malley stated that the Coercive Control legislation is “expected to be rolled out sometime next year” in Queensland.

The National Domestic Violence Order (DVO)

Adding to this list, O’Malley cited the National Domestic Violence Order (DVO) Scheme as a highly impactful domestic violence reduction policy. O’Malley explained that this means that, from 2017 on, “DVOs issued in any state or territory will apply, and be enforceable, in all states and territories in Australia.”

The Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence

Other ways that O’Malley said that Australia is reducing domestic violence include the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence in 2015, the 2015 Not Now Not Ever Report and a current “national curriculum called Respectful Relationships which is being rolled out from Years 1-12.”

She elaborated that the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence has “driven policy change and significant increases in funding in that State” and that the Not Now, Not Ever Report has “led to Specialist DV Courts and High Risk Teams being established around the State.”

– Ava Ronning
Photo: Flickr

Poverty and Domestic Violence
The connection between poverty and domestic violence is clear: Women from low-income backgrounds face increased vulnerability to abuse. They also struggle with barriers preventing them from escaping violence. Coming from a socioeconomically deprived household increases the likelihood of women suffering domestic abuse by three and a half times.

Studies in Great Britain also increasingly show the correlation between football (soccer) and alcohol-based intimate partner violence. During global football tournaments, existing abusive tendencies can be triggered.  This creates an environment where alcohol-related crime can surge. Economic status again comes into play here, with crimes involving alcohol being most prevalent among poorer communities.

Economic Abuse

The recognition of economic aspects of abuse is integral to tackling poverty and domestic violence at its core. Economic abuse is the legally recognized term referring to one partner being controlled and abused by the other who has power in terms of money, finances and items that a person’s money can buy. Those who suffer from economic abuse are five times more likely to face physical violence than those who do not. Without access to the funds needed to leave, economic abuse victims stay in a relationship longer and face more harm.  

The damaging effects of the United Kingdom’s austerity measures have also disproportionately impacted women. They have seen both their rights and economic security weakened by austerity cuts. Reduction of public service funding, universal credit and benefit cuts are just some of the factors contributing to alarming statistics. Studies show that women are unfairly impacted, often as second earners or unpaid caregivers. Further, women are more dependent on welfare and benefit schemes than men.

Football

Research found that England’s match losses in previous World Cup tournaments increased incidents of domestic violence by up to 38%. While domestic violence organizations do not deem the matches to be a cause of abuse, they acknowledge the potential for reactions to football matches to aggravate existing patterns. The relationship is complex, with numerous factors involved, and alcohol is likely to be a key component in this, due to the strong presence of alcohol in football culture. It follows that the combination of football culture and alcohol consumption poses a serious risk factor in gender-based violence. Finally, research demonstrates that lower socioeconomic status has an association with an increased tendency towards alcohol-related violence as well as violence in general.

There is an unmistakable trend. The combination of poverty and domestic violence compounded by football culture and alcohol use create a binding force in the increased risk of violence against women.

The 2022 World Cup

While many eagerly anticipate the sporting thrills of the 2022 World Cup in late November, domestic violence against women could escalate after the tournament. The correlation has varied, but domestic violence has regularly increased in World Cup team countries after tournaments throughout the world. A multi-year British study showed abuse increased more when England lost than when England won. While hosting the World Cup in 2017, Russia decriminalized certain types of domestic violence and reduced punishments, which led to an increase in occurrences of domestic abuse.

Qatar, where women have limited freedoms, is this year’s World Cup host. Women in Qatar must seek permission from a male family member before marrying, and when married, they must legally obey their husband. Furthermore, Qatar has no law protecting women from domestic abuse or marital rape. This, of course, prevents many victims from finding justice.

The decision for Qatar to host has already been questioned in regard to controversies surrounding migrant worker exploitation and the country’s lack of support for LGBT rights. However, it may also be time to question the implications of selecting a country so behind on women’s rights and abuse protection to receive such a platform, especially given that football culture can already prompt increases in rates of domestic violence.

Recognizing this threat, international organizations as well as the U.K. government and its largest nonprofit supporting victims of domestic abuse have developed campaigns over the past few years to bring awareness to the grave issue.

Campaigns to Protect Women

In 2020, the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Union (EU) collaborate to create the #SafeHome campaign to combat the presence of domestic violence in football culture and the rise of such incidents throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The campaign involves various videos, with football stars such as Kelly Smith, Oliver Torres and Rosana Augusto offering advice to both victims and perpetrators. It also raises awareness of the scale of this issue. Finally, it highlights the vulnerabilities of unstable financial situations. The #SafeHome toolkit strives to ensure support is accessible to all.

