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Worldwide Focus Issue 2

Worldwide Focus Violence Against Women

An initiative by

ISSUE 2


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CONTENTS 04

MEET THE TEAM AFRICA

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Facing Violence Against Women in Ghana

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Violence Against Women: The Nigerian Story

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Girls’ Education Problems in Senegal

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Girls Raping in Senegal: Why is the Phenomenon Gaining Ground?

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Raped Girls in Senegal: Living with the Trauma

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Violence against Married Women: The Testimony of a Victim

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‘If you strike a woman, you strike a rock’. The Plight of South African Women

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Domestic violence in Senegal: who is it to blame?

LATIN AMERICA 26

Who protects us in the slum? Violence against women in Venezuela: a puzzle in the general chaos.

ASIA 28 30 32 35

Violence: Is This What Women are Worth? Voices against Violence

EASTERN EUROPE Chains of Love?! Refuse the abuse!


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Worldwide Focus Issue 2

OF THE WORLD

Directory Editor Mircea Samoila Sub-editors Kirsty Telfer (Ghana) Pooja B. (India) Alexandra Ichim (Romania) Amine Sall (Senegal) Cheikh Saad Bou Seye (Senegal) Kelly Easton (South Africa) Contact mirceasamoila@projects-abroad.org Page Layout Fabiola Sanchez Art Direction Antonio Gallo Project Advisor Elisa Glangeaud © Voices of the World, published by Projects Abroad, 2010 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without prior written permission of Projects Abroad. Views and opinions expressed in Voices of the World are not necessarily those of Projects Abroad. The publisher can accept no liability or loss in connection with the contents of the publication.

Editorial All violence is ultimately born out of lack of self respect. Self respect is an innate sense of value. It doesn’t need explanation, justification or sanction from external factors. However, once human beings derive this sense of value from a social context or a person, they will do all they can and they can rationally justify any means to keep them. This creates selfishness, the belief that the world exists to gratify Me, to cause Me pleasure, and the belief that anything is permitted in getting it. Including aggressing people who are less powerful physically, mentally, socially. It will continue as long as human beings create justifications for their violence against their fellow men (or women more specifically). It will continue as long as we condemn violence whenever we see others manifesting it, but we tolerate it and justify it when we ourselves do it. It is not likely governments will be able to stop violence in any form, as generally their philosophy of existence is one of coercion, and therefore they will inevitably perpetuate it. Violence creates more violence. The change starts from within, from each one of us. It starts from realizing that each of us at one time or another has power over someone else. It starts by each of us choosing to use that contextual power to protect and unite, rather than aggress and divide. This is how we begin to realize the depth of our innate self-respect, the core that is not diminished or altered by outside influence. In these pages of our second Worldwide Focus you will read about many ways in which women around the world are victims of violence. Reading them, you will probably feel indignation, pity, outrage, even disgust. I would like to propose an experiment: take these articles as an opportunity for honest introspection. Ask yourselves these questions: Am I free of violence towards others or myself, in thought or deed? If I am not, am I aware of the situations that cause me to become violent? Am I my own master or am I controlled by these circumstances, by my own reactions to them? Do I truly respect myself? How deep we go with the enquiry and what we do with the answers is entirely an individual choice. The choice will make the difference between self respect and self hatred and, as a consequence, respect for others or hatred for others.

Our Partners Mircea Samoila Editor


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Meet the team

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in VENEZUELA Paula Osorio

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in SENEGAL

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in GHANA Jodi Acquaye

Mansura Adam

Mame Fatou Dieng

Isaac Azu

Hafsa Yahya

Abdoulaye Seck

Caleb Amarh

Aboubacar Diagne

Malick Dieye

El Bachir Diallo Rokhaya Diaw

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Worldwide Focus Issue 2

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in NIGERIA Toluwani Eniola

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in ROMANIA Cristina Raita Irene Chirtas

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in INDIA J. Nancy John Sunanda Ghosh

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in SOUTH AFRICA Voices of the World South Africa Club


6 Text by Voices of the World Ghana Club › in GHANA

AFRICA

By Jodi Acquaye, Isaac Azu, Caleb Amarh, Mansura Adam, and Hafsa Yahya Photos: Aubrey Graham / IRIN, Brennon Jones / IRIN

Facing Violence Against Women in Ghana ‘’I prayed to God to save my life’’ Every day, millions of women around the world continue to experience injustice, violence and inequality in their homes, workplace and public life. This is a result of the mindset of the public that women are not important and is a gender role assigned to be subservient to men. Perpetrators of violence against women are rarely held accountable for their acts. Women who are victims of gender related violence hesitate to report cases of violence to authorities because they fear being shamed by communities that are often blaming the victims of violence. When women

challenge their abuses, it is often accomplished by long and humiliating court battles with little sympathy from authorities and media. A global culture of discrimination against women allows violence to occur daily and with impunity. Violence is defined as the intentional use of physical force or power threatened against oneself or another person. Violence takes the lives of more than 1.7 million women annually. Some die after committing suicide due to their circumstances and others due to their husband or boyfriend.


