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Poverty and Patriarchy
While poverty and patriarchy may seem like separate issues, the two connect deeply. As long as poverty exists, women’s rights and livelihoods will suffer. Likewise, women’s oppression leads to their inability to contribute to the economy and prevents a family’s escape from cycles of poverty. Here are some examples from around the world of poverty and patriarchy reinforcing each other, and some ways humanitarian aid can improve these situations.

Microcredit in Bangladesh Has Left Millions of Women At High Risk For Domestic Violence

From the 1980s to the mid-2000s, people thought that micro-loans would be the future of international development. In Bangladesh, most of these loans went to women on the belief that women could handle money more responsibly than their male counterparts. They received a small amount of money to invest in materials to start a business and earn an independent livelihood in order to bring their families financial stability. Unfortunately, when these women were unsuccessful at lifting their families out of poverty and their families plunged into greater debt as a result of the loans, they often suffered spousal abuse. For other women, as soon as they received the money, the men and their families took it and used it, leaving them to pay off the loans by themselves. As a whole, micro-credit has not had the intended impact on the people of Bangladesh that the international community once hoped for, and rates of violence against women have climbed, increasing the correlation between poverty and patriarchy

Solution: Investing in women’s education will provide them with the knowledge they need to become financially independent and ensure greater legal protection for victims of domestic violence could greatly combat this issue.

Poverty As a Weapon Against Women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Sixty-one percent of women living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo live in poverty, compared to only fifty-one percent of men. This is because people have systematically excluded women from peace-building efforts in the country. Because there are no women’s voices at the decision-making table, countries set policies that prioritize men, often at women’s expense. Disturbingly, women’s rights activists in the country are often a target for violence. Many think that those who advocate for women-centered poverty-relief efforts are distracting from larger issues within the country.

Solution: Studies that researchers conducted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo demonstrate that in areas with high levels of poverty, there are high levels of violence against women. Providing food security, as well as funding institutions and organizations to empower women, are important steps in relieving both poverty and oppression in the DRC.

Time Poverty Makes it Nearly Impossible for Indian Women to Contribute to the Economy

In India, the average man works seven hours per day. Although women usually work for nine hours a day, the vast majority of their labor is unpaid housework and childminding. This means that they have little time to earn any outside wages, and therefore, remain financially dependent on the men in their families.  The power dynamic that this situation creates is extremely dangerous. Women lose any agency they may have because they depend on their fathers, husbands or brothers for everything. This means that they have no power to go against their male relative’s wills. It also hurts the Indian economy, as women have little ability to contribute to it.

Solution: In rural India, women spend upwards of four hours each day gathering fuel and cleaning utensils to cook with. Providing them with solar or electric cookers could save them three hours of unpaid labor, giving them more time to do what they want to do or contribute to the economy as an untapped workforce.

These examples display just how poverty and patriarchy intertwine and push women and their families into poverty. If women could gain an education, receive food security or use alternative cooking equipment to limit labor, they might be able to improve their situation and lift themselves out of poverty.

Gillian Buckley
Photo: Wikimedia

Examples of Gender Inequality

The fight for gender equality is an ongoing struggle for men and women throughout the world. Many aspects of gender inequality are events that men will never face, but that constantly shape women’s mental health and opportunities. Listed here are the top 10 examples of gender inequality found in the daily lives of women across the globe.

10 Examples of Gender Inequality

  1. Infant Life Expectancy: In India and China, the two most populous nations in the world, there is significant data that shows a survival disadvantage for girls under five years of age. In China, girls have a seven percent higher infant mortality rate than boys, and in India, a study conducted in the first decade of the 2000s found that the risk of death between the ages of one and five was 75 percent higher for girls than for boys.
  2. Access to Prenatal Care and Maternal Mortality: As of 2017, there are 1.6 billion women of reproductive age in the developing world. Of the 127 million women who gave birth in 2017, just 63 percent received a minimum of four antenatal care visits and only 72 percent gave birth in a health facility. Among women who experienced medical complications during pregnancy or delivery, only one in three received the care they or their newborns needed.

    In 2017, an estimated 308,000 women in developing nations died from pregnancy-related causes and 2.7 million babies died in their first month of life. Many of these deaths could have been prevented with full access to healthcare.
  3. Education: Less than 40 percent of countries offer girls and boys equal access to education and only 39 percent of countries have equal proportions of the sexes enrolled in secondary education. By achieving universal primary and secondary education attainability in the adult population, it could be possible to lift more than 420 million people out of poverty. This would have its greatest effect on women and girls who are the most likely to never have stepped foot inside a school.

