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Introduction

Over the past three decades, women’s organizations have
created a paradigm shift in understanding and acting to end violence against
women. Once confined to whispers and silent suffering, it is now part of the
public agenda (Fried, 2003). According to
WHO (2013), violence against women is not a new phenomenon, nor are its
consequences to women’s physical, mental and reproductive health. What is new
is the growing recognition that these are not isolated events and a global
public health problem that affects approximately one third of women globally (WHO, 2013).

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In 1993, the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence
Against Women provided a consensus definition of violence against women as
“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, whether
occurring in public or private life” (Assembly,
1993). This form of violence stems from gender inequality and it takes a
variety of forms-physical, psychological, or economic; it includes acts of
violence or the threat of such acts; and its manifestations in both public and private
life are public issues requiring government action (Fried, 2003). The term gender based violence (GBV) has been
defined as ”acts or threats of acts intended to hurt or make women suffer
physically, sexually or psychologically, and which affect women because they
are women or affect women disproportionally” (Krantz,
2005). Gender based violence is often used interchangeably with violence
against women. Both these definitions point at violence against women as a
result of gender inequality, seen as discrimination in opportunities and
responsibilities and in access to and control of resources that is rooted in
the socioculturally ascribed notion of masculinity as superior to femininity (Krantz, 2005). Violence against women remains
one of the most pervasive forms of human rights violations worldwide (Fried, 2003). According to WHO (2013), one out of three women in the world has
been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime (WHO, 2013). Gender-sensitive human rights
advocacy has stressed that bringing a gender analysis to human rights shows
that women experience gender-specific forms of violence that are different from
those experienced by men (Fried, 2003).

There are several forms of GBV namely: domestic, sexual,
physical, cultural, religious, socio-economic, patriarchy and family. Due to
the limitation in the amount of words for this assignment, just one type of
violence against women will be looked at namely, domestic violence. In doing
this essay, the main aim will be to look at the extent to which it can be said
that violence against women is an international development issue. Are women in
developed countries experiencing it differently as to their sisters in
developing countries? Is violence against women a development issue in relation
to dynamics of poverty and inequality? Is domestic violence a global problem or
just a product of poverty? This essay will try to get some background into this
topic and hear what different stakeholding bodies are saying about it. It will
go on to look at the effect of this form of violence on the woman’s health,
which has a knock on effect on her immediate surroundings, society, economy,
development studies and globally. Attention will also be paid to interventions
that are in place to combat this form of violence from a micro to macro level
with the help of current statistical figures.

According to the UK Home Office (2013), domestic violence or
abuse can be any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive,
threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are,
or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or
sexuality. The abuse can encompass, but is not limited to: psychological, physical,
sexual, financial, and emotional (UK, 2013). This
form of violence also called intimate partner violence (IPV) has great impact
on the victims, their families, the immediate environment in which it occurs,
and even on the future generations (as it is deemed to have intergenerational
effects (WHO, 2010). Violence hinders all
women’s abilities to exercise their human rights, and it circumscribes women’s
capacity to function as full citizens in society
(Fried, 2003).

Violence at the hands of an intimate partner constitutes a
social and tragic problem of enormous proportions, affecting women in all
spheres of life (Slabbert, 2017 ). It
cuts across divisions of race, class, religion, age, ethnicity, sexuality, culture,
and geographic region (Fried, 2003). In South
Africa, for instance, women have more rights and are represented to a
greater degree in different formal institutions, yet violence against women is
still very prevalent in the country (Slabbert,
2017 ). After Rwanda and Sweden, South Africa has the highest number of
female parliamentarians (Slabbert, 2017 ).
It is estimated that a woman is killed by her male partner every 6 hr in South
Africa, the highest incidence of death by domestic violence in the world (Women in Action, 2010), although Slabbert (2017)
argues that low-income women are more susceptible to domestic violence,
as they have no means to escape their situation – ‘being poor” and being
dependent on their partners’ (Slabbert, 2017 ).Threat
to the masculinity plays a big role in causing  this type of violence as the men feel
threatened when their women have jobs – the feeling of not being needed (Slabbert,
2017 ).