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In an interview, a 30-year old mother from Ghana said: ‘’I once fell victim to violence from my husband. He used to beat me every day after he came back from work drunk. One night he came home very upset, when he saw me he pulled me by my hair into the kitchen and stabbed me many times. He then lit a fire around me and he ran away with our children. At that moment I thought I was

going to die. But by some miracle I survived. I prayed to God to save my life and the fire and police men appeared. I went to hospital and recovered’’. Violence against women can lead to so many problems. For example, children who witness such behavior in their parents can become affected by what they see and believe it is okay to be violent. My

advice to everybody is that married couples with problems should undergo therapy in order to let go of their emotional pain. To prevent violence against women, there needs to be a development for safe, stable and nurturing relationships between children, husbands and wives. Also evidence is emerging that violence may be prevented by reducing


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To prevent violence against women, there needs to be a development for safe, stable and nurturing relationships between children, husbands and wives.


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Worldwide Focus Issue 2

the availability of alcohol. This could be done by restricting its availability or increasing the price. Brief interventions and long term treatment for alcoholics is an idea. The authorities in Ghana should also try and reduce access to guns. Moreover, promoting gender equality and challenging gender norms and roles to prevent violence against women. In Ghana, the Ministry of Woman and Children’s Affairs and the Domestic Violence and Victim Support (DOVSO) are involved in the fight against violence against women. Violence brings about broken homes and a loss of self dignity. To prevent it, offenders need to be jailed by enforcing stricter laws. Also, there should be the abolition of some outmoded cultural practices.

The Cruelty of Female Genital Mutilation Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is one of the most popular violence against women acts that we have in the world. It is the removal of the part of the external female genitalia in its most severe form. A woman has all her genitalia removed and often stitched together leaving a small opening for intercourse and menstruation. It is practiced in 28 African countries in the name of cultural tradition or hygiene. An estimated 135 million girls have undergone FGM with effects ranging from sterility, in addition to the psychological effects. This in spite of the fact that all governments of all the countries where FGM is practiced have legislation making it illegal. The complete lack of enforcement and prosecution of perpetrators means FGM continues to thrive.

Violence against women, both intimate partner violence and sexual violence causes health problems and is a human rights abuse. It causes physical, mental and reproductive health problems and may increase vulnerability to HIV.

Sexual abuse is also a common violence that women face and is present in the every country. The group of women who face and experience it the most fall within the ages of 15-45. In Ghana women are harassed sexually at their workplace by their employers and people in high positions. Others are also abused at their various schools by teachers and heads of the school. The very young and defenseless are raped at home by fathers and stepfathers. When the perpetrators are reported to the authorities, they claim there is no solid evidence which shows that they have actually committed the crime. Thus it becomes a dead case. Violence against women, both intimate partner violence and sexual violence causes health problems and is a human rights abuse. It causes physical, mental and reproductive health problems and may increase vulnerability to HIV. Victims may suffer from depression, trauma, sleep difficulties, fatal injuries and sometimes they attempt to commit suicide.

Even though Amnesty International and other organisations are doing their best to eradicate violence against women, it is still in existence. It is the responsibility of the government of every country to address discrimination against women and promote gender equality and also enact legislation making girl child education compulsory, so as to work towards stemming it completely.


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Africa Text by Toluwani Eniola › in Nigeria Photos by Gwenn Dubourthoumieu/IRIN

Violence Against Women:

The Nigerian Story A victim of rape showing the clothes she was wearing

Being a highly patriarchal society, where men dominate all spheres of women’s lives, one of the greatest undoings of the Nigerian state is violence against women and frustrated attempts to stem the tide.


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According to freedictionary.com, violence is described as physical force exerted for the purpose of violating, damaging, or abusing. But in Nigeria, it goes beyond physical force to suppression of women rights and lack of opportunity for women to express their humanity. In Nigeria, violence against women is a serious problem and it has manifested in rising records of rape cases, domestic violence, public assault and battery. Weak implementation of laws, the patriarchal nature of the society, weak political will to arrest the trend and inability of women to report sexual assault have compounded the problem. This year alone, according to media reports, there has been a handful of stories of women either beaten, maimed or killed. Efforts by gender-based groups, rights advocates, public analysts, journalists to fight the trend have not yielded much results. One aspect of violence that has assumed an uncontrollable dimension is rape and beating of wives by their husband. This barbaric attitude is perpetrated by the low and high in the society. Even Nigeria’s leaders and other topshot personalities have been reported of publicly beating their wives. Last year, a traditional ruler of a village in Osun State was alleged to have raped a Youth Corp member serving in the state. Chiojoke Wilcox Wigue, High Commissioner / Ambassador

“So is the case of Nigeria, where about 50% or more women think that it is okay to be a victim of physical violence by their partners for reasons like just disagreeing with him, burning his food or leaving his house without permission.”