    Even once girls are attending school, discrimination follows. One in four girls states that they never feel comfortable using school latrines. Girls are at greater risk of sexual violence, harassment and exploitation in school. School-related gender-based violence is another major obstacle to universal schooling and the right to education for girls.
  4. Illiteracy: There are approximately 774 million illiterate adults in the world and two-thirds of them are women. There are approximately 123 million illiterate youths and 61 percent of them are girls. Women’s share in the illiterate population has not budged in 20 years. These facts not only affect women but their children as well. A child born to a mother with the ability to read is 50 percent more likely to survive past age five.
  5. Economic Independence: Increases in female labor force participation result in faster economic growth, but women continue to participate in labor markets on an unequal basis with men. In 2013, the male employment-to-population ratio was 72.2 percent compared to 47.1 percent for women, and women continue to earn only 60-75 percent of men’s wages globally. It is estimated that women’s income could increase globally up to 76 percent if the employment participation gap between men and women was closed, which could have a global value of $17 trillion.

    Women also carry a disproportionate amount of responsibility for unpaid care work. Women devote one to three hours more a day to housework than men, two to 10 times the amount of time a day to care (for children, elderly and the sick) and one to four hours less a day to income-based activities. The time given to these unpaid tasks directly and negatively impacts women’s participation in the workforce and their ability to foster economic independence.
  6. Violence Against Women, Sexual Assault and Rape: The mental health effects of sexual assault and rape can have jarring results on women’s stability and livelihoods. Women who have experienced sexual or physical abuse at the hands of their partners are twice as likely to have an abortion, almost twice as likely to have depression and, in some regions, 1.5 times more likely to acquire HIV compared with women who have not experienced partner violence.

    The prevalence of sexual assault and violence against women is deep and systemic, making it one of the most important examples of gender inequality. Worldwide, around 120 million girls, a number which represents slightly more than one in 10, have experienced forced intercourse or another forced sexual act in their lifetime.
  7. Female Genital Mutilation: At least 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone female genital mutilation. In most of these cases, the majority of girls were cut before age five. In these instances, proper anesthesia is rarely used or is ineffective, causing severe pain. Excessive bleeding is also possible, resulting from the accidental cutting of the clitoral artery or other blood vessels during the procedure. Chronic genital infections, reproductive tract infections and urinary tract infections are common.Female genital mutilation is also associated with an increased risk of Caesarean section, postpartum hemorrhage and extended maternal hospital stay. All of these subsequent complications along with the shock and use of physical force during the procedure are some of the many reasons why survivors describe the experience as an extremely traumatic event.
  8. Child Marriage: Globally, almost 750 million women and girls alive today married before their eighteenth birthday. Those who suffer from child marriage often experience early pregnancy which is a key factor in the premature end of education. As mothers and wives, girls become socially isolated and are at an increased risk for domestic violence. Child marriage is one the most devastating examples of gender inequality, as it limits women’s opportunities and their ability to reach their full individual potential.
  9. Human Trafficking: Adult women and girls account for 71 percent of all human trafficking victims detected globally. Girls alone represent nearly three out of every four children trafficked. Women and girls are clearly the disproportionate victims of human trafficking with 75 percent trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
  10. Representation in Government: As of June 2016, only 22.8 percent of all national parliamentarians were women. There is growing evidence that women in positions of leadership and political decision-making improve the systems in which they work.

These are 10 of the countless ways in which women are oppressed, abused and neglected. These top ten examples of gender inequality cannot begin to do justice to the discrimination and obstacles that women around the world face each day. Women’s rights are human rights and affect every person in every community.

– Carolina Sherwood Bigelow

Photo: Flickr

Global Prevalence of Femicide
Femicide is defined as the killing of women. It has also been called gendercide and it is the most severe form of violence against women. The global prevalence of femicide is evident within all regions and cultures.

The Current Situation

Four of the five regions with the highest levels of femicide also have the highest rates of overall homicides, but in Eastern Europe and the Russian Federation, femicide rates are disproportionately high in respect to general homicide rates. In India, 8,093 cases of dowry femicide were reported in 2007. In China, female children are twice as likely to die in their first year of life compared to male children and the risk of death is three times higher for second born female children than first born.

