Violence against women

Violence against women

2nd December 2008, Comments 0 comments

November 25th marked the United Nations' annual International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Violence against women is a truly international problem, affecting one in three women worldwide.

According to the World Bank, women between the ages of 15 and 44 are at greater risk of rape or violence than cancer, malaria, war or car accidents.
There's an economic cost, too. Domestic violence against women costs the United States alone over 5 billion dollars a year in health care costs and lost productivity.
Flora Terah : determined © RNW
Flora Terah: determined
In other countries, the losses to the society aren't as easy to measure. Flora Terah is a women's rights activist in Nairobi and has just written a book about her experience as a parliamentary candidate during Kenya's national elections last year.
She describes how women were routinely assaulted, tortured and raped to deter them from running for office. Terah says that it's because of "the cultural belief that women are supposed to be in the kitchen. Women are supposed to be seen and not heard."
Terah herself was assaulted by a group of men who force-fed her human faeces and beat her so badly she spent three months in hospital. But worse was yet to come. Her son was murdered - she thinks as part of the attempt to intimidate her. And while the threat of violence has deterred many Kenyan women for getting involved in politics, Flora Terah hasn't given up:
"I'm determined. I have to go for my cause. I'm back in my constituency working for my community".
Her book is called "They Never Killed My Spirit, But They Killed My Only Child".

Danger at home
In Europe and the West, most violence against women happens at home. Daniela Almer is a spokesperson for the Austrian Information Center Against Violence.
"The family apartment is the most dangerous place for women in Austria, and not the park in the night or the street in the night."
But progress is being made, Almer says. Victims of violence are more willing to speak out and seek help.
"They are not ashamed, as they were ten or twenty years ago, because they know that domestic violence is not their fault and they have a right to look for help."

Liz Funk, is a college student and author of "Supergirls Speak Out". Listen to an extended interview with her here.
"The media broadcasts these limiting images of women as hypersexual and anti-intellectual. The Hills, Gossip Girl, 90210, all portray young women as these extremely thin women who focus all of their energy on getting a guy and partying and not really thinking very deeply about their lives."
Social attitudes
And that's a significant step. Social attitudes towards violence against women are crucial, says Byron Hurt. He's a filmmaker and gender rights activist in the United States. His film "Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes" examines representations of gender roles in hip hop and rap music. 

He found that hip hop promoted an aggressive image of masculinity, where sexism and homophobia were part of being a man. But he's quick to point out that his findings aren't limited to hip hop.
"My film is a critique of gender in general, using hip hop as a platform. But the hyper aggression and misogyny is all over the culture. I think that the messages that boys and men are receiving around the world about manhood is problematic."
He's working with men in traditionally male environments to combat the problem and provide positive images of manhood.

"If you could get guys who are athletes who are well respected by other men or guys in the Marines or the US Army to publicly speak out against [violence against women], it makes it easier and safer for other men to do the same thing."
December 2008 
Hermione Gee
Radio Netherlands

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