This public appeal for a no-tolerance attitude to domestic violence is part of a four-year-long partnership between FIFA and WHO to keep football culture safe. These efforts will continue during the upcoming World Cup.

The nonprofit Refuge is the U.K.’s largest organization supporting victims of domestic abuse and advocating for protection and funding. Its refuges, community service programs and hotline supported more than 10,000 women and 14,000 children during the 2020 – 2021 pandemic year. It has raised awareness of both the economic vulnerabilities to abuse and the threat of domestic violence surges during football seasons.

The UK’s Domestic Abuse Act

The U.K.’s Domestic Abuse Act of 2021 supports these efforts to combat poverty and domestic violence. It aims to improve victims’ access to support and justice. It broadens the definition of domestic violence to include forms other than physical abuse, such as manipulation, coercion and financial abuse. Crucially, it includes a pledge to give those suffering from domestic violence but lacking stable housing and income priority housing assistance.

Looking to the 2022 World Cup and Beyond

Football culture which economic abuse compounds devastates women and children globally. Thankfully, the recent increased and concentrated efforts of the U.K. government, Refuge and international organizations including the WHO, EU and FIFA are protecting more vulnerable women from poverty and domestic violence. Not only should this increase the protection against a possible surge following the November World Cup, but it should sustain greater awareness and protection far beyond the football tournament itself.

– Lydia Tyler
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Women’s Rights in Malta
Malta — the EU’s smallest country by area — is hard to spot on a map, but its women’s rights activists are robust. Malta is the EU’s most densely populated country and has some of the highest rates of voter turnout in free elections in the world. The island’s more than 440,000 residents have a long history of advocating for change on the streets, behind desks and at the polls. In recent decades, women and their male allies focused on progressing women’s rights in Malta.

Defining Women’s Rights on a Global Scale

Women’s rights look different in each country. However, in general, those are the rights that aim to promote the legal and social equity and equality of all genders. As part of its commitment to advancing global gender equality using foreign policy, the U.S. Department of State identified four key policy priorities for empowering women across the globe: peace and security, economic empowerment, gender-based violence and adolescent girls.

Women in Government

Women in Malta have won an increasing number of seats in Parliament and the Cabinet through the years, but achieving peace and security is a ways away. In 2014, women in Malta made up just 13% of Parliament, the lowest share of women in a European national parliament. This is far from the representation that advocates for women’s rights in Malta want, but it is a small improvement.

Women have been running for government seats in Malta for the last 70 years, but their election success rate — even with its variation — has remained low. The country’s biggest weakness in its 2021 Gender Equality Index score was gender in politics. But, its strong economy, health care and workforce ultimately earned the country a score of 65 out of 100 — just three points below the EU.

Economics

Over the last decade, Malta has prioritized empowering women in economics. The country ranked 84th in last year’s Global Gender Gap Index, jumping six rankings from the year prior. However, women in the country are still tasked with vast amounts of unpaid domestic work which widens the economic gender gap and contributed to 45% of women working full time compared to 67% of men in 2021. According to the U.N. Women, women and girls spent 18.8% of their time doing unpaid work in 2021 compared to 7% spent by men and close to twice as many women are experiencing severe food insecurity.

Domestic Violence

With rising rates, women’s rights advocates consider domestic violence to be a gender-based violence crisis on the island. According to the 2014 Global Database on Violence Against Women, 15% of women have experienced violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime and 4% have experienced violence in the last year. Across the globe, rates of domestic violence against women skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Malta has not collected concrete data on gender-based violence since 2014 and government officials are worried the country could be facing concerningly high rates.

Birth Rate

Malta has a high adolescent birth rate. According to the World Bank, about 12 teenage girls gave birth per 1,000 — the highest adolescent birth rate in Southern Europe. Teenage girls with newborns experience immense difficulties pursuing education and employment. However, the Maltese government and women political leaders have tried to combat these hurdles. In 2013, the country introduced the Government’s Electoral Manifesto, which promised the Free Childcare Scheme. The program provides government-paid childcare to parents pursuing employment or education.

The Movement’s Political History

Since the country’s first election in 1947, women have fought hard for seats in government so they can advance policies and laws that promote women’s rights in Malta. In 2021, Malta’s Parliament brought a gender balance mechanism into law that adds more seats to the House if one gender wins less than 40% of seats. In 2014, women in government also achieved state-paid childcare and currently, all pregnant women receive cash benefits.