Furthermore, in Guatemala, two women are murdered on average every single day. In Mexico, an estimated seven women were murdered every day in 2016. In South Africa, the rate of femicide for 2015 was 9.6 per 100,000 women, 4 times more than the global average that same year.

Cultures facilitate femicide through the normalization of violence against women. Dowry femicide, the murder of a woman by her in-laws over dowry-related conflicts, and honor killings, the murder of a woman by a member of her family for a behavioral transgression, can be considered “traditions” in the Middle East and South Asia. Intimate partner femicide is relabeled as a “crime of passion” in Latin America.

The pressure to desire male children for their dominant advantages over female children is a major cause of femicide in many nations. In societies such as China and India, girls are seen as burdens due to their inability to help support their families financially. The expense of dowries makes female infanticide a viable option for families seeking a more lucrative future.

Combatting the Global Prevalence of Femicide

Governments have a responsibility to protect women’s rights to life and liberty. By creating and enforcing laws that protect women from violence and discrimination, a precedent can be set and the complacency shown to the oppression of women can cease.

In Central America, femicide has been criminalized and prosecutors have been trained to take cases to trial. In Pakistan, sweeping new legislation has been passed to prevent the use of acid on attacks on women. Meanwhile, in Palestine, the first national strategy to combat violence against women in the Middle East was adopted with survivors of violence taking part in the legislation’s drafting. These are important positive steps toward legal recourse and representation in instances of femicide and violence against women.

Improving Female Representation in Government

As of June 2016, only 22.8 percent of all national parliamentarians were women, and as of June 2017, only two countries have 50 percent or more women in parliament. Room for women is slowly growing. 11 countries in Latin America and 13 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have applied for some form of gender quotas to open more space for women in governmental positions of power and influence.

Evidence has shown and continues to show that women’s leadership and inclusion in political decision-making processes improves governments. Female empowerment in government creates room for a discussion of many issues connected to gender equality and puts people with deep personal connections to these issues in positions with the power to fight the global prevalence of femicide.

The Causes of Femicide

Two of the largest risk factors for femicide and sexual violence are a lack of education and poverty which, in many cases, are intertwined afflictions. Education is a two-way street when seeking to end violence against women. It has been found that both men and women with higher levels of education are less likely to commit or experience violence.

By making education available to women, they have more opportunity for economic independence, are less likely to be forced into early marriage and learn skills that make them valuable members of society. In conjunction with educating women, educating men on the human rights of women can stunt the normalization of violence against women in the minds of young men and boys.

A perfect example of such an education can be seen in Nairobi, Kenya, where the nonprofit organization No Means No Worldwide implemented a program to prevent sexual assault on girls and women. The curriculum for males aimed to shift attitudes that lead to the acceptance of assault and rape of their female peers. Those male students in the experimental group who received the aforementioned curriculum were twice as likely as those in the control group to successfully halt instances of verbal harassment and physical or sexual violence against women.

Female empowerment and the re-education of both men and women to the equal rights of women and in culture and society are the keys to ending the abhorrent levels of violence against women and the global prevalence of femicide. Nina Simone once said, “I’ll tell you what freedom means to me. No fear.” Equal power and equal space are a route out from under the oppression of eternal fear, and released from that fear, women can find freedom.

– Carolina Sherwood Bigelow
Photo: Flickr

Improving Women’s Rights in Tunisia
While Tunisia has the most progressive laws on women’s rights in relation to other parts of the Arab world, patriarchal values still persist. In 2010, a study from the Tunisian government revealed that many of the country’s women are sexually, verbally and physically abused. However, improving women’s rights in Tunisia has become an initiative for many organizations.

The U.N.’s Work to Represent Women in Politics

In June 2016, Tunisia’s parliament approved an amendment to ensure a greater representation of women in local politics. Applying to regional and municipal elections, the amendment included a proposal for “horizontal and vertical” gender parity in Article 49 of Tunisia’s electoral law. This also marked the first time that 73 Tunisian female parliamentarians (from different backgrounds, parties and political ideologies) conducted their own lobbying in favor of the horizontal and vertical parity.

