WHY IS GENDER IMPORTANT IN ANALYSIS OF VIOLENCE?
Violence has wide and varied causes, forms, and effects. The World Health Organization (2004) defines violence as “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, physiological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation.” This paper explores the scope of violence, the place of gender in violence and the need to ensure gender inclusivity in the analysis of violence.
There are three categories of violence interpersonal violence, collective violence, and self-directed violence. Interpersonal violence occurs between intimate partners, acquaintances, friends, and family. It includes elder abuse, violence against women, peer violence, child abuse and neglect, dating violence, school violence, rape, and stalking among others. Gender-based acts of interpersonal violence include, but not limited to abuse of female children, female genital mutilation, wife battering, rape, dowry-related violence, acid throwing, and honour killings (Krantz and Garcia-Moreno, 2005). Larger groups perpetrate collective violence in an organised manner such as terrorist groups, militias, and countries with the aim of achieving a particular social, economic or political benefits. Acts of collective violence include slavery, sexual exploitation, human trafficking, mob behaviour, hate crimes, and gang violence. The scope of collective violence is wide and varied and may include oppression on the grounds of state-sponsored violence, religion, national origin, social class, sexual orientation, race, or gender. Self-directed violence involves the personal infliction of injury upon self through self-abuse or suicide.
In 2013, there was an approximate of 1.28 million deaths of which 32,000 was attributed to collective violence, 405,000 to interpersonal violence, and 842,000 to self-directed violence. A global report by the World Health Organization indicates that more 13 to 65 percent of women experience intimate partner violence while 6 to 59 percent experience rape or sexual abuse by an intimate partner.
Perpetration of violence occurs through acts of physical, emotional, physiological or sexual torture. The effects of violence are wide and varied including death, physical injuries, depression, alcohol and drug abuse, high-risk sexual behaviours, smoking, physical and reproductive health problems, and disabilities (The World Health Organization, 2004, 2). Accordingly, violence strains the social and welfare services as well as criminal justice and health systems. As well, violence has the potential of destabilising local economies due to the loss of workforce and human capital, thus reducing productivity.
Gender analysis is essential in violence analysis due to the costs involved in gender-based violence. In addition to the personal, family, community, and societal costs, gender-based violence results in enormous economic costs to the government at large. The cost of intimate violence is higher than the cost of primary education in most countries (Cockburn, 2007). For instance, the economic cost of interpersonal violence in Peru is 3.5 percent of the Gross Domestic Product as compared to primary education that is below 1.5 percent (The Scottish Government, 2009). Thus, it is essential to investigate the place of gender in violence analysis to cut on costs at the individual, community, and national levels.
Many scholars, health organisations, justice systems, and welfare organisations have studied the factors that lead to violence to inform appropriate policies, programs, and frameworks for prevention and intervention. Power and control are a widely accepted cause of violence and abuse. From a feminist perspective, the patriarchal social setup has played a very significant role in reinforcing the domination of men on women and girls. Other contributory factors for violence include discrimination, racism, lack of economic opportunities, and poverty. The media is a potent tool that can either aggravate or mitigate social norms associated with abuse. In addition, there are personal and biological factors to violence, for example, gender inequality, which is the most prevalent cause of gender-based violence.
As one of the main factors resulting in the infliction of harm to individuals, gender analysis helps to better understand the best policies and programs for intervention and prevention. Gender analysis helps in understanding the different experiences and effects interpersonal, collective or self-directed violence on men and women (Cockburn, 2007). In addition, gender analysis helps to understand the influence of gender-based inequalities on violence, as well as the link between gender and other social classifications such as disabilities, religion, ethnicity, class, and age.
The gender and violence analytical framework puts into consideration the fact that both men and women experience violence as social actors, as either perpetrators or victims. Besides, men and women access resources differently, including decision-making and power in conditions of violence. Accordingly, as social actors, men and women have different identities, relations, and roles in violence reduction policies and programming. Lastly, men and women have different interests and needs on practical and strategic levels.
While men and women are assumed to enjoy equal benefits in their households, concerns prevail regarding inequalities in negotiating and decision-making in domestic settings, which usually results in intimate partner violence. A gendered analysis indicates that most incidents of partnered violence involve victimisation of women by men. In addition, women are more vulnerable in their homes, while men are more vulnerable than men outside their homes are. Additionally, women are more vulnerable to abuse by men whom they know. Accordingly, it is essential to investigate the inequalities and differences that create opportunities for disagreement and violence for purposes of prevention and intervention.
In the European Union, one out two women have experienced sexual assault, one out of three women has experienced physical attack, one out of twenty women has experienced rape, one out of five women has experienced stalking, and 95 percent of human trafficking and sexual exploitation victims are women (European Institute of Gender Equality, 2018). Research also shows that violence is the most significant cause of death and disability to women aged 15-44 years as compared to the combined effects of war, traffic injuries, malaria, and cancer. Approximately 15 million women and girls are subject to female genital mutilation in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Women and adolescent girls are mostly targeted during the war and civil conflict through extraordinary acts of violence to attack the morale of the opponent. For instance, there was systematic rape of women and during the 1994 Rwandan genocide (The Scottish Government, 2009). Concerning interpersonal violence, there is a trend of repeat victimisation or experience of different types of violence on women by same or different male perpetrators.