Looking Ahead

Currently, married fathers of newborns are only eligible for one day of parental leave in Malta. Predominantly young men and new fathers are advocating for parental leave so they can support mothers with unpaid domestic work at home. This could ultimately decrease the gender gap and strengthen women’s rights in Malta. With a petition to implement paternity and parental leave currently sitting in Parliament, the issue is expected to gain popularity in the coming years.

The leading non-governmental organization dedicated to progressing women’s rights in Malta is the Women’s Rights Foundation. By providing one of the first helplines for women and victims of gender-based violence to call, the organization is able to inform, educate and empower women concerning their legal rights. The group also advocates for policy and law reforms that protect women’s rights and bring an end to all violence against women and girls. The organization has repeatedly filed judicial letters on behalf of hundreds of women in an effort to make legal and political changes on the island.

There is little to no data on violence against women in the country, but these numbers are vital for women’s rights in Malta. In 2020, the U.N. had less than half of data on women than the amount it considers to be essential to closing gender gaps in the country. The U.N., the European Institute for Gender Equality and other organizations are making data collection in Malta a priority to ensure women’s rights moving forward.

– Delaney Murray
Photo: Flickr

Domestic Violence and Poverty
There are many costs associated with inaction regarding the issue of domestic violence. One must highlight the intersection of domestic violence and poverty to begin successfully addressing these issues. Furthermore, one must note that poverty does not cause domestic violence. However, domestic violence can contribute to higher rates of poverty among survivors due to the fact that it exacerbates the economic instability of those experiencing abuse by reducing rates of employment and personal and national economic prosperity.

In addition, poverty can restrict the individual’s ability to leave their abuser due to a lack of available resources and financial independence. This intersection thus perpetuates a cycle of poverty for those experiencing violence. In Ghana, domestic violence led to a 4.5% reduction in the female workforce in 2019. Similarly, the gross domestic product (GDP) of Vietnam saw a 3% drop attributed to the “costs of accessing services, missed work and lowered productivity” of those experiencing abuse.

Economic Impact

Globally, about 27% of women aged 15-49, or more than one in four, experience domestic violence. Because of this, the impacts of domestic abuse on national economies are significant. These include:

  • Decreased size and stability of the female workforce.
  • Less investment in public services as more public resources go to health and judicial institutions.
  • About a 9% reduced “level of economic activity” with each 1% rise in violence against women.

Therefore, intervention methods that attempt to reduce the rates of global poverty must account for domestic violence as a significant contributor to the issue. As the United Nations stated, “This evidence enables an understanding of how domestic violence undermines households’ economic security and quality of life while limiting the effectiveness of programs to improve the well-being and capabilities of communities across low and middle-income countries.”

Solutions

It is important to consider the nuances of poverty when addressing domestic violence. Legislation or policies that support survivors in their transition from abusive situations can aid in reducing the economic instability of these individuals, and thus, reduce levels of poverty among survivors. This includes housing and employment assistance.

The root causes of the issue must stand at the forefront of policies in order to provide more resources for individuals to leave their abusers.

Passing legislation that “holds assailants accountable” through policies and services that empower survivors to report abuse, along with improved “criminal justice and law enforcement training,” can decrease rates of global domestic violence, and thus, poverty.

Organizations Addressing Domestic Violence and Poverty

There are many organizations that are working to reduce the rates of global domestic violence and poverty. Alliance for HOPE International provides resources, training and trauma support to survivors of “domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, elder abuse and human trafficking” to dismantle the cycle of abuse across the world.

The organization is active in 25 countries, establishing family justice and multi-agency centers that aggregate survivor resources in one place for easy access. The organization does advocacy work and provides mental health resources as well as medical and legal services.

The Global Network of Women’s Shelters (GNWS) is also working to reduce global domestic violence by acting as a voice for women and children of abuse on the international stage. This organization supports the establishment and accessibility of women’s shelters across the world while also promoting social change and policies that aim to reduce violence.

A significant aspect of its mission is networking. GNWS connects various shelters with one another to strengthen and improve their response to survivors, sharing new techniques and anticipating behaviors of abuse. The organization’s purpose is “to unite the women’s shelter movement globally to end violence against women and their children.”