“Besides being a first in our region, the adoption of horizontal and vertical parity in electoral law is a timely achievement because it will guarantee effective participation of women in the upcoming decentralization process in Tunisia,” said Leila Rhiwi, the U.N. Women Representative from Maghreb. In March 2016, U.N. Women also began a project with Tunisia’s parliamentarians that would support the implementation of the women’s caucus. This will work toward improving women’s rights in Tunisia by increasing their representation in local and national politics.

Aswat Nissa Training Tunisia’s Women For Political Lives

Many Tunisian women find ways to exercise the power given to them by the country’s progressive laws. Some of these ways include Tunisian women attending political academies that began after the country’s Arab Spring revolution in 2011. In October 2016, the political academy Aswat Nissa was revealed to hold monthly training sessions for Tunisian women who enter political roles.

Aswat Nissa teaches Tunisian women many necessary political skills, including how to debate effectively and draft gender-sensitive budgets. Aswat Nissa enrolled forty Tunisian women in 2016.

“I have visited parliament before, but when you’re an assembly member, it’s something else. You are part of this world,” said Aswat Nissa graduate Karima Tagaz.

Tunisia’s New Law Against Gender-Based Violence

In October 2016, Tunisia’s parliament debated a bill to strengthen legislation on violence against women. The bill would be incorporated into Tunisia’s legislative and government policies, defining gender-based violence, outlawing marital rape and increasing penalties for sexual harassment in the workplace. The bill was approved on July 26, 2017, and served as a landmark step toward improving women’s rights in Tunisia.

“By enacting this new law, the Tunisian authorities have shown a commitment to the rights of women and are setting a standard that many others would do well to follow,” said Amna Guellali, Tunisia’s office director at Human Rights Watch. The new law included requirements to assist Tunisia’s victims of domestic violence, providing them with legal and medical support. Tunisia’s authorities intend to ensure adequate funding and political will to fully place the new law into effect.

A Proposal For Tunisian Women to Share in Inheritance

In January 2018, the Committee on Individual Freedoms and Equality (CIFE) planned a proposal for Tunisia’s women to share in men’s inheritance and pass their family name onto their children.

“Tunisia is once again pioneering and irreversibly moving toward advancement,” Bochra Bel Haj Hmida, CIFE’s chairwoman, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “All discriminatory laws in the family space and public space are included in the commission’s tasks.”

CIFE’s proposed bill will also ban dowries, allowing Tunisia’s men and women to share their roles as head of the household. CIFE planned to present its recommendations to Tunisia’s president on Feb. 20, 2018, but requested a postponement until after municipal elections on May 6. The news site ANSAmed said that CIFE did not want its proposal to become an issue of electoral tension.

Tunisia’s parliament, the U.N. and CIFE have made much progress in strengthening the representation of Tunisia’s women in politics and protecting their freedom. Many groups will continue working toward improving women’s rights in Tunisia.

– Rhondjé Singh Tanwar

Photo: Flickr

Women's Empowerment in the PhilippinesThe Philippines has maintained its place among the top 10 countries in the world in terms of gender equality. To achieve women’s empowerment in the Philippines, the government adopted the Magna Carta of Women (MCW) was adopted in 2009. It seeks to end all discrimination and to promote the rights of women, as well as to establish the Philippines’ commitment to the principles of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women’s Committee and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The MCW’s agenda includes:

  1. Achieve fifty-fifty gender balance in government positions.
  2. Leave benefits and nondiscrimination in employment, especially in the military and police.
  3. Equal access in education and equal status.
  4. Nondiscriminatory and nonderogatory portrayal of women in media and films.
  5. Mandates review, amendment and repeal of existing discriminatory laws.

The Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) is the oversight body on women’s concerns and acts as the catalyst for gender mainstreaming and the lead advocate of women’s empowerment in the Philippines. It works around focus areas such as Women’s Priority Legislative Agenda, gender-responsive governance, leadership and political participation, violence against women and women’s economic empowerment.

However, challenges still exist for the Philippines. Poverty and vulnerability of rural and indigenous women remain a pressing issue. Each day, 11 women die due to complications from pregnancy and childbirth, and many women still lack access to productive employment.