of Nigeria to the Republic of Kenya was also reported to have involved in assault against his wife. Information emanating from Kenya reveals that he is a serial wife beater as pictures published by a Kenya newspaper (The Star) revealed that the high commissioner publicly battered his wife (Teresa), with whom he has seven children. Without an iota of shame, a video of a gang rape of a girl was posted on the Internet, by the rapists themselves last year. The group of five rapists, believed to be students of the Abia State University, either through arrogance or ignorance posted the sexual assault, which they recorded on their mobile phone, for the world to see online. According to a report by the Lagos State Government, cases of rape committed and reported in the state was 283 in 2011, out of which 11 suspects were duly prosecuted and convicted during the same period. Lagos is one state out

of 36 in the country, showing that over 1000 cases of violence against women go on daily. The Special Adviser on Youth Social Development, Dr. Dolapo Badru, said the cases involved one in which a father who impregnated his daughter was prosecuted and later convicted . Two separate reports about women commissioned by both World Bank Group and the British Council, published in Daily Trust, have shown that most young women in Nigeria feel it is okay for husbands to physically assault their spouses for “offences”. “Most 15-24 year old women in Nigeria think that it is reasonable for a husband to beat his wife if she burns his food, refuse him sex or go out without his permission”, said Amina Salihu, the author of the British Council report, warning that “this is a very serious statistics we should pay attention to as we work across generations.” “Not only do they experience violence, but in many cases and


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Women’s physical security

No Data

Women have medium levels of physical security

Women physically secure

Women have low levels of physical security

Women have high levels of physical security

Women lack physical security

She argued that this rising number of HIV infections among women and girls is directly related to violence against women and their unequal legal, economic and social status. Ibeanusi, who spoke on gender based violence and the consequences for women, said coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty to women, whether occurring in public or private life is both a cause and consequence of HIV.


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Worldwide Focus Issue 2

many countries women find violence justified” said Ana Maria Munoz, a co-author of the World Bank report. “So is the case of Nigeria, where about 50% or more women think that it is okay to be a victim of physical violence by their partners for reasons like just disagreeing with him, burning his food or leaving his house without permission.” She said gender problem in Nigeria is beyond the North-South dichotomy as many women lack access to education in the north while they are physically abused in the south. “Up to one third of the Nigerian women reported that they have been subjected to some form of violence. We heard mention about rape . One in five has experienced physical violence. Nearly half of the married women in parts of southern Nigeria have experienced physical violence.” Programme Officer, Human Rights Education, Mrs Kate Ibeanusi, in an event attended by this reporter, decried the rate of gender-based violence against women and stated that statistics show that more women are exposed to HIV infection, supporting her argument with a 2008 UNAIDS report on global AIDS pandemic which shows that in sub-Saharan Africa, 60 per cent of people living with HIV are women. She argued that this rising number of HIV infections among women and girls is directly related to violence against women and their unequal legal, economic and social status. Ibeanusi, who spoke on gender based violence and the consequences for women, said coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty to women, whether occurring in public or private life is both a cause and consequence of HIV.

Solution: Passage of Violence Against Person Prohibition Bill and Awareness Human rights group have called for passage of Violence Against Person Prohibition Bill, to stem this tide. Earlier in the year, Country Director of Ipas, Dr. Ejike Oji, called on stakeholders including the various groups that Ipas is working with, to lend their voices to the campaign by engaging in lobbying and advocacy activities geared towards sustaining the pressure on parliament to see through the passage of the bill. The bill, according to her, will introduce ‚ ’’an act to

eliminate violence in private and public life, prohibit all forms of violence including physical, sexual, psychological, domestic, harmful traditional practices; discrimination against persons and provide maximum protection and effective remedies for victims and punishment of offenders’’. But on her part, Princess Olufemi-Kayode, executive director of Media Concern Initiative (MEDIACON) was reported in the Nigerian Compass as saying that even if the bill is finally passed into law, it cannot in itself reduce violence women face in the country. For the executive director of MEDIACON, the issue is not about the law because if what we have on ground is effectively implemented, it is sufficient to reduce the current spate of violence against women. She called for enlightenment of the police, many of which she said do not understand their role in the event of violence against women.


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Text by Malick Dieye and Rokhaya Diaw › in SENEGAL

Girls’ Education Problems in Senegal In many countries around the world, girls are not able to complete their studies. This problem is due to the many obstacles that they may encounter.

In some cases, girls give up their studies because they have been raped by one of their teachers. It even occurs in Saint-Louis of Senegal. Indeed, even here in Senegal, many girls are victim of rape in primary schools or even before attending school. This is one of the reasons why many parents do not want to let their daughters go to school. Forced marriage can also give rise to a lot of problems. With regard to school, it can be one of the biggest

obstacles that girls are faced with. Parents are often responsible for this decision by giving their daughters away at a young age to get married. The press often reports cases of school girls, sometimes under twelve, who have been forced into marriage by their unconscious parents. Once the girl moves to her new house, she has to give up school and would then be extremely busy with all kind of domestic chores and would begin having children just after marriage.


