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Beyond bruises – violence against women

Living in the modern times of 21st Century, some medieval global pandemics continue to plague the world. Violence against women is the most common human rights violation that often goes unreported. Even today, almost one in three – or 736 million women – above the age of 15 have experienced some sort of abuse at least once in their lifetime. The more horrifying fact remains that the more than one in four women have suffered at the hands of their intimate partners or have been a victim of abuse from their trusted blood relatives.
Every year United Nations marks November 25th for the awareness on elimination of violence against women. As per the definition by United Nation’s Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against women:
“the term violence against women means any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, weather occurring in public or private life.”
Causes for violence against women is deep rooted in the power imbalance between the genders. In societies shaped by patriarchy, this imbalance often leads to misogynist establishments.
There are many types of gender-based violence against women but the most common and under reported cases are those of domestic abuse. In domestic abuse, women are ill-treated by her household relatives and often by her intimate partner. Domestic abuse can be physical and psychological abuse, the outcome of which shatters the self-respect, dignity, confidence and in some cases physically impairs the victim for life.
The horrendous crime against women is when she is sexually assaulted. Sexual abuse involves indecent and unwanted sexual exposure, rape and at times genital mutilation. Although the sexual violence against women is often reported yet the number of cases is swept under the carpet for the sake of honor. In a country like Pakistan, the laws are weak to counter sexual abuse and provide security for the victims.
Gender related intentional murders/killings of women is called femicide or feminicide. This is the most ruthless of violence against women where they are killed in the name of honor or are subjected to worst form of hate crimes like acid attacks with permanent physical and soul scarring. Despite modern-day awareness, femicides are common practices in underdeveloped countries, especially in the rural areas where laws and regulations only serve the powerful. In most cases gender-related killings are perpetrated by an intimate partner or a blood relative yet the statistics reveal that femicides take place in many contexts besides the mentioned private sphere.
Human trafficking and forced prostitution are another horrendous violence that the women are subjected to for monetary benefits/gains and settlements. These settlements sometimes go beyond this bracket and young girls are traded as underaged brides to their abusers. The main trigger of this monstrosity is poverty, lack of awareness and education, social fabric and consequences of unsettled conflicts.
For working women, workplace harassment and abuse are a constant challenge. Other than inappropriate advances from their co-workers, women are often subjected to discriminatory disparities where they are not given the equal opportunities like their male co-workers or are often underpaid for their qualification and/or aptitude. In the modern age of technology, women are constantly abused on social media platforms for their voices and opinions. Regardless of their affiliations or background, cyber-bullying of women and the hate/abuse towards them is horrifying. Rape and murder threats by keyboard faceless warriors continue to hound and silence the voice of any woman that they don’t agree with. Stalking, sexting, and doxing (threatening to release or reveal private information on public forum) are all forms of cyber-bullying that cause immense psychological abuse to millions of women using these tech forums.
Some of the most common consequences of abuse and violence against women leaves them with physical impairment and/or health deterioration. Other consequences that are damaging include depression, mental anxiety, losing self-esteem, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and chronic pains.
There are many factors that need to be put in strict practice to curb the menace of abuse and violence against women starting with NOT silencing their voices and shaming/blaming the victims. Rigid mindsets on gender roles that stereotype masculinity and femininity need serious introspection from societies. More than fifty percent of the world’s population are that of women, yet they are not given equal voices in decision making and legislative reforms. Education and basic human rights awareness are the key components that can help the vulnerable women in identifying the abuse, voicing their fears and empower them for stability. Financial independence also plays a vital role in empowering women to stand up for their rights and realize their true potential.