The Philippines is the only country in the world which does not allow for a divorce.  Other than the death of one’s partner, getting an annulment is the only option for dissolving a marriage. According to the Philippine Commission on Women, this can be done on grounds of “lack of parental consent; insanity/psychological incapacity; fraud, force, intimidation or undue influence; impotence; and sexually transmissible diseases.” The burden of a failed marriage often falls on the woman due to cultural stereotypes. Adopting divorce in the Philippines’ Family Code is essential to uplift the plight of women trapped in a marriage ridden with violence, abuse, oppression and deprivation, and to achieve women’s empowerment in the Philippines.

The Philippines also considers adultery and concubinage as criminal offenses against chastity and are drafted as well as implemented in a manner prejudicial to women. Many provisions of the Family Code give men more decision-making powers than women. Another blatant violation of human rights, Article 247 of the Revised Penal Code, exempts a husband or a parent who causes serious physical harm or death upon his wife or minor daughter if she has been caught portraying “unacceptable sexual behavior.”

Structural sexism remains the biggest obstacle to women’s empowerment in the Philippines. Even though there are many laws in place that score well on international measures, the implementation of these policies is slow and has not translated into gender parity in the largely patriarchal society.

-Tripti Sinha

Photo: Flickr

End Violence Against WomenThe United Nations has partnered with the European Union to create a program called Spotlight Initiative to end violence against women. Spotlight Initiative has received €500 million from the EU, an amount that U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres referred to as “unprecedented in scale.” The program is part of the U.N.’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which pursues 17 facets of global development, including the elimination of global poverty and hunger.

The Spotlight Initiative’s main focus is on ending domestic violence, sexual violence, femicide, female circumcision, child and forced marriage, human trafficking and the exploitation of women. These problems are widespread throughout the world. 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced domestic and/or sexual abuse. 700 million women have undergone child marriage and 200 million have experienced genital mutilation. These acts come at a tremendous cost to the physical and mental well-being of women.

Violence against women also comes at a great cost to society at large. When societies suppress women with acts of violence and both institutional and de jure inequalities, they are deprived of the many contributions women bring to the world. Women’s contributions are so valuable that McKinsey Global Institute found that the world economy would be $12 trillion richer if every nation moved towards gender equality at a rate equal to its fastest-improving neighbor. Ending violence against women is not just in the best interest of humanity, it is also crucial for advancing global development.

Ending violence against women is a highly ambitious goal, but this is not the first time that the EU and the U.N. have made efforts to end forms of gender violence. The U.N. manages the Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women, which has granted $116 million to 426 initiatives across the globe. The EU has been working with UNICEF and UNFPA to end female circumcision and child marriage in 16 African countries. Their efforts have put Senegal on track to become the first nation to completely abandon female genital mutilation, and Egypt and Sudan are seeing significant improvements as well.

The U.N. has touched on a few core areas of action for the Spotlight Initiative to end violence against women. In order to create long-term, sustainable developments in equality for women, social and political mobilization is essential, according to the U.N. When women are more politically active, nations are more likely to pass laws protecting the rights of women. Educational programs, community-organized events and awareness campaigns are also needed to shift cultural norms surrounding violence against women. Policies directed at empowering the financial independence of women will be significant in enabling women to leave physically and sexually abusive relationships as well.

Though the issue of ending violence against women is a daunting one, the amount of funding the Spotlight Initiative has drawn in and the wide scope of the initiative brings hope that the world will see major advancements in the global rights of women by 2030.

Carson Hughes

Photo: Flickr

mobile applicationsDharavi is Asia’s largest slum and is located in the middle of Mumbai, India’s financial capital. The slum is home to nearly a million people. Within that population, teenage girls have been learning how to code in order to develop mobile applications that can help tackle different problems within their community.

Filmmaker Nawneet Ranjan founded the Dharavi Diary project, which teaches young girls in the slum to code. With this skill, the girls can then develop mobile applications that aim to combat everyday issues  including “sexual harassment, access to water and education.”

Using the MIT App Inventor, online video instruction, documentary films and Powerpoint presentations, Ranjan and the Dharavi Diary project team teaches girls between the ages eight and 16, the basics of coding.

Ranjan first became involved in working with the Dharavi community after he made a film titled Dharavi Diary in 2012. The film documented issues faced by the slum’s residents.

He then set up a small computer lab in 2014, with the goal of encouraging young girls to become changemakers. The result of their involvement in the program can ultimately lead them to better education and more employment opportunities.

“A lot of girls in the neighbourhood don’t get the chance to use computers and laptops,” Ranjan told Mashable. “I showed them how technology can be used to solve problems and improve their job opportunities. I told them that these were things that they could learn on their own.”

