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close this bookUnderstanding Violence Against Women - A Guide for Media (CMFR - UNFPA, 1998, 31 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentData Card
View the documentI. Women’s Rights are Human Rights: Understanding Violence against Women
View the documentII. Sexism Kills
View the documentIII. Understanding Rape
View the documentIV. Understanding Victimization
View the documentV. The Political Aspect
View the documentVI. The Role of the Media