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Text by Khady Diop › in SENEGAL

Girls Raping in Senegal: Why is the Phenomenon Gaining Ground? Violence against women occurs everywhere across the world, and Senegal is no exception to the rule. In recent years, the rapping of both girls and women has become one of the most common forms of violence against the “weaker sex.” This phenomenon has become widespread throughout the country. Every day, the number of rape victims increases. Women can find themselves be faced with aggression daily. What is the reason why? We don’t know. We often hear or read reports of women who have been raped and murdered. Is it the women’s fault? Are men conscious of their actions? On one hand, there are some men who cannot control themselves. They are dominated by their animal

instincts and therefore become suddenly unaware of their actions. Others can be fixated with the woman’s body which arouses feelings of interest. In some other cases, a man may fall in love with a girl who does not reciprocate his feelings. If he constantly tries to court her for a very long time, the man can begin to hate her and as such, the only thing that he can think about is raping her. Also, the government is very much responsible for not addressing this

situation in our society. The laws have to be very strict for those who rape women. The former minister in charge of women’s rights, Ndèye Khady Diop, said during her meeting whit different NGO’s, that the constitutional law should increase the years of punishment for those who show aggression towards women, notably rape. She thinks that the penalty should be more severe.


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Text by Abdoulaye Seck and Aboubacar Diagne › in SENEGAL

Raped Girls in Senegal:

Living with the Trauma Nowadays, rape is becoming more and more frequent and a lot of women have become victim of this evil.


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Worldwide Focus Issue 2

We live in a world that encourages women to dress provocatively and sometimes indecently. According to some opinions people’s opinions in St Louis (Senegal), this indecency could also be a factor that influences the high number of rapes.

time. Not only are they rude, but also they are not severely punished. These men do not mind whether they can be arrested or not. They do not even realize how terrible the consequences of their actions can be, they destroy their own life as well as the one of the women.

There are numerous roots to this problem. Firstly, many girls did not get a good basic education. Secondly, their parents did not spend much time with them to ensure a good upbringing. They work almost all the time, so some parents do not know what their daughters are actually doing. Beside these, some even encourage their daughters to dress provocatively by buying indecent clothes for them. After a rape, the woman’s life can be totally destroyed. For example it may be a problem if they want to get married later in life. Some men will reject them saying that they did not take their life seriously and as such, they can not be a good mother in the future. If it is true that some girls dress provocatively in order to attract boys, some men are sometimes not aware of their instincts and can therefore be responsible for a case of rape. Furthermore, many of them can not control themselves when they see a girl. It is considered by some as a mental fixation. There are, however, also other men who do it willingly. It is not rare to see a man who has raped a woman more than one

After a rape, the woman’s life can be totally destroyed. For example it may be a problem if they want to get married later in life. Some men will reject them saying that they did not take their life seriously and as such, they can not be a good mother in the future.


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Africa Text by El Bachir Diallo and Malick Dieye › in SENEGAL

Violence against Married Women:

The Testimony of a Victim Today’s society has to address the problem of violence against women. To focus on that topic, we interviewed a 35 year-old mother of three, who was victim of physical and psychological violence.


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Worldwide Focus Issue 2

She got married in 1991 and she said that before that, her husband did everything for her. He managed to do his best in order to satisfy her needs, but two months after they got married, her husband began to beat, insult and treat her like an animal. The most terrible thing for her was that she was unable to express herself to anyone and her in-laws did not help her. She had no influence within their family at all. When she wanted to go to the police, her neighbours and inlaws told her not to acknowledge it, otherwise her children would not succeed in life according to one interpretation of the Holy Koran. She has broken fingers and injuries on her face, she said that she spent days and nights without sleeping and she lived the pain alone in silence. Everyday, she did all her housework whilst enduring physical and psychological pain. She was unable to cry in front of the others, therefore she always tried to be strong and smile to them.

When she wanted to go to the police, her neighbours and in-laws told her not to acknowledge it, otherwise her children would not succeed in life according to one interpretation of the Holy Koran.

There have been some important changes because the government has improved women’s rights and more and more have been put in place. Now her husband does not beat her because she knows her rights and what she is entitled to. However, according to her, violence against women still very much exists in Senegal.


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Text by Voices of the World South Africa Club › in SOUTH AFRICA Photos: www.sublimepixel.com / Sxc.hu / K. Kendall - Creative Commons

‘If you strike a woman, you strike a rock’

The Plight of South African Women

With teary eyes a woman is curled up on her cold kitchen floor – her left eyebrow gashed open, exposing traces of dried up blood. Her body is aching, her energy is low and when she takes a deep breath she shivers at the mere thought of her abuser. A person who degrades her with insults, orders her around, uses her as his punching-bag – deliberately hurting her. Perhaps she provoked, perhaps her dinner wasn’t well prepared or perhaps she was too outspoken? Whatever she did or didn’t do, she is a victim to violence. Violence against women, as defined by the United Nations General Assembly, is ‘any act of genderbased 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 private life’. Yet even with such a clear interpretation, in South Africa one out of every four women is in an abusive relationship. Every six days a woman is murdered by her intimate partner. And shockingly every 25 seconds

a woman or a young girl is raped, these were the appallingly high statistics received from Wheat – a local women’s organisation based in Cape Town. However these statistics commonly undervalue the extent of violence against women – including female rape victims, victims of domestic violence, state violence and so on – if you consider the large amount of cases that are not reported. Reasons for unreported cases can vary from fear in the victim to a nerve-racking legal system. However it’s a matter that not only needs to be suppressed but


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Worldwide Focus Issue 2

As a human rights issue, the effort to end violence against women becomes a government’s obligation, not just a good idea. – Charlotte Bunch.