The project experienced a setback when the slum was destroyed by a fire on Jan. 4, 2016, destroying tablets and computers as well as the homes of over 50 families in the neighborhood.

However, through a new crowd-funding campaign, Ranjan hopes to raise more resources to buy more computers, laptops, and food and clothing for the children.

One app that a group of girls developed, for example, is called Paani, which alerts residents of the slum when they collect water from the community tap. This allows members of the community to avoid waiting in long lines for the water every day.

In a country where access to clean water is a luxury, the responsibility of collecting water often falls on girls, who consequently must miss school as a result of waiting hours for the essential resource.

Another Android App, Women Fight Back, focuses on women’s safety. Its features include SMS alerts, a distress alarm and emergency calls to contacts on their phones, according to Business Insider.

“When we joined the program we decided first to look at the problems that our neighborhood and community faced, and then build apps to address them,” said Ansuja Madiwal, a 15-year-old girl, in an interview with The Hindu.

“In a small way, initiatives like this help in giving people a greater sense of participation and an awareness of the problems that they face and how they can devote resources to solving them,” said Ranjan.

Michelle Simon

Orange_the_worldPrevention was the central theme of the 2015 UNiTE to End Violence against Women Campaign. From the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women to Human Rights (November 25 – December 10), UNiTE called on people worldwide to “orange the world” for a brighter future without violence.

At the campaign’s official commemoration in New York, the United Nations (U.N.) presented the very first U.N. Framework on Preventing Violence Against Women.

The document recognizes violence against women as not only a public health concern but also a breach of basic human rights. Women, according to the document, have a right to “physical integrity, agency, and autonomy”. These rights, according to the framework, lay at the crux of prevention efforts.

The proposed framework outlines a multi-level approach, discussing methods to prevent violence before it occurs, the recurrence of violence and the negative repercussions of violence against women.

Perhaps most importantly, the document recognizes intervention must be informed by the particular social structure, culture and norms of a given setting.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 35 percent of women across the globe have experienced either intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. Violence against women has also been shown to increase the likelihood for homelessness, unemployment and depression.

Orange the World was in line with goal five of the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) launched this past September, “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”. The campaign also linked up specifically with target two, which seeks “[to eliminate] all forms of violence against women and girls” by 2030.

Prevention of violence against women may also be vital to the attainment of other SDGs. WHO, for instance, cites lower levels of education as a risk factor connected to sexual violence perpetration. Achieving goal four of the SDGs, which looks to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education”, could alleviate this risk.

Addressing violence against women is also necessary to the fight against poverty, the World Bank said. Ede Ijjasz -Velasquez, Senior Director at the World Bank, said violence against women “has very important economic consequences” that could negatively impact any given nation.

Geraldine Terry, a research associate at the University of East Anglia, also found “[poverty] and violence against women interact in complex cycles of causality.” Poverty can lead to violence against women, and violence against women can also play a causal role in poverty.

Over 70 countries participated in Orange the World. Major world landmarks such as Niagara Falls (Ontario, Canada/New York) and the Palais de Justice (the Democratic Republic of the Congo) were lit up in orange to honor the campaign.

Jocelyn Lim

Sources: U.N. Women, Geraldine Terry, “Poverty reduction and violence against women: exploring links, assessing impacts,” , U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, U.N. Women 2, World Bank, WHO
Photo: Google Images

Red Cards to Stop Rape - The Borgen Project
Sexual violence can be addressed by two different questions:

1. How can we empower women to prevent sexual violence?

2. How can we empower men to change their attitudes and practices related to sexual violence?

Programs often tend to focus on addressing one question or the other. However, research organizations, such as the International Center for Research on Women, support both methods.

FHI 360, Family Health International, cites international data indicating, “one in three women worldwide experience physical and/or sexual violence by a partner or sexual violence by a non-partner in their lifetimes.”

The red card program has been used in Ethiopia and South Africa to address the first question of female empowerment.

When women attempt to avoid unwanted violence or contact from men, the word “no” often does not work. A comprehensive study by the ICRW indicates that the high prevalence of rape in Croatia, Mexico, Chile, Rwanda, and India is partially due to the fact that for some men, “no means yes”.