Looking Ahead

Reducing rates of global domestic violence can help to reduce global poverty by empowering survivors in their ability to transition out of abusive situations. The intersection of domestic violence and poverty works as a barrier that entraps individuals in abuse and contributes to less positive outcomes for survivors when leaving their abusers. Therefore, by supporting policies and legislation that provides resources and direct support to survivors and holds assailants accountable, the world can address the cycle of poverty that survivors often experience.

– Kimberly Calugaru
Photo: Flickr

 domestic violence in NicaraguaDomestic violence is a global issue affecting one in three women worldwide. The United Nations defines domestic violence as “a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner.” Abuse can be sexual, emotional, physical, economic or psychological. In order to uphold women’s rights, it is important to combat domestic violence in Nicaragua.

Domestic Violence and Poverty

Data indicates that women living in poverty are at greater risk of abuse. Women who earn less than $10,000 a year experience domestic violence at a rate “five times greater” than women who earn more than $30,000 a year. This is because impoverished women are often financially dependent on their abusers and lack financial prospects, making them more vulnerable to abuse as perpetrators exploit this reliance knowing there are few options of escape.

In contrast, victims with enough resources to secure shelter and basic needs are more independent, and therefore, are significantly more likely to escape domestic violence circumstances. By this logic, a clear link exists between poverty and domestic violence. Although, even in wealthier countries such as the United States, domestic violence is prevalent, with almost a quarter of women in the U.S. experiencing domestic violence.

Since high poverty rates are usually associated with high rates of domestic violence, some would expect a domestic violence crisis in a low-income country such as Nicaragua. Nicaragua is the second-most impoverished country in the Americas, coming right after Haiti, with almost 30% of the Nicaraguan population living under the poverty line in 2014. Nicaragua’s domestic violence rate was 55% in 1995, but the country has made significant progress with domestic violence decreasing to 28% in 2016. Furthermore, “Nicaragua has the lowest rate of femicides in Central America (0.7/100,000) according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC).”

Actions to Reduce Domestic Violence

In 2007, new legislation mandated “equal representation ensuring that at least 50% of public offices be held by women.” As a result, Nicaragua has the highest rate “of women in Ministerial positions in Latin America” at 56.25% and women represent 46% of the legislature.

In addition to this, Nicaragua’s ongoing drives and campaigns aim to address cultures of violence against women in the nation. These campaigns also involve promoting men’s involvement in home and domestic chores, reducing societal masochistic cultures and empowering women to end “economic and social dependence on men” and stop cycles of domestic violence.

The program Zero Usury aims to empower women by granting them financial independence. To do this, the Nicaraguan “government has given low-interest loans to” more than “900,000 women over the last 14 years to enable them to start small businesses in urban areas.”

In 2012, Nicaragua passed the Comprehensive Act against Violence towards Women. The act mandated the creation of “the national inter-institutional commission to combat violence against women, children and adolescents, composed of 17 state institutions, with departmental and municipal branches.”

The Comprehensive Care Model for Women, also created in 2012, ensures every victim of domestic violence will have access to proper care and justice by carrying out proper investigations for every case and compensating victims. The mechanism aims to uphold children and women’s rights “to live with dignity and free from violence.”

Looking to the Future

Nicaragua is also part of the U.N. Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign, with the aim of eradicating “violence against women by 2030.” To align with this goal, Nicaragua commits to implementing a “series of political, legislative and administrative actions to eradicate violence against women and girls,” among other efforts.

Nicaragua is a phenomenal example to the world when it comes to domestic violence as it shows that a country can decrease its rates of violence by investing in women’s empowerment programs and legislation that fights for gender equality and the protection of women.

– Noya Stessel
Photo: Flickr

decreasing domestic violence in IndiaThe Indian caste system is a hierarchical structure segmenting the Hindu population into four main categories. These categories are the Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras. Although these caste systems have officially existed for thousands of years, caste discrimination was technically outlawed in 1950, yet it still influences life in India today. The fifth group, the Dalits or “untouchable” caste, is a caste so low that it does not fall within the official caste system. Untouchables are significantly marginalized as this group occupies the least prestigious standing in Indian society. Yet, caste discrimination is not the only discrimination affecting India today. Rates of domestic violence in India, as in many other nations, saw an increase during the COVID-19 pandemic with strict gender roles compounding domestic violence against women.

India by the Numbers

India is home to the world’s second-largest population and more than two-thirds of its 1.2 billion citizens live on less than $2 per day. These strained and taxing living conditions of poverty hurt women and children most because they also suffer from increased domestic violence. In the United States, women earning less than $10,000 in annual income report a five times greater rate of domestic violence than those with income exceeding $30,000. Most Indian women fall in the former category. Accordingly, reports of domestic abuse to three major Indian newspapers from March to July 2020 increased more than 47%.