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stopped all together, as violent acts and continued abuse could lead to women suffering from depression, anxiety, physical and permanent injuries. And if that’s not traumatic enough, violations such as rape could result in an increase of HIV/Aids infected women. None of this though is breaking news and it’s inevitable that there will be reports of women being the common prey to violent acts in the next day, week or month regardless of the degree. With so many NGOs, activists, posters on random street poles drawing attention to this immoral issue that has gone in and out of our ears, many wonder if we’re fighting a losing battle when even our government can only resort to a public plea. This was publicised when the South African government made a recent attempt to tackle an incident where a woman’s rights were more than violated due to violence. In April this year 26 year old, Vinoliah Mashapu was victim to a domestic violence episode when she was supposedly murdered by her partner. This terrible

death caught the government’s attention and Lulu Xingwana – South African Minister of the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities – made contact with the victim’s family and later making the following public pledge: ‘As ministry we are aggrieved by the continuous and growing spate of Domestic Violence cases. We shall continue to fight this disease that has infiltrated our society. I therefore call upon communities, especially men, to work hand-in-hand with us to curb and fight this crime against humanity. Any person who witnesses a domestic violence act has a moral duty to report it to the police. We therefore appeal to our communities, parents, mothers and fathers, that whenever they suspect abuse they must report it to the authorities.’ So if it all seems rather hopeless, are we supposed to sit back and wait until another woman becomes an abused statistic? With issues like insufficient services, offering counselling and shelters, and chronic unemployment – often leaving many women


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I know that it isn’t just violence against women, it’s how do we support ourselves and our families, how do we deal with health care for ourselves and our families? It’s a bigger picture. – Patricia Ireland

relying on their abusive partners for financial reasons – what exactly is the solution to not only women abuse but the barriers preventing them from living in a safe environment? According to Soul City Institute for Health and Development Communication, ‘School curricula [need] to include gender violence prevention programmes and parents and caregivers [are to] to raise their children to view violence against women as unacceptable.’ Therefore, like most aspects of life, it stems from a young age, as in some cases women accept abuse because they do not see that it is wrong or a violation of their rights and that something can actually be done to stop it. ‘The expanded definition of domestic violence, as well as a more inclusive definition of who constitutes a victim of domestic violence, makes legal recourse much more accessible to women.’ This of course comes with awareness and proper education around our human rights in South Africa. Nevertheless there will always be something slowing down the process to fully stop violence against women.

So perhaps it might work to start to slow down the cycle of abusers continuing their abusive nature with the help of counselling and rehabilitation. However, looking back at South Africa’s history, we remember the importance of treating a woman, and anyone for that matter, with respect. With that said, on 9 August South Africa will celebrate National Women’s Day – remembering the day in 1956 when 20 thousand women marched for the difficult situations of women under the rule of apartheid. By singing freedom songs, the women proclaimed that they are indeed the centre of their families and tough in the struggle against destructive forces. This protest gave many women a strong foundation and it is one of the reasons South Africans continue to try to put an end to violence against women. Years later we remember the words of their freedom song: Wathint’ abafazi, wanthint’ imbokodo – if you strike a woman, you strike a rock.


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Text by Mame Fatou Dieng › in SENEGAL

Domestic violence in Senegal:

Who Is to Blame?

Domestic violence has become common place in the Senegalese society. It does not go a day without the press reporting about it in their headlines.

Domestic violence can be defined as any physical, emotional, or sexual offenses, all moral cruelties, all gross neglect between spouses or partners which have harmful consequences on health status and the welfare of the victim. The most common form of domestic violence is that of Senegalese married women who have been beaten to death by their husbands. However, there are other forms of mistreatment that women endure in their families. Because polygamy is legal in Senegal where 95 percent are Muslims, there are men who abandon their first wife when they take a second one. Some people even have more than five

wives although the Islamic religion only allows men to take up to four provided that you can give them equal treatment. In the past, Senegalese women used to proudly do all the domestic chores, look after their children’s education, and do what their husbands wanted them to do. But today, because of the influence of Tv and the new technologies, many Senegalese women do not accept these roles any longer. The modern Senegalese woman tries to adopt foreign manners. They no longer know how to cook or to do the laundry. They worry much about being attractive in order to extract


Worldwide Focus Issue 2

money from their male partners. This situation generally creates conflicts in the couple because men do not want to lose their privileges. Women are generally the losers in these conflicts: they are often divorced, abandoned, or severely beaten. Most of the time, they do not find support from their families and community if they want to claim justice. The proportion of Senegalese women who are victims of domestic violence is getting more and more important. However, the ordinary Senegalese citizens do not consider it as a national problem. Many people think it is a private issue that needs to be discussed and settled within the couple. I am wondering whether the increase of domestic violence will not endanger the values of love, hospitality and caring attitude which are the pillars of the Senegalese society.

