Friday, 21 June 2013

The WHO stats tell us the extent of violence against women. Now what are we going to do about it?

(TW for violence against women and girls. If you need support, you can call the National Domestic Abuse helpline today 0808 2000 247)

It isn’t really a surprise to anyone involved in feminist activism that 1 in 3 women will experience violence in their lifetimes. 

But the data collected and reported on by WHO amply demonstrates what we have been saying for decades. Violence against women and girls is an epidemic that is ruining the health and leading to the deaths of millions and millions of women worldwide. 

As regular readers of my blog will know, I’m not a number cruncher. I am mathematically useless. So I will just reproduce some of the standout stats here, taken off the Guardian datablog report: 

35% of women worldwide have experienced violence
That figure falls to 30% when looking at intimate partner violence
38% of women homicide victims are killed by their partners

The lifetime prevalence of IPV/non-partner sexual violence among all women and girls 15 and over by WHO region is as follows:

Africa: 45.6
Americas: 36.1
Eastern Mediterranean: 36.4
Europe: 27.2
South-East Asia: 40.2
Western Pacific: 27.9
High income: 32.7

Please note: Europe in WHO regions applies to Europe’s low and middle-income countries. Countries like the UK and France are classed under the ‘high income’ category. 

Intimate partner violence:

Africa: 36.6
Americas: 29.8
Europe: 25.4
South-East Asia: 37.7
Western Pacific: 24.6
High income: 23.2

Non-partner violence:

Africa: 11.9
Americas: 10.7
Europe: 5.2
South-East Asia: 4.9
Western Pacific: 6.8
High income: 12.6

Does anyone know if this is just stranger attacks or also inter-family and acquaintance violence?

These numbers are shocking, but they’re not surprising

This week, we have seen what the response to violence against women and girls looks like in two high-income countries, including our own. 

The week started when images showed Charles Saatchi assaulting Nigella Lawson in a public place. A surprisingly high number of people asserted that this was a private affair – perpetuating the silencing around domestic abuse. 

Stuart Hall was sentenced to fifteen months for abusing thirteen girls – some as young as nine.  

A man in Texas shoots an escort dead after she refuses to have sex with him. He walks when the jury find in favour of the claim that her refusal constituted stolen property. 

A soldier in Swindon escapes jail time after assaulting a woman in a pub. He punched her in the face twice and dragged her through the pub by her hair, but because he showed remorse and was essential to his regiment he walked free. Apparently the judge felt this had all been a terrible ordeal for him

Julian Assange makes a statement about his self-imposed imprisonment in the Ecuadorian embassy and helpfully forgets to mention that Sweden wants to question him about sexual assault allegations prior to charging him, not extradite him to the USA.  

Two women will have been murdered in the UK as a result of domestic abuse this week, but the Government continues with its cuts to the services that could save these women’s lives. 

With the help of the SWP and Socialist Party, Unison voted against a motion to support women victims and survivors of male violence by promising to believe them

The USA agrees to peace talks with the Taliban. On news report after news report, what this means for the futures of Afghan women and girls is not discussed. No one seems to comment on whether this will automatically exclude women from the peace talks and what that means for women’s rights. 

Person turns up at my blog after searching for filmed real rape. Just added that one in there seeing as I just checked my traffic stats. 

Looking at the comments under the initial Guardian report on the WHO data, a lot of people tried to make the point that violence against women and girls is a problem in some cultures. That it’s to do with religion, or tribes. Of course, the data shows that there is more violence against women in certain regions. But it also shows that it is too, too high in every region of the world. 

The data and listed examples show quite clearly that violence against women and girls is not a respecter of class or race or religion or country or region. It happens across society, across the world, across cultures. It happens because in every region, in every country, in every sector of society, some men believe they have the right to abuse women. And it happens in every region, in every country, in every sector of society because our patriarchal culture tells those men who choose to abuse women that they do have that right. Our culture gives those men the green light to abuse. 

We give them the green light when we doubt women, and victim blame. We give them the green light when we say abusers are really good fathers, soldiers, community members. We give them the green light when we report men who murder their partners as being provoked by her behaviour – even when that behaviour is her leaving him because of his violence. We give them the green light when we hand down a longer sentence for stealing an ice cream than abusing girls. We give them the green light when we buy their records, when we watch their films. We give them the green light when ministers refuse to make sex education that includes consent and respect mandatory. We give them the green light when we laugh at rape jokes. We give them the green light when we close down refuges so women have no-where to go. We give them the green light when we say it’s a private matter between a man and his wife. We give them the green light when we refuse to face up to the reality of the extent of violence against women and girls. 

Sadly, as well as dismissing it as a problem for ‘over there’, many of the comments on the Guardian report simply didn’t believe the numbers at all, or asked what about the men, or continued to blame the women. The number of deleted comments was, quite frankly, both troubling and surreal in what it said about our attitudes towards the humanitarian tragedy that is gender-based violence. 

These numbers aren’t lying. 

1 in 3 women globally experiences violence in their lifetime. One sixth of the globe’s population are victims and survivors of violence committed against them because they are women. One third of murdered women are killed by their partners. Over one billion women will be beaten, raped, abused and assaulted for no other reason than because we are women. 

This isn’t the time to victim blame, to deny the numbers, to ask ‘what about…’ or to excuse and to minimise and to prevaricate. This is the time to take action.

This needs to change. This needs to stop now. It’s time to get angry. It’s time to challenge the universal culture that gives violent men the green light. It’s time to stop playing a blame game that tries to shift responsibility away from the perpetrators. It’s time for this to stop. 

National domestic abuse helpline: 0808 2000 247

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