Op-Ed: Will It Ever Be the “Year of the Woman”?

931 words | 4 page(s)

Although undoubtedly, women have made tremendous gains in many areas in most societies, when it comes to violence against females, there is still a tremendous amount of work to do. Yes, in certain countries women have been elected to the highest offices, wages for women, although still below those of men, have been climbing, and there are more opportunities available to women in many arenas. Still, although some have labeled 2014 another “Year of the Woman”, sadly, in many countries globally, violence against women continues to be acceptable as well as sanctioned. As long as “honor killings” go unpunished, human trafficking persists without penalty, and girls are prevented from attending school, it is impossible to consider any year “The Year of the Woman”.

Around the world, women continue to be beaten, raped, mutilated, and murdered without consequence. Even though having a life that is free from violence is a human right to all, millions of women and girls suffer disproportionately from violence during times of both war and peace; women are attacked at the hands of the state; in the home, and in their communities (Violence against Women, 2013.) According to the World Health Organization, violence against women and specifically, between intimate partners, represents significant public health problems as well as constituting the violation of the human rights of women (World Health Organization, 2013.) More than one third of women globally have reportedly experienced either violence from their significant partner or sexual violence from non-partners during their lifetimes. Specifically, violence against women occurs most often between women and their significant others, with nearly 1/3 of them acknowledging that they have been physically or sexually assaulted by their partner at one point or another. Worldwide, nearly 40% of the murders of women are committed by their intimate partners (World Health Organization, 2013.) Many of these deaths occur under the guise of “honor killings,” in which family members, males and females, literally murder their loved one because of some alleged infraction of cultural norms such as an unmarried female associating with a nonrelative male, or a married female associating with a man who is not her partner. In these situations, families are encouraged, indeed at times applauded, for restoring honor to their families by killing the offending female. As long as murdering women is considered honorable, the plight of women in society will continue to be dangerous and damaging.

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Why does such violence continue despite the expressed goal of equal rights with men in many if not most nations in the world? As long as governments and societies fail to recognize that women have human rights, and global cultures discriminate, the result has been validating the handing over of the bodies of females in order to satisfy individuals or political purposes. If women truly had equality with men, they would not have to confront persecution that is gender specific such as genital mutilation, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, and domestic violence (Violence against Women, 2013.)

The fact is that violence against women is preventable. No magical cure will completely eliminate the problem immediately, but there are a range of solutions that include such issues as income, education, health, and laws that can have a tremendous effect on violence against women. The first step is to acknowledge universally that abusive behavior towards women is unacceptable (ICRW.org, 2010.) This message must be conveyed by individuals as well as communities, all of which must become involved in developing realistic solutions to violence against women. Additionally, support to victims must be provided on a universal basis. It is also essential that men be involved in the process as well, in the role of standing alongside women in a determined effort to put an end to violence.

The campaign to involve men and boys in working against accepting and committing violent acts against women makes sense, because all over the world, males continue to have more power than females, whether it is in parliaments, on playgrounds, at home, in school, and in the workplace (Violence against Women: Engaging Men and Boys, 2010.) In many nations, men also make the decisions about when and whether women should have the ability to act in ways that will enhance their well-being in addition to that of their loved ones. As long as the power dynamics in relationships remains so unequal, and cultural expectations that reinforce inequality between genders are in place, in reality men as well as boys are more susceptible to harm. For example, in certain cultures that applaud men being promiscuous, the men are vulnerable to developing sexually transmitted diseases such as HPV (human papilloma virus) and HIV.

If the fate of women is to significantly improve from a health, economic, and social perspective, men must absolutely become involved in these efforts. In many societies, there is a complete lack of understanding on the part of men and women about how the behavior and attitudes of the males significantly limit the lives of the women that they say they love. To mobilize men into acting in ways that will benefit the females in their lives, it would make a great deal of sense to teach men how they are advantaged by changing their behavior towards the women in their lives. Making significant transformations to reduce violence against women must involve an overhaul of the beliefs of both men and women about the roles that they play in their families and communities. It is not too late to make 2014–or at least, 2015–truly the Year of the Woman if there is to be active involvement and commitment to achieve true equality between the sexes by reducing violence against women.

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