In the late 1960s and early 1970s in the U.S., mainstream
feminist theory opened the doors to understanding domestic violence as
contextualized within the socially structured and culturally approved systems
of gender inequality in society (SOKOLOFF, 2008).
In contrast to the earlier feminist approaches, the intersectional domestic
violence approach challenges gender inequality as the primary factor explaining
domestic violence: it is neither the most important nor the only factor that is
needed to understand violence against many marginalized women in the home
(Crenshaw, 1994 in Sokoloff 2008). Intersectionality suggests that no
dimension, such as gender inequality, is privileged as an explanatory construct
of domestic violence and gender inequality itself is modified by its
intersection with other systems of power and oppression (Bograd, 1999). Bograd (1999).
According to Bogard (1999), intersectionalities color the meaning and nature
of domestic violence, and they are also patterned,
as in the life of a poor immigrant woman of color (Bograd 1999, pg 276). Even though a well recognized problem that
has a central place in the political, social, and economic realms of developed
countries, yet has received very little attention in the developing world —
most especially in developing countries in Africa — probably due to cultural
barriers, level of poverty, lack of social support, absence of relevant state
laws and institutions, or due to some other reasons (Olayanju et al, 2013). The belief that such violence or related
issues are private family matters that need to be treated or solved
domestically within the family without interference from outsiders, has led to
a high level of occurrences in developing countries (Olayanju et al, 2013). The African continent has witnessed fewer
research studies in the area of IPV in comparison with the rest of the world,
especially in developed countries — prevalence of IPV against women varies from
12% in Morocco to about 54% in Ethiopia, while the results also show that
lifetime prevalence of violence from an intimate partner ranges from 31% in
Nigeria to as high as 80% in Uganda (Olayanju et
al, 2013).

 

Based on a review of North American academic research on
violence from the perspective of anthropology, psychology and sociology and
from cross-cultural comparative studies, a framework emerged to theorise the
possible causes of gender-based abuse (HEISE,
1998).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Factors related to violence
against women at different levels of the social ecology (HEISE, 1998)

This framework of violence against women provides a way to
understand much of the existing research with respect to gender based abuse (HEISE, 1998). It helps in understanding why a
potentially abusive man will react to an incident in a certain manner and then
react differently in the next moment (HEISE,
1998). Researches into abuse in  African
American communities revealed that age, employment status, residence, poverty,
social embeddedness, and isolation combine to explain higher rates of abuse
within black communities – not race or culture (Sokoloff, 2004). The impact of
domestic violence is far-reaching with serious consequences not only for the
battered woman but also for her children and society at large (Slabbert, 2017).
According to WHO (2013), women exposed to intimate partner violence are twice
as likely to experience depression, almost as twice likey to develop alcohol
abuse, 16% more likely to have a low birth-weight baby, 1,5 times more likely
to acquire HIV and 1.5 times more likely to contract syphilis infection,
chlamydia or gonorrhoea, 42% of women who
have experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of a partner have
experienced injuries as a result, 38% of all murders of women globally were
reported as being committed by their intimate partners (WHO, 2013). Epidemiological
and clinical studies have noted that physically and sexually violent acts by
intimate partners are consistently associated with a broad array of negative
health outcomes, including irritable bowel syndrome, gastrointestinal
disorders, and various chronic-pain syndromes (Ellsberg et al, 2008).  These women have more physical symptoms of
poor health, and more days in bed than do women who have not been abused. Physical
and sexual violence have also been associated with psychiatric problems,
including depression, anxiety, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder,
suicidality, and alcohol and drug abuse(Ellsberg et al, 2008).  