The Pandemic’s Effect on Domestic Violence

Like pandemics in years past, COVID-19 produced an increase in domestic violence because it gave greater freedom to abusers. During the pandemic, already high numbers of domestic violence cases in India increased “at an alarming rate.” According to a piece published in the Indian Express, most Mumbai citizens lack running water in their homes. As COVID-19 lockdowns caused people to spend more time at home, more women resorted to underground or early morning markets for water. There, women were subject to more verbal and sexual harassment while waiting in line.

While domestic violence increased both in India and globally during the pandemic, Delhi-based NGO Jagori actually saw a 50% decline in helpline calls. This seems counterintuitive at first glance, but many are likely hesitant to report abusers who are constantly under the same roof and who can also restrict their victims’ access to phones and online resources. The popular phrase “locked down with the abuser” expresses this unfortunate reality.

Solutions

Numerous NGOs in India are working to improve women’s quality of life. Sayodhya Home For Women In Need is a nonprofit created in 2010 with offices in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh. The organization provides assistance on issues “related to education, employment, domestic violence, harassment, abuse, mental health and other legal matters.” The organization runs a shelter for vulnerable girls and women and also provides “legal and psychological counseling” to victims of abuse. Since its creation, Sayodhya has given shelter to more than 1,000 vulnerable women. Furthermore, the organization addressed 1,500 “cases of domestic violence, harassment, child marriages, physical and mental abuses.”

Often the problem lies in a lack of accountability in regard to the abuser. Organizations like Sayodhya Home For Women In Need look to create that accountability and empower women with a viable source of help.

– Paolo Emilio Giannandrea
Photo: Flickr

Central American Women and Children Protection ActOn June 10, 2021, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced the Central American Women and Children Protection Act of 2021 in the Senate. On June 17, Representative Norma J. Torres (D-CA) introduced the act in the House of Representatives. Although the bill was originally introduced in 2019, it was later integrated into another bill, the US-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act. The act passed the House of Representatives but was not able to move past the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Representative Torres stated in a press release that the reintroduced Act would “help […] prevent the domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse and neglect that plague the region.”

The Context Behind the Act

The act focuses on Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador; as it explains, the three countries have some of the “highest rates of femicide” within “the Latin America and Caribbean region.” El Salvador and Honduras also have some of the highest child murder rates in the world. In April 2021, a Deutsche Welle article reported that there had been 161 femicides in Guatemala since the year began. In March 2021, women gathered to protest in Guatemala City, carrying signs with messages ranging from “I’m marching because I’m alive and I don’t know until when” to “This isn’t a country, it’s a cemetery.” 

Lubia Sasvin Pérez, who spoke with the New York Times in 2019 about her experiences in Guatemala, left her abusive boyfriend to stay with her parents. The boyfriend, Gehovany Ramirez, tracked her down and murdered her mother in front of her. His brother said that Ramirez was “right to go back and try to claim [Pérez].” Ramirez was sentenced to an unusually short term of “only four years in prison,” the New York Times explained, and was entitled to visitation with his and Pérez’s son “upon release.” Meanwhile, Pérez has faced “blame” and “stigma” from the people around her. “There’s no justice here,” she stated.

The Act’s Goals

If passed, the Central American Women and Children Protection Act would allow the U.S. to form “compacts,” or agreements, with the governments of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to fight violence against women and children. More specifically, the compacts’ goals would include expanding supportive resources for survivors, establishing safe environments in schools and communities and improving the justice system’s responses to these crimes. Each compact would set out a “3- to 6-year […] strategy” to accomplish the goals and would list actions the government of the country concerned would take, along with methods for “[measuring] progress.” 

In addition, the House version of the Central American Women and Children Protection Act allocates $25 million each year for fiscal years 2022 and 2023. The Senate version allocates $15 million each year for those two years and the money would be given to support the prevention of violence against women and children in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. However, the U.S. would retain the right to stop the funding if the countries failed to make “sufficient progress” or went against U.S. “national security interests.” 

