This week we are continuing on with the topic of Gender-Based Violence in honour of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. Today we will be discussing how to eliminate it; how to prevent it; and how to support victims.
Disclaimer/Trigger Warning: This week’s topic is a heavy hitter as we discuss topics including violence against women, women’s rights, discrimination and other related subjects. Please be cautious as you continue reading; take a break and come back if you need to. Our purpose is not only to educate people on these important matters that impact women everywhere, but also to let you know you are not alone.
November 25 was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (designated in 1999 by the UN General Assembly). It was also the first day of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence; an annual international campaign that goes until December 10th, World Human Rights Day.
According to the Government of Canada, gender-based violence is violence that is committed against someone specifically because of their gender, gender identity, gender expression or perceived gender; it disproportionately affects women and girls; and certain intersectional populations experience higher levels of this violence. The United Nations defines violence against women as "any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life." And, femicide is “the most extreme form of violence against women and the most violent manifestation of discrimination against women and their inequality.” It is “the killing of women because of their sex and/or gender.”
We don’t mean to scare or overwhelm you with this information. But it’s important to be educated and understand the full scope of gender-based violence, the bad and the ugly. We cannot live in fear. We also can’t turn a blind eye, especially those of us who have the privilege to act on this for the women and girls who can’t.
The next three sections will be broken down into three areas we can work on to end gender-based violence and violence against women: prevention, elimination, and support. Before that, we want to better explain gender-based violence through an intersectional lens because it is extremely important that any and all efforts to prevent, eliminate, and support victims of, gender-based violence is done so through an intersectional approach.
So let’s dive in…
An Intersectional Approach to Gender-Based Violence
As we’ve mentioned, gender-based violence disproportionately affects certain intersectional populations, including Indigenous women and girls; Black and racialized women; immigrant and refugee women; 2SLGBTQQIA+; people with disabilities, and women living in Northern, rural, and remote communities. They experience higher levels of violence as a result of more than just their gender. When a woman is targeted for violence because of her gender and/or because of her race (for example), her fundamental rights have been abused.
According to the Femicide Advocacy Guide, an intersectional approach to femicide considers the specific vulnerabilities of different populations and aims to transform unequal power relations. The heightened vulnerabilities that certain populations of women and girls face stem from multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.
These populations include (but are not limited to):
Women with disabilities
Women in precarious/stigmatized forms of employment
How to Eliminate Gender-Based Violence.
Admittedly, “eliminate” is a bit too broad of a word. We can’t just “eliminate” gender-based violence… at least not yet and not as easily. It would be nice if we could just snap our fingers and end it. But gender-based violence, like the patriarchy, is too deep-rooted across the globe. They have both existed for centuries if not millennia (unsurprising correlation). The patriarchy dictates everything, individuals and societies alike. When we dismantle the patriarchy, we can eliminate gender-based violence - which leads us to our first point - prevention.
How to Prevent Gender-Based Violence.
Gender-based violence and violence against women IS preventable.
As we mentioned last week, in the US, many solutions for gender-based violence are responsive and carceral; that is, police units and specialized courts respond after intimate partner violence and sexual assault have already taken place. Unfortunately, most other countries follow in those footsteps. Yes consequences and punishments need to be in place (arguably though, a lot of domestic abusers and perpetrators of violence against women go unpunished). But, what we need most is prevention and proactiveness. It's not about putting fires out as they come. It’s about not letting those fires happen in the first place.
Last week we discussed the causes of gender-based violence. A common denominator being misogyny. The intentional killing of women and girls globally is driven by the prevalent cultures of misogyny, machismo, patriarchy, toxic and violent masculinity, male entitlement, among many other things. The lives of women and girls are also shaped by misogyny and sexism from childhood to adulthood. Gender inequality and norms on the acceptability of violence against women are a root cause of violence against women. So to prevent gender-based violence, we need to deconstruct these ideologies and attitudes of male dominance over women. We need to keep educating ourselves on the history and prevalence of such violence and inequality, as well as the part we play and what we can do about it to avoid further perpetuating it. As long as things like misogyny, machismo and toxic masculinity prevail, so will gender-based violence.
Please remember that to eliminate it, we need to prevent it from happening in the first place - we need to expose the very patriarchal structures, norms, and institutions that have created the foundations that allow gender-based violence to persist.
What you can do is speak out against all forms of gender-based violence and violence against women, on an individual and societal level. You can hold governments accountable and acknowledge their role in perpetuating such violence. Gender-based violence is a human rights violation; it is an obstacle to the achievement of the objectives of equality, development, and peace. Therefore, governments have an obligation to end all forms of gender-based violence, violence against women, and femicide.
How to Support Victims of Gender-Based Violence.
Believe women. Believe them when they come forward with their stories.
The health sector also has an important role to play to provide comprehensive health care to women subjected to violence. The World Health Organization in 2013 identified violence against women as a health priority. A public health perspective recognizes the “health consequences of violence to women and it's ‘enormous costs to the society.’” It also acknowledges the role of health and social care professionals in addressing gender-based violence as it’s an entry point for referring women to other support services they may need.
The Femicide Advocacy Guide also discusses that gender-based killing of women watches are mechanisms that governments have been asked to establish at the national level, to systematically compile and review data on femicide that can be used to guide policy making and the formulation of effective responses. These watches signal the creation of institutional capacity to understand and address femicide in different parts of the world.
The first “Femicide Watch” in the African Continent was established in South Africa by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. It is accessible via its website and provides a range of information and tools including a database on shelters, a risk assessment tool for women to determine if they are at risk of femicide, guidance on how to develop a safety plan and a hotline to report abuse.
If you know someone who is experiencing gender-based violence, here’s what you can do:
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911 or your local emergency number.
Focus on and support the person experiencing the violence, it is about them.
Be judgement free, remind them that it is not their fault and reinforce your support for them.
Be patient and open-minded, this can be complicated and it will take time to figure things out.
*At the end of this blog post we will have National and Provincial support services listed.
Eliminating gender-based violence will require the efforts of various actors, as well as transformative shifts guided by feminist values and human rights standards at all levels (local, national, regional, and global). To achieve lasting change, it is important to enact and enforce legislation, and develop and implement policies that promote gender equality; allocate resources to prevention and response; and invest in women’s rights organizations.
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Canada National Support Services
Indian Residential Schools Program, First Nations Health Authority, 24-Hour Residential School Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419
Ontario Support Services
Shelters and Transition Houses