Besides the health issues
that are attached to this abuse, there is also association between key economic
aspects of gender-based power, namely the employment status of women and their
husbands, and reported experience of physical domestic violence (Krishnan et
al, 2010). The link between diminished work hours and domestic violence
raises concern about the economic well-being of domestic violence victims
within the welfare system (Tolman, 2002 ). In
India, a husband’s ability to provide economically for the family is intimately
linked to notions of masculinity as well as personal and family honor  (Krishnan et al, 2010). Family stress theory
emphasizes the material or structural dimensions of employment and suggests
that domestic violence results from the stress associated with unemployment and
lack of economic resources (Dutton, 1988; Greenfield et al., 1998 in Krishnan et al, 2010). Domestic violence
was associated with various forms of material deprivation (e.g food
insufficiency, lack of stable housing and utility shut-offs) as well as welfare
dependence, and decreased work reliance (Tolman, 2002 ). On the other hand,
resource theory and the concept of hegemonic masculinity – a pattern of roles,
expectations and practices (including violence) that facilitate male dominance
over women – emphasize the symbolic significance of spousal employment status (Krishnan
et al, 2010). These theories posit that increases in women’s economic resources
and/or reductions in men’s relative contributions to household economic
resources can challenge masculine identities and provoke violence (Krishnan et
al, 2010). Women experiencing domestic violence are also more likely to
experience subjective hardship, i.e. they are more concerned about their
current and future ability to manage on the amount of family income they are or
expect to receive. ex decreased work hours is
one reason for the increased hardship that dome victims experience(Tolman, 2002
).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

Violence against women is not a small problem that only
occurs in some pockets of society, but rather is a global public health problem
of epidemic proportions, requiring urgent action. (WHO, 2013). It can be said that violence against women is a
development issues in that, a topic that was whispered behind closed doors, has
now taken the center stage in economic, political, development discussion from
the UN meetings to grassroot meetings. Fried (2003) states that there is a
growth in the panorama of governmental, intergovernmental, nongovernmental, and
international organizations that have initiatives to prevent and protect women
and girls from violence and to bring perpetrators to justice whether in
conflict, post-conflict, or non- conflict situations (Fried, 2003). These initiatives have been herald as achievements
and possible barriers which have been implemented to deal with violence on
women in the world realizing the goals that have been identified (Fried, 2003). These are:

Implementing international
and regional norms and standards are being used as the basis for national
legislation and policy. National and regional
networks have expanded dramatically and are coming together to share
information and experiences. The five-year review and
appraisal of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in 2000 urged
all countries to repeal discriminatory legislation by 2005. New institutions and
mechanisms have been pioneered, such as women’s police stations in Brazil
and Jordan, women’s and people’s courts in India and Guatemala, and
one-stop shelter/services in Malaysia or Nicaragua. The range and extent of
support services for victims- survivors have significantly expanded to
include legal-aid centers, shelters, and hotlines for victims of abuse,
most recently in countries such as Jordan and Yemen.

The fact that this form of violence cuts across divisions of
race, class, religion, age, ethnicity, sexuality, culture, and geographic
region (Fried, 2003), goes to show that it hasn’t got anything to do with which
part of the equator the woman finds herself. Domestic violence is part of the
larger systems of violence (e.g., imperialism, racism, colonialism, patriarchy,
etc.) and as such domestic violence must be attacked at its root causes: the
socially structured systems of inequality – of race, class, gender, sexual
orientation, immigrant status, and the like (Sokoloff,
2004). While a great deal of progress has been made, obstacles to ending
violence against women remain substantial, and gaps continue to be identified
in legislation, policies, and practices (Fried, 2003).

Despite this evidence, many still choose to view the violent
experiences of women as disconnected events, taking place in the private sphere
of relationship conflict and beyond the realm of policy-makers and health-care
providers (WHO, 2013). Finally,
interventions designed to combat violence against women will only be effective
when the level of available resources match the scale of the problem (Fried, 2003).

Domestic violence knows no geographical, cultural, or
linguistic boundaries and can therefore be seen as a global epidemic (Slabbert, 2017 ). When looking at the African
continent, it can be said that it harbors some peculiar risk factors for IPV
that are culture-induced, Widespread poverty in the African continent can also
be presumed to have great influence on the occurrence of IPV (Olayanju et al,
2013). Olayanju et al (2013) argue that even though the continent witnessed
fewer research studies in the area of IPV in comparism with the rest of the
world, yet still the research carried out in African nations shows this form of
abuse to be pervasive (Olayanju et al, 2013).

Besides being a breach of human rights, the high prevalence
of partner violence and its associations with poor health—including implied
costs in terms of health expenditures and human suffering—highlight the urgent
need to address partner violence in national and global health-sector policies
and programmes (Ellsberg et al, 2008). It
is time for the world to take action: a life free of violence is a basic human
right, one that every woman, man and child deserves (Krantz, 2005)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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