Supporting Women for Many Reasons

Correcting injustices and promoting equality for women has economic benefits as well. According to an Atlantic Council article, Latin America has been hit hard by the pandemic economically, but “reducing gender inequalities will ignite productivity, boost economic growth, and reduce poverty” in the region. According to a World Bank report, women’s increasing presence in the labor force helped reduce poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean between 2000 and 2010. The report also found that women’s earnings were “crucial to reducing the pressures on the poorest of the poor” by helping families stay afloat in the “2009 crisis.” 

Over the past several years, the U.S. has been criticized for deserting Central American women and children in violent situations. The U.S. has slashed aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador while excluding survivors of domestic violence from asylum. The Central American Women and Children Protection Act, if passed, would mark a turn toward aiding rather than abandoning survivors of violence.

– Victoria Albert

Photo: Flickr

Women in SingaporeIn 1961, young girls and women in Singapore received the promise of change when the country passed the Women’s Charter legislative act. The Women’s Charter establishes the regulation of romantic and family relationships. The act keeps the door open for Singaporean women to make decisions in their lives, such as who they marry and divorce. It also protects against family violence and holds criminals accountable for offenses toward women of all ages. Though this is the intention of the Women’s Charter, the statistics for prosecution, rape, domestic violence and citizens’ views of women in Singapore do not align with it.

Equality and Domestic Violence

Singapore struggles with gender equality, with 57% of Singaporeans believing men are the head of the household and should have the upper hand in decision making. However, 52% of Singaporeans expect women to take on household roles such as chores and caregiving. Domestic violence is another issue women in Singapore frequently face. One in 10 women experiences a lifetime of physical violence by men. In addition, 83% of Singaporeans encourage women to stay in violent relationships under some circumstances, including for a child’s sake.

Unfortunately, 71% of women in Singapore who experience abuse from a partner are not likely to make a police report. This leads to six out of 10 Singaporean women suffering repeated victimization. The safety of these women is at risk due to the lack of respect fellow citizens have for women. Regarding sexual assault, 40% of Singaporeans between the ages of 18-39 and 50% of Singaporeans aged 40 and older believe that women who wear revealing clothing are asking to experience assault and should be responsible for their harassment.

The Lack of Sexual Assault Justice

The majority of women in Singapore have not received the justice that the Women’s Charter promises. On January 5, 2021, Minister Kasiviswanathan Shanmugam announced that there were 6,988 reported cases of sexual assault in Singapore. Out of these 6,988 cases, 1,368 led to prosecution, resulting in only 931 criminal convictions. Out of the 1,368 who authorities charged, 1,364 had prior sexual assault convictions.

Minister Shanmugam, a former lawyer and Singaporean politician, discussed flaws within the nation’s system. He admits that “The government does not track the use of alcohol, drugs or prevalence and diagnosis of psychiatric conditions in relation to sexual assault offenders.”

Governmental Changes

In September 2020, Minister Shanmugam announced an evaluation of women’s issues in Singapore, led by three female political officeholders. The convention subsequently occurred in October 2020. Officials discussed handling sexual offenses, potential increases of penalties, criminalization of conduct and factors authorities should consider when assigning sentences.

Shanmugam opens up about the country’s societal views. He states, “I think a whole society mindset change is necessary. The government has got to lead it with the right pieces of legislation.” He adds, “We need men to be part of the mindset shift — to embrace the changing aspirations of younger women as equal economic partners and facilitate their success in the workplace by sharing in household and caregiving responsibilities.”

With the ongoing issue of victimization, Shanmugam reflects, “We need to try and deal with that —  how we encourage, so people report. And, once the report is done, taking action thereafter is easier.”

AWARE Improving Lives

AWARE is one of the many NGOs working on improving the lives of women in Singapore. Its vision is to create a society where there is true gender equality. In this community, people would see both men and women as individuals with the right to make responsible and informed decisions for their lives. AWARE’s mission is to remove all gender-based barriers through its research, advocacy, education, training and support services.

AWARE launched the Sexual Assault Care Centre in 2014 to support survivors of sexual assault. Throughout 2017, the Sexual Assault Centre saw a 57% increase in cases. The NGO also created a Women’s Care Centre, a helpline that provides information and support for Singaporean women in distress. In 2018, the Women’s Care Centre saw 32% more helpline calls and 48% more counseling clients. Furthermore, AWARE has collaborated with police in developing a new training video to help supplement police officers’ understanding of the behavior and feelings of victims and how police and responders impact these victims.

Bringing awareness to the hardships women in Singapore face is crucial. However, with the help of AWARE and Minister Shanmugam, steps are being taken to safeguard the well-being of women.

