Gender based violence as a public health issue

Published : 9:42 am  March 9, 2015 | No comments so far |  | 

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Gender-based violence (GBV) is violence that is directed against a person on the basis of gender.
 
It constitutes a breach of fundamental right to life, liberty and security, equality between women and men, non-discrimination and physical and mental integrity. GBV also reflects and reinforces inequalities between men and women.
 
Violence against women is nothing new to Sri Lanka. Over the years we have heard of rape, murder, imprisonment and even the execution of women. This ultimately affects them sexually, physically and even emotionally. Why such harsh treatment prevail on women is a question that has been waiting for an answer.
 
At the onset of the International Women’s Day, Rajarata University Lecturer in Applied Sciences and Mel Medura Executive Consultant Dr. Manoj Fernando spoke to the Dailymirror  on his views about GBV and what should be done to even out these issues in future.


The perception of gender and sex

“There is a huge difference between gender and sex. Gender is a socially constructed role whereas sex is biologically defined,” Dr. Fernando said.
 
“You cannot change the sex because it is genetic. When it comes to gender there are many differences between men and women and they also bear a certain number of responsibilities. This issue is mostly prevalent in countries like Sri Lanka because women suffer more than men. Due to these socially constructed roles women face many issues which will affect them socially, emotionally and personally. For this kind of treatments to take place there are many causative factors.”

 


 

Causative factors

“Socially constructed gender roles are one important contributor to GBV. Certain roles are not harmful but they all add to GBV. If your partner or husband beat a woman, she is not allowed to report it. This is because of what society has put them to this situation. Therefore women have to live with it.”
 
“Next are the male-dominant societies, because men remain a supra-power. Therefore they become the decision-makers, breadwinners at home and move on to decide what is best for their children.

 
“All resources of a family are owned by a man. Even if the husband is away from home or even if he is a drunkard he still remains the breadwinner. When you take an electoral list many of them are males.

 
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“Biological differences between men and women are also an added contributor. Physically women are powerless and their physical bodies are perceived as weaker than those of men. Therefore men don’t worry about beating women. Society has made them powerless and therefore women too believe they are powerless. Especially in their married life they have to look after their kids and when taking a decision they have to think about many issues. Media too play an important role in this. The male gender is always expressed as powerful and the females are sexually highlighted.
 
“There is also a lack of response coming from people around us. They are not bothered and they think it’s is not there business. This ensures that the perpetrators are safe and therefore they are no longer worried.
“Take for example a woman travelling in a bus. She is highly likely to be harassed but at this moment she will be helpless. It is very difficult for them to work against this situation. But if at least half of the people can look at her, help her out, report the perpetrators and act wisely, this situation could have changed.
“There is a problem about victimization as well. Girls are harassed because of their weaknesses. Sometimes their dress or behaviour may provoke harassment. The perpetrators look at these factors and say that these are the reasons why they harassed the women.

 
“Whatever the dress there is always some kind of harassment and therefore women also should know their limits. They should know how to behave. Some husbands hit their wives because they say that they talk loud, don’t work properly at home, don’t cook properly and such simple factors.”

 

” In order to assist these victims, the Mithuru Piyasa concept was initiated by the Ministry of Health where its prime aim is to provide consultancy services for women and under-aged children who were subject to sexual abuse. It has been established in affiliation with the Castle hospital. After an incident of rape we should make sure that the survivor doesn’t end up getting pregnant or get a sexually transmitted disease (STD) “

 


The health impact

Moving on to speak about the health impact of GBV, he said that the GBV had also become a public health issue.
“It is alarmingly high in Sri Lanka and also the number of deaths associated with it. Pregnant women are killed by their husbands. Also we see many women being subjected to injuries and even incidents such as acid-throwing.
“Therefore there are many health problems. This also affects maternal health and also the health of children. During the pregnancy period when women are being ill-treated the growth of the child will be affected. There will be many complications such as low birth weight. Children who observe GBV at home will be under-developed and will have many problems emotionally and physically.

 
“The first three years of their childhood is very important. If they are neglected they will develop abnormally because their mothers may be hospitalized and therefore they will be malnourished.

 
Also there are emotional problems that need to be addressed. When the wife is being hit she will live with fear and this is not good for her psychological well-being. Some depressed women end up committing suicide and depression also leads to other psychiatric diseases. They will have a loss of hope, they will be insomnia and low self-esteem.”

 


What are the remedies?

“Prevention is the first of all solutions,”he said.
 
“Yet this should start from reporting such cases as and when it happens. Due to the lack of reporting these cases get swept under the carpet and as a result GBV remains to be a growing social problem.
 
“Also those around us should start responding to such incidents. Then only would the perpetrators know of the gravity of the situation. Another aspect of prevention is comprehensive management. Here the survivors have to manage their comprehensiveness and we have to identify them properly. Some of them may have lost hope and therefore the mental health needs to be strengthened.”
 
“Then we should also aim at managing the survivors of GBV. We need to treat them effectively and give them the best possible solution. In order to assist these victims, the Mithuru Piyasa concept was initiated by the Ministry of Health where its prime aim was to provide consultancy services for women and under-aged children who were subject to sexual abuse.
 
“It has been established in affiliation with the Castle hospital. After an incident of rape we should make sure that the survivor doesn’t end up getting pregnant or get a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
“Policy and legislation issues also prevail. We need to make sure that these policies are effective in order to prevent GBV. It is our responsibility to address these issues of harassment of women in public transport, in the workplace and so on. These policies should also be implemented in order to make them effective and not just be confined to papers.
 
“The other factor is women’s empowerment. You cannot address all these problems unless you empower them. These gender-based issues emerge in all societies. Therefore there need to be programs in schools and also societal changes are a must. Certain gender norms are exercised in society and it has been confirmed by the WHO that one out of every three married women is subjected to physical assault by their partner or husband.
“On a concluding remark, Dr. Manoj Fernando said, “the time has come for all of us to get together and eradicate this issue. Moreover, these issues need to be addressed constantly and not only during the onset of IWD. Then only will these perpetrators have no ‘easy way out’.”
 

“Above all, be the heroine of your life,  not the victim.”
                                                                                          Nora Ephron.

 

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