The red card programs train young women to be assertive in preventing unwanted sexual behavior from men. The analogy of the red card in soccer is used because both men and women associate the red card with the notion to stop some kind of action. Young women are provided with actual red cards that can help them be more assertive when they want to say “no” to unwanted behavior. Of course, “no” should mean “no,” and sexual violence can never be justified by a lack of “prevention” on the part of the victim. The only way to end rape is to have rapists stop raping.

The idea is that because the word “no” often does not work, the action of displaying the red card can be more effective. In Ethiopia, about half of the students who received training on the red card program have used it to “say no to sugar daddies, to abusive professors, to avoid violence, to refuse alcohol and other substances, and to insist on condom use.”

In South Africa, the program was implemented through Sonke Gender Justice Network, Grassroots Soccer and other NGOs. Mass media forms such as television and radio were used to target many people. Over 1,000 people completed the red card training with Sonke and over 12,000 people completed the program with Grassroots Soccer.

While the red card programs are innovative approaches to provide women with the power to avoid unwanted behavior in the immediate time, the ultimate goal would be for “no” to actually mean “no,” and for men to recognize and respect this. This is why institutions such as ICRW also support research and programs that will change the attitudes and practices of men.

– Iliana Lang

Sources: FHI 360 1, FHI 360 2, HCRW Publications, Africa Entertainment,
Photo: FHI 360

dowry_killings
A dowry is the money or a property that a woman brings to her husband’s family at the time of their marriage. Traditionally, dowries in India were meant to ensure that the bride was financially secure after her marriage and were seen as a type of inheritance from the bride’s parents to the bride. However, when the British colonized India, this changed. Heavy taxes meant that many families who had sons began to rely on the bride’s dowry for survival, and the husband’s family began to extort more and more money from the bride’s family.

Dowry was officially made illegal in India in 1961 with the establishment of the Dowry Prohibition Act, but many families among all social classes continue the practice of giving a dowry today. Dowry killings are when a wife is killed because her parents are unable to fulfill all of the demands of the husband’s family, and these killings are unfortunately extremely common.

In 2012, 8,233 women were killed in dowry-related deaths. While the number of these deaths declined from 2011, when 8,618 women were killed over dowry disagreements, the number of abuse cases related to dowry — when a husband and in-laws abuse a bride because her parents fail to pay a “sufficient” dowry — rose from 99,135 cases in 2011 to 106,527 cases in 2012.

In the 1990s, dowry killings were not very common, with about 300 killings per year. However, with the rise of consumerism in India, dowry killings have increased. Now, goods and appliances that were originally scarce have become more widely available, prompting a wave of greed and increasing the demand for dowry. Families that previously could not have dreamed of being able to afford goods such as cars are now within reach of being able to buy one, and they rely on the bride who marries their son to help them fulfill their consumption desires.

Pravartika Gupta and her one-year old daughter were killed by her in-laws in 2012 because Gupta’s parents were unable to afford the 15,000 pounds, Honda City car and new apartment that had been demanded as a dowry. Gupta’s case is unfortunately not unique. In 2014, 22-year-old Annu Devi and her one-year-old daughter were burned to death by Devi’s husband and in-laws because her parents were unable to pay the dowry demanded. Many in-laws continue to demand more and more dowry even in the years after their son is married, claiming that the dowry will be used to provide for children and pay living expenses throughout the years. Around 80% of bank loans in India are taken in order to meet dowry-related demands.

Dowry is also the reason for high levels of female feticide in India. Parents kill their female babies in the womb because they do not want to spend their whole lives saving money to pay for their daughter’s dowry. This has led to a skewed gender ratio in India, where there are 933 girls per 1,000 boys.

In 2012, charges were brought in 94% of dowry-related death cases, but only 32% of cases led to convictions. Many husbands and in-laws claim that dowry-related deaths were suicides in order to escape conviction. Parents of the bride are also sometimes reluctant to bring charges against the husband’s family because they do not want to ruin their other daughters’ chances of marriage.

India has one of the fastest growing middle classes in the world, and it has had a female president and a female prime minister. It is now common for women in India to have impressive careers. However, India still ranks as the world’s fourth most dangerous country for a woman. If India wishes to really advance, it needs to ensure that harmful practices such as dowries are not just legally unacceptable, they are also socially unacceptable.

– Ashrita Rau

Sources: International Policy Digest, CNN, The Guardian, LA Times, Telegraph
Photo:The Daily Beast