– Alexis Jones
Photo: Flickr

Womens Rights in Ecuador
Through the horrors of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Maria Amor Foundation, a nonprofit domestic violence shelter, has housed more than 80 women and 120 children as protection from the threat of domestic and sexual violence. The Borgen Project spoke with the director of the Maria Amor Foundation, Blanca Pacheco Lupercio, to learn more about the fight for women’s rights in Ecuador.

Violence Against Women in Ecuador

More than 40% of Ecuadorian women are victims of domestic and sexual violence and 70%  have experienced interpersonal violence in their lifetimes. Women’s rights in Ecuador were making steady progress until the COVID-19 pandemic when unemployment peaked in July 2020 at 16.8%. Despite the subsequent trend toward pre-pandemic rates and a new conservative president focused on economic prosperity, many women still lack the resources to leave violent situations in a nation where machismo, or traditional gender roles, are the status quo. “Violence is structural and systemic,” says Pacheco Lupercio. “We can’t say that all violence ends for women once they enter the shelter.”

The Maria Amor Foundation’s Services

The Maria Amor Foundation offers three major services to abuse victims: a 24-hour emergency hotline, two domestic violence shelters for women and children and a support program to help survivors create a new and independent life according to their dreams and aspirations.

The Foundation created its first domestic violence shelter in 2004 to provide women with a safe and resourceful space to stay. In 2005, the Foundation created a crisis hotline for victims and reprioritized community outreach to rural areas where victims may lack access to technology. By 2014, the Foundation had also opened an alternative shelter in the outskirts of the city to better serve rural women.

When someone calls the hotline, the Foundation interviews the caller and collects facts to identify a victim. After a risk assessment, the Foundation invites the individual to stay at the Casa Maria Amor, where the individual and their children receive psychological, emotional and medical assistance. The Foundation then provides victims with technical training to sustain an independent lifestyle once they leave the shelter. It offers entrepreneurial skills, legal advice and holistic skills like sewing.

Children exposed to violent situations can also be a casualty in the cycle of domestic and sexual violence. Pacheco says the Foundation’s aid programs for children are vital to those who may carry trauma. Child care services and Zoom learning classes for children help survivors build a new life.

How Victims of Violence Regain Independence

When victims leave the shelter, they receive social and legal support to help them form a plan to live independently and without fear of their abusers. The Foundation then connects them with other organizations and support groups like Mujeres Con Exito to assist them as they rediscover independence. “Our job is to… support these women so that one day they can leave independently,” says Pacheco.

More than 80 women stay in one of the Foundation’s shelters over the course of a year. Pacheco says approximately 15 women and their children live at the Casa Maria Amor for about five to six months at a time. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, women are staying in shelters for longer. Pacheco says the pandemic worsened conditions on the ground. As healthcare facilities were overwhelmed and quarantine was underway, mothers struggled to care for and educate children during the workday.

Women’s rights in Ecuador experience violation at all social strata, so the Casa Maria Amor accepts survivors from every walk of life. Pachecho says that although survivors of greater means may have the ability to more easily create a new and independent life, the Casa Maria Amor will not turn away a person in need. In order to keep women out of violent situations, the nation needs to create concrete economic opportunities, Pacheco explains.

Poverty and Women’s Rights in Ecuador

Instilled gender roles and a meager education, particularly in rural regions, typically yield low employment prospects for women. Dr. Bernardo Vega, a professor of gynecology and obstetrics at the University of Cuenca, said in an interview with The Borgen Project that women in Ecuador tend to conform to the expectations of the rigid patriarchal system.

Rigid gender roles affect women in tangible ways such as increasing women’s likelihood of discontinuing their education. Vega says the average education for an Ecuadorian woman is approximately nine years. He says patriarchal gender roles expect women to forgo schooling and instead get married, have children and work in the home.

Vega says poverty, especially in rural areas, drives the inequality and marginalization of Ecuadorian women. He explains that poorly educated and poverty-stricken women tend to be economically dependent on their husbands. Therefore, they are more likely to suffer domestic and sexual violence. Vega says the social stigma women face for leaving their husbands also motivates them to stay silent in their suffering.

Early Pregnancy in Ecuador

Access to reproductive health and information is not equal across Ecuador. Only recently have educational institutions like high schools begun to provide sexual education. Vega says only 40% of adolescents have a general understanding of sexual and reproductive health and 80% of adolescents do not know where to access a sexual healthcare facility. Furthermore, only 5% of adolescents have ever visited healthcare facilities for information or treatment.