Additionally, understanding the gender differences and inequalities in power distribution within formal decision-making structures such as policy-making structures, local organisations, and the government helps in establishing proper gender balances. The under-representation and low visibility of women in the formal decision-making process deny them a platform to give their perspectives on violence. The high representation of women as victims of violence is also because of their low representation in the community, regional, or national priorities. Research indicates that there is a greater degree of violence against women in societies that lack or have fewer rights and freedoms for women (Krantz and Garcia-Moreno, 2005).
A gendered analysis is critical to address the code of silence that male victims of violence tend to portray. Whereas the risk of gender-based violence against men is less compared to their female counterparts, it is important not to overlook the victimisation of men in interpersonal, collective, and self-directed violence. Men experience similar forms of violence like women, only that the acts differ in terms of powerlessness, period, injury and patterns of fear. Gender-based violence also happens in same-sex intimacies perpetrated by both women and men. Gender-based violence does not focus on private experiences between individuals, instead of societal structures that accord a certain gender dominion to oppress the opposite gender. Notably, men are more empowered to dominate and control women through certain societal expectations (The Scottish Government, 2009). As a result, men fear to disclose incidents of abuse occasioned to them by women or fellow men due to stigma. Men who experience sexual assault or rape tend to keep silent. Individuals who suffer violence in same-sex relationships also stay silent because of fear of further abuse or unhelpful response. The silence is due to the prevailing societal perceptions about how a “real” woman or man should look like, speak or act in “normal” situations (The Scottish Government, 2009).
Research has been conducted in various countries and regions on the factors that promote gender-based violence on men and same-sex relationships. The violence generally results from the socially structured gender role expectations in addition to unequal power sharing between men and women. Due to the masculine nature of men, they are principal perpetrators and victims of collective violence. For instance, women and children make up the majority of civilians while men form most of the combatants. Either of the group maybe a target by the enemies for various reasons during wars. In the case of Srebrenica massacre, 8,000 men and boys were the target since killing them would reduce their numbers as combatants in the Bosnian war (Mikaberidze, 2013). A study by Ferrales, Brehm, and MceIrath (2016) on the narratives from the refugees in the genocide of Darfur found that they experienced a series of abuse through sex-selective killing, genital harm, feminisation, and homosexualisation. The violence against men in the genocide was because of their gendered role as potential fighters and soldiers in the war, thus threatening the opposite side.
Another research by Sinacore and Khayutin on gender-based violence against men found that men who exhibit characteristics termed as “feminine” have a high likelihood of physical and verbal abuse, all the way from their childhood to school and workplace. Thus, they end up developing strategies to police their gender and avoid social situations in which they might be perceived to be weak. Furthermore, the research established that men experience different gender-based violence in various forms depending on their sexual orientation. Heterosexual men also experience abuse due to their gender. As a result, most male victims suffer in silence, isolation, and fear to discuss their orientation (Sinacore, Durrani, and Khayutin, 2017).
The great emphasis on the masculinity of men and their status of power in the patriarchal social setup make them keep silent when they experience gender-based violence. There are attitudes on the seriousness of the offence depending on the gender of the person who has perpetrated it. Generally, society tends to put more focus on the assault of women as compared to men. Accordingly, men receive a great moral condemnation for assaulting women based on the belief that women are more vulnerable (Felson and Feld, 2009). These perceptions permeate through into the criminal justice system where police officers tend to ignore claims of gender-based violence on men. In most cases, the problem of violence against men is acerbated by the lack of proper policy or legal framework for prosecution of women when they commit violence against men (Sowmya, 2015).
Due to the societal gender roles and the unequal power distribution, women are the most targeted victims of gender-based violence. Women generally experience disadvantages through a combination of factors revolving around their feminist caring attributes, religious limitations, cultural expectation, and institutional attitudes and activities backed by legal and policy frameworks. Women and adolescent girls are at high risk of gender-based violence reinforced by their lower socio-economic status and the systematic discrimination in the society. Most women suffer from gender-based violence due to fewer options and resources available for them to escape or avoid violence and pursue justice.
Three categories of violence include collective violence, interpersonal violence, and self-directed violence. Gender-based violence affects both men and women within the three categories in different ways. Gender is important in the analysis of violence as it helps to understand the differences and inequalities that drive individuals to perpetuate gender-based violence. Notably, gender analysis helps to understand the intersects of gender-based violence with other social factors such as religion, cultural underpinnings, race, economics and politics. Gender-based violence has enormous costs to individuals, communities and the entire society. Thus, it is essential to involve gender in the analysis of violence to ensure the implementation of proper mitigation strategies.
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