A Discussion On The Vulnerability Of Women And Men To Gender Based Violence Essay

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A DISCUSSION ON THE VULNERABILITY OF WOMEN AND MEN TO GENDER BASED VIOLENCE Introduction Gender-based violence is an umbrella term for any harm that is perpetrated against a person’s will ;that has a negative impact on the physical or psychological health, development, and identity of the person ;and that is the result of gendered power inequities that exploit distinctions between males and females, among males, and among females. Although not exclusive to women and girls, gender based violence principally affects them across all cultures. Violence may be physical, sexual, psychological, economic, or socio cultural. Categories of perpetrators may include family members, community members, and those acting on behalf of or in proportion to the disregard of cultural, religious, or national institutions. In the case of women in general, gender-based violence is a way of assuring women’s inferior position in society. Violence against women, and the threat of it, is a form of gender-based violence that deprives women of their rights socially before the law becomes involved. This is one of the reasons why long-standing laws on equality of the sexes, or general legal sanctions for most forms of violence against women, have not been able to end or even significantly limit the inequality of women and men by themselves. In the case of men who do not act according to dominant masculine gender roles, gender-based violence has the function of correction by example. The severity of the punishment for men who do not act according to the demands of male gender roles may be related to the perceived danger that their difference presents to normalized and dominant assumptions about gender. Their very lives might collide and appear to contradict the idea that there are natural forms of behavior and social roles in general for men and women. Violence is something that needs to be recognized. In other words, when we think about violence, we are influenced by socially, culturally and politically constructed notions of violence for example good violence, bad violence and understandable violence. Violence is a means of control and oppression that can include emotional, social or economic force, coercion or pressure, as well as physical harm. It can be overt, in the form of physical assault or threatening someone with a weapon ;it can also be overt, in the form of intimidation, threats, persecution deception or other forms of psychological or social pressure. The person targeted by this kind of violence is compelled to behave as expected or to act against her/his will out of fear. Furthermore, there are many common ways in which gender-based violence is specifically excused, just as with any other occasion of violence, where an oppressive social structure is involved, and the violence is committed by somebody from the power-group against somebody from the group with less power. Many factors – difficult childhoods, psychological factors, or the perceived complicity of victims – are used to explain the occurrence of gender-based violence. Nevertheless, if preventing violence involves a responsibility to our selves and others, it is important that these factors are not used in general social discussions to lessen the responsibility of perpetrators. The words ‘aggression’ and ‘violence’ are often used interchangeably, yet they do not mean the same thing. ‘Aggression’ is something we can experience in situations that are physically or emotionally threatening to us. The ‘fight or flight’ reactions that we experience in such situations have a biochemical background and are closely related to the self-preservation instinct of most species, including humans. In developing a gender perspective on violence, many practitioners argue that violence is the decision to use one’s aggressive potential to hurt another person’s integrity. If our aggressive potential is an evolutionary development, designed to aid self-preservation, then this impulse is present in everybody, whether male or female. Expressions and behaviors are gendered, and our societies demand very specific responses in certain situations. Apart from handling our aggressive potential according to our gender and gender experience, we also learn about other limiting factors, such as the age group we belong to. For example, corporal punishment of children and young people by parents or teachers is allowed in many legal systems either by the word or practice of the law, whereas a similar slap between adults is judged differently both by the courts and by the public. Violence is a difficult and complex issue, and categorizing different ‘types’ of violence can never be exact. For discussion purposes, however, I will start with a framework for discussion. I will distinguish five inter-related types of violence: physical, verbal, sexual, psychological and socio-economic. In reality, some or many forms can be present at the same time, particularly in abusive relationships. All forms can occur both in the private sphere (in families and intimate relationships) and in the public sphere, committed by unknown individuals in public space, or by organizations, institutions, and states. It is also important to stress that although some forms of gender-based violence are considered to be typical for couples and generally adults, studies and experience show that young women and men are similarly affected. Types of violence (a) Physical violence Physical violence is an act attempting to or resulting in pain and / or physical injury. As with all forms of violence, the main aim of the perpetrator is not only - or may not always be - to cause physical pain, but to limit the other’s self-determination. Physical violence sends a clear message to the victim from the perpetrator: “I can do things to you that you do not want to happen.” Such violence demonstrates differences of social power, or may intend to promote particular demands through coercion. Gender-based violence in intimate relationships, often referred to as domestic violence, continues to be a distressing phenomenon in both women and men. Gender-based violence in public is often related to assumptions and expectations concerning gender-roles. Verbal abuse, name-calling, threats and attacks may take place. (b) Verbal violence Many cultures have sayings or expressions that state that words are harmless: there is a long tradition that teaches us to ignore verbal attacks. However, when these attacks become regular and systematic and purposefully target our sensitive spots, the object of these attacks is right to consider themselves subjected to verbal abuse. Verbal abuse can include issues that are person-related, such as put-downs (in private or in front of others), ridiculing, the use of swear-words that are especially uncomfortable for the other, saying bad things about the loved ones of the other (family, friends), threatening with other forms of violence against the victim or against somebody or something dear to them. Other times the verbal abuse is related to the background of the victim, such as religion, culture, language, (perceived) sexual orientation or traditions. Depending on the most emotionally sensitive areas of the victim, abusers consciously target these issues in a way that is painful, humiliating and threatening to the victim. This form of violence affects both women and men. (c) Psychological violence All forms of violence have a psychological aspect, since the main aim of being violent or abusive is to hurt the integrity and dignity of another person. Apart from this, there are some forms of violence which are communicated through conducts that cannot be placed in the other categories, and therefore can be said to achieve psychological violence in a ‘pure’ form. This can include isolation or confinement, withholding information, disinformation, and threatening behavior. A common form includes the isolation of young women or men who do not act according to gender roles. Isolation in the public sphere is most often used by peer groups, but responsible adults, such as teachers and sports coaches, can also be perpetrators. Most typically it means exclusion from certain group activities. It can also include intimidation in a similar fashion to psychological abuse in the private sphere. (d) Sexual(ised) violence The term ‘sexualised’ is increasingly used to stress an important aspect of this type of violence, namely that of using sexuality as a terrain for attack is merely another tool to inflict damage, rather than anything related to the sexuality of either perpetrator or victim. Sexual violence has often been related to the behavior of the victim (explicit sexual behavior or dressing in the public sphere, denial of sexual availability in the private sphere) or related to the sexual needs of the perpetrator (sexual frustration). This is called ‘relativisation’, and is one of the methods through which different players in society try to ignore the seriousness of gender-based violence. Relativisation means that the criminal act of rape, for example, is not judged as an act on its own, but relative to the perceived behavior of the victim. It may also include misguided attempts to consider factors on the perpetrators’ side which make their action ‘understandable’. As more and more data has become available on the true circumstances of sexual violence related
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