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Text by Paula Osorio › in VENEZUELA

Who Protects Us in the Slum? Violence against women in Venezuela: a puzzle in the general chaos. “How do you dare to go to the police? If you do, what they will do first is to look at you feeling sorry for you and then they will look at you willing to tell you that if you stand it is because “you enjoy it”.

This is a recent testimony of a young Venezuelan woman who prefers to remain anonymous for her sake, talking about her personal situation for a local journal. She has been for four years living a typical domestic violence case. The law and its institutions are supposed to protect victims and break the vicious circle of domestic violence, not to encourage it. In 1998 when Hugo Chavez became president, several initiatives to improve people’s quality of life were enabled, to protect particularly those who were neglected before he entered office. Public policies were among others focused towards local women living in communities away from big cities, or women from the poorest barrios1 especially from Caracas. Venezuelan legislation became very specific and in theory very modern. Other countries in the region also adopted laws protecting women’s rights at the end of the 1990s. But like many initiatives in Venezuela decisions were never taken and many times huge mistakes passed without notice. For example the Ministry of the Woman in Venezuela took a wrong turn, by publishing recently an explanation about differences between gender and sex in which they describe several distinctions between men and women. They qualify that men: think, decide, negotiate, are valuable and public and that women: cook, buy, take care, forgive, sew, and are private and insignificant. This is a clear “macho” definition of the Venezuelan society neglecting in an official webpage women’s role, forgetting that women are also usually the ones providing for their homes.2 Otherwise according to FUNDAMUJER, a local NGO in charge of preventing violence against women, the government hasn’t proposed policies to enforce locals NGOs that look after women victims notably of domestic violence in the poorest areas. They even add that the Venezuelan government still owes the information needed for the CEDAW report


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DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

since 2007! At last the Foundation also reports that there have been constant cuts and even suspension of some governmental funds to subsidize local NGOs that have been fighting for women’s rights since 2010. The main problem is that the Venezuelan government is not able to control the general chaos in the poorest areas, the police are not even able to enter in the barrios, which are no man’s land. So when a very small percentage of women (about 10%) dare to denounce violence at home, they are at their own risk and in the most vulnerable situation when they return to the slum. Only in the city of Caracas every 10 days a woman dies of gender violence3, even though domestic violence is accompanied with a climat of general violence and the alarming impunity rate that is about 90% for all crimes committed in the country. Inside the slums the local communities also have to deal

Only in the city of Caracas every 10 days a woman dies of gender violence, even though domestic violence is accompanied with a climat of general violence and the alarming impunity rate that is about 90% for all crimes committed in the country.

with matters like precarious water and electricity supplies, without mentioning lack of medical services, schools or even garbage removal. Most of the people in these slums live in a rancho4 where they are usually overcrowded in a very limited space, living by 8 people for 20 square meters approximately. Also a direct consequence of this overcrowding is the early sexual initiation: this encourages Venezuela to be the South American country with the highest teenage pregnancy rate. This early sexual initiation is hereditary among the lower social classes; teenagers start sexual activity between 12 and 14 years old and if even though 9 of 10 of them know about contraception methods, only one of ten actually uses them! Teenage Venezuelan girls are confronted with situations like sexual misinformation, but also abuse, exploitation, violence at home but not only… These are some of the consequences

of the lack of resources such as: schooling, sexual education, or even local medical centers to take care of voluntarily interruption of pregnancy. The law in Venezuela by the way forbids this act, even if at least two women die every week trying to end an undesired pregnancy by their own means. These situations are major social problems in Venezuela even if it seems impossible to comprehend that in the third world’s largest oil producer women are beaten, killed or they end their own lives trying to interrupt pregnancy. When is Venezuelan legislation going to be put into practice? After 14 years of negligence on the matter we better hope for a bigger change… 1. Barrio is the Venezuelan equal of the Brazil’s favelas. 2. http://www.minmujer.gob.ve/inamujer/index. php?option=com_content&view=article&id=10&I temid=13 (The webpage disappeared after a few hours online) 3. According to governmental statistics from 2005, today it must have increased. 4. A very poor house without the final construction layers, the bricks are always visible.