“Early pregnancy is like a door into poverty,” says Vega. “Violence and insecurity lead to poverty, like a circle.” According to Vega, Ecuador has the second-highest teenage pregnancy rate of all Latin American countries, trailing behind only Venezuela. He says that approximately 52,000 adolescents become pregnant each year in Ecuador, meaning that two out of 10 mothers are adolescents, a number that has risen in recent decades.

Political Involvement and Education Impacts Women’s Rights

While the push for women’s rights in Ecuador is a long way from guaranteeing egalitarianism, the feminist movement has galvanized women to empower themselves by entering the political sphere. Vega believes a new wave of women politicians can have tangible results in curbing inequity.

Furthermore, a push for educational programs in high schools, like the Plan Nacional de Salud Sexual y Salud Reproductiva, seeks to teach gender roles and sexual reproductive health in order to deconstruct conservative machismo and create a more egalitarian, educated population. This program received a renewal in 2017 and is continuing into 2021.

Andre Silva
Photo: Flickr

Poverty and Gender-Based Violence
The Inter-Agency Standing Committee defines gender-based violence as any harmful act that a person perpetrates against another’s will and that occurs due to socially ascribed differences between females and males. This includes acts that inflict physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering, threats of such acts, coercion and other deprivations of liberty inflicted both in private and publicly. More than 700 million underage marriages occurred in 2020. Furthermore, approximately 137 women die at the hands of a partner or member of their family each day. Moreover, poverty and gender-based violence intertwine.

Poverty and Gender-Based Violence

Poverty exacerbates gender-based violence in many ways. This violence interrupts opportunities for education and employment. In addition, women and girls are more prone to experiencing poverty and exploitation. Children who are a product of child marriages are less likely to receive an education. Also, these children have a higher chance of living in extreme poverty. Moreover, women and girls living in poverty are more vulnerable to trafficking and sexual exploitation.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cultural and social norms are highly influential in shaping individual behavior, including the use of violence. Norms can protect against violence, but they can also support and encourage the use of it. Research that the World Bank Group and Sexual Violence Research Initiative conducted suggests that interventions targeting gender norms are some of the most effective in addressing gender-based violence.

Social and Gender Norms

Many social norms exist that perpetuate gender-based violence. These norms often vary by region, religion and other factors. Thus, the norms are very difficult to influence.

Families emphasize the sexual purity of women. As a result, female genital mutilation is prevalent. The value of family honor is above the safety of women. This can lead to honor killings. Domestic violence can stem from the disproportionate authority of men in disciplining women and children.

Gender-Based Violence Scale

A collaborative team from Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, UNICEF and other organizations developed a scale for analyzing changes in beliefs and social norms. Researchers wanted to provide a way to measure the impacts of primary prevention programs in humanitarian settings. About 30 items exist across three categories. Researchers administer this scale to communities to help them understand attitudes towards acts of sexual violence, the importance of family honor and the authority men employ.

Addressing Child Marriage

A collaborative team from Queen’s University and the ABAAD Resource Center for Gender Equality found benefits in enforcing interventions focused on precipitators to child marriage, such as poverty and a lack of legal protections. The researchers proposed the tailoring of interventions to the varying attitudes and beliefs within a community. This team learned that men attributed an increase in rates of child marriage to poverty. However, women attributed it to an increase in a lack of security through laws and social services. This research contradicts a one-size-fits-all program design that suggests adaptive interventions to be the most impactful.

Gender-Based Violence Interventions in Peru

Community engagement and gender-based violence interventions are an invaluable aspect of humanitarian development. Peruvian community health workers employed participatory methods to gather community insights and found seven key aspects of engagement: community leaders’ support, conversations with community members, bystander intervention data for gender-based violence, shared ownership among health workers and leaders, connections with broader stakeholders such as government officials, understanding of what encourages and causes gender-based violence and support from trusted and influential people outside the community.

Protection, Dignity and Security of Women Against Violence Bill in Iran

The Iranian government passed the Protection, Dignity and Security of Women Against Violence bill to provide support for survivors of gender-based violence. This bill includes provisions for educational programs on vulnerability detection, expanding mental health support for victims of gender-based violence, an evidence-based plan for advancing gender equity and offers an important acknowledgment of this step on behalf of Iranian women.

Poverty undeniably intertwines with gender-based violence. Its connection can be complex and difficult to influence, but research and programs such as these demonstrate successful approaches and the invaluable nature of their effects.

– Amy Perkins
Photo: Flickr