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ASIA

Text by Sunanda Ghosh › in INDIA

Violence: Is This What Women Are Worth? Travelling in Delhi visiting slums I happened to come across an organization that supports helpless needy women. My long-standing thoughts about violence against women were about to change! While I was listening to people’s various problems, suddenly a particular woman’s story struck me. A pretty lady aged around twenty-eight and already grieving with horrible stories in her life? She was whispering to someone over the phone. All these questions started going through my mind: why is she crying? Why are there bruises all over her throat? It seemed like she belonged to a rich family, then why was she in this kind of a state? One of the organization members clarified all my

a good family. It also happened that the boy’s family

questions. The woman had married after spending 2

wanted to break off the marriage just for a gold chain,

years abroad studying. Her father had to pay a huge

which had been left out of the dowry.

dowry for her marriage. The parents agreed to give anything to secure this marriage because according to

If only her parents had called off the wedding right

them the man she was going to get married came from

then. If only she rose her voice and stood against them


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Worldwide Focus Issue 2

and denied to get married. But none of this happened. She still got married and went abroad to live wih her husband. After a very few months she was harassed for more money, more property, in short they bartered her life just for dowry! Living abroad and being completely isolated, her parents were coerced to meet every single demand. Finally her family couldn’t meet the requests anymore. That’s when it all began. One night her husband didn’t come back home and this continued for months. In these couple of months she was tortured, beaten, even threatened with death. She was locked up in a room without food or water for three straight months. She used to cry for help but there was no one to help her. She tried pleading with her husband to stop the torture. But he never listened. One day she couldn’t take it anymore. Somehow she was able to reach a women’s help centre nearby and they eventually helped her travel back to Delhi. After getting back to India she ended up with the National Commission of women. She stayed under their assistance and kept herself aloof from her family for quite a long time. She was worried: What will the society say? How would her parents take it? This story completely changed my perspective. I wish every woman in India has the same strength to face every challenge that comes through their life.Violence is not just limited to women from weak family backgrounds. It happens in

every form to every woman from every family background. Even though this woman had a strong educational background she couldn’t help herself. And today she is a victim of violence! If we look at India’s statistics, women are abused, tortured, and threatened almost everyday. Why is that? Why can’t we stand up to that? Why do we always have to put up with sacrificing our whole lives?

A woman gets married and she starts a new phase of life leaving her own family behind. Why doesn’t the other realize that all a woman wants is respect and love? One message that should go to every parent is to always stand up for their daughter and never put their life on stake no matter what.

I wish every woman in India has the same strength to face every challenge that comes through their life. Violence is not just limited to women from weak family backgrounds. It happens in every form to every woman from every family background.


30

Asia

Text by J. Nancy John, India › in INDIA

Voices against Violence The term violence not only indicates the physical, emotional or sexual torture towards a victim but it is an intrinsic part of behavioral problems in many places in India.

Amongst them, ‘domestic violence’ is more prevalent because of the traditional/ orthodox mindset of the society that women are physically and emotionally weaker than males. Though women have proved themselves in almost every field of life in every way possible affirming that they are no less than men, the reports of violence against women are still prevalent. Traditionally in India, people think that when a woman is suppressed or ill-treated, she should not fight for her right and should just do as she is told. This is the prime cause for violence. This attitude must change. That may be right in older generations, but now times are changing and women are shining in all sectors and are attaining a very good growth in all aspects. Due to this, they can be considered equal to men as they are also expected to fulfill responsibilities similar to that of men. To avoid this problem, many organizations have been working on this kind of social issues. They are saving a lot of women who are suffering under these types of violence. It is the prime duty of every citizen to understand, give respect to their feelings and promote their rights. Younger people believe that violence against women can be eradicated by the whole society cooperating. According to Sophita Meena, a 2nd year Engineering student, ‘we can change this situation only when we work as a team striving towards achieving the status of being powerful women who are looked at in a respectable manner and treated with all due consideration.’


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Worldwide Focus Issue 2

As educated people, we should teach the importance of women to everyone because they hold the entire family, struggling in this battle to bring out their best. They not only think their own life but spend every living moment for the upliftment of the whole family. Now what exactly we need to do is to bring awareness especially to the rural people. We should prepare society to be broad-minded and think from the perspective of a woman also, give her the freedom and support that she needs. We need to make them understand that women can face any kind of problem just like men and handle all the challenges that come their way. So, let’s all support the women empowerment and make our country grow in all the above said aspects. The aim of every Indian must be to respect their fellow human beings, especially women, and understand their worth.

we can change this situation only when we work as a team striving towards achieving the status of being powerful women who are looked at in a respectable manner and treated with all due consideration.


32

EASTERN EUROPE GALLERY

Text by Cristina Raita › in Romania Sanja Gjenero / www.rgbstock.com

Chains of Love?! Men are usually classified as “the strong sex” whereas women represent “the beautiful sex”. Of course, both have advantages and disadvantages. As men need to be surrounded by beautiful women (both psychologically and physically), so women need to feel protected by the strength of their men. Moreover, none of us could even exist if this balance between the beautiful and the strong sex did not exist.

One big problem of our society in general and Romanian society in particular is that not all men appreciate and respect women as they should. Women suffer from injuries of men every day all around the world.

“Women’s chains have been forged by men, not by anatomy.” (Estelle R. Ramey) This is also the case of Ana, an old friend of mine. Ana is 18 years old and she had been in a relationship with her boyfriend Andrei for about 3 years. I couldn’t understand it why she was never wearing short skirts or short trousers just like any other girl of her age. One day I paid her a visit and found her watching TV in her bedroom, wearing pajamas. This time her trousers were shorter than anytime before, so, by mistake, I found myself staring at her uncovered bear feet. Instantly, I felt frissons running all over my back; her feet were full of pinches and contusions. At the

moment, I didn’t understand. I didn’t find it right to ask her what was going on, feeling like I could offend her or put her in a harsh situation. A few months later, I called Ana and she was very sad. “I’m arguing with my boyfriend every day and I feel like I cannot do anything to fix things up.” I wanted to help her so I asked her out, but she refused. A few days later I met her by chance. From the distance she seemed to be pretty much unchanged, but on a closer look I was shocked to notice that her lips were busted and the skin around her eyes was purple; and no, that was not make-up. She explained that she had had a serious fight with her twin sister. The others believed her but I realized from the very first second that this was not what was actually going on. After hours and hours of talking she confessed that her boyfriend was the one who was hitting her. I asked her why she doesn’t break up with him and then call the police. With a sad smile in the corner of her mouth she said: “I love him. He is simply


33

Worldwide Focus Issue 2

everything to me, so I cannot help it but forgive him every time he does something wrong. I cannot see my life without him in it.” Well…Yes, indeed, men can be easily accused of being guilty of abusing their nature-given force over those who are weaker. But the women have their guilt, as well, because they accept being beaten by their men and don’t do anything about it.

“One in three women may suffer from abuse and violence in her lifetime. This is an appalling human rights violation, yet it remains one of the invisible and underrecognized pandemics of our time.” (Nicole Kidman)

Well…Yes, indeed, men can be easily accused of being guilty of abusing their nature-given force over those who are weaker. But the women have their guilt, as well, because they accept being beaten by their men and don’t do anything about it. However, not all of the men can be classified as abusers as not all of the women accept the victimization. Interrogating some men they said about men who hit women that: “Those men who hit women are not

men. They are irrational animals without self-control and education” or “Those who hit women are psychically unstable. They need to consume their energy and they do it by hitting those who are weaker.”


34

Eastern Europe

Text by Irene Chirtas › in Romania Photo: TheeErin (under Creative Commons)

Refuse the Abuse! Why do men do this? Why do they feel the need to intentionally diminish their “sweethearts”?

I work at a grocery store. Sometimes people, in need to talk to someone, tell me all sorts of thing. One day, a woman told me about her husband who was always telling her that she is useless, stupid, ugly, and so on. But in front of me I had a beautiful young woman, so his behaviour was difficult to understand. She also told me that she worked very hard as she alone was the financial support of the family. After this talk I started seeing examples of psychological abuse everywhere. The most beautiful girl in my class, Ana, blond, with amazing blue eyes, always fights with her boyfriend. Or, better said, he bullies her incessantly, makes a fool of her in front of the whole classroom. I asked her how she can stand this. “I still hoping that he will change. I feel affraid that if I leave him, I’ll be seen even worse. I’ ll be more intimidated than I am right now”, she said. A friend of hers told me: “We just like to tease her. I love to hurt and manipulate girls. It just makes me feel good”. All the girls that go through this, that love somebody that hurts them, began their relationships with the idea of finding a Prince Charming who will love and protect them no matter what, exactly like in the fairytalles. But somewhere along the way they got lost and settled


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Worldwide Focus Issue 2

Nobody can manipulate someone in a relationship. Two persons know very well what they are doing even if one complains more than another. And if they don’t know it, it’s because it doesn’t bother them. - Paulo Coelho

for the jerk who never calls back and treats them like objects. Why do men do this? Why do they feel the need to intentionally diminish their “sweethearts”? Recent studies reveal that “Men who assault their wives are actually living up to cultural prescriptions that are cherished in the Western society: aggressiveness, male dominance and female subordination’’. In other words, they just live up to the expectations. A man is supposed to be a man. Powerful, strong, dominating everything that surrounds him. It’s also a matter of education, in which family and society have the main roles. In a family where the father is treating his wife like a slave, the

children will grow up thinking that women are meant to be used as slaves. And in a society in which seeing pictures and videos of naked women is normal everywhere, teenage boys will automatically think that women exist only for sexual use. However, it seems that some women give as bad as they get. A study made by Hamel reveals that “men and women physically and emotionally abuse each other at equal rates”. Another boy I talked to agrees: ‘’Psychological abuse is forcing someone to belive what you want by blackmailing and manipulating, and women do it too. Men tend to use their physical force, this being something that women don’t normally have.” But here I

caught a difference: I don’t believe women find pleasure in seeing or making the loved one suffer. “Unlike men, women feel more. Men objectify everything, even a relationship’’, according to Snowee, my own desk mate. It’s hard to live with a person who humiliates you on a daily basis. However, apparently it is even harder to let go. A step forward would be to decide who is the most important: the person next to you or yourself.

‘’Never let the hand you hold, hold you down’’ (Author Unknown)


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Worldwide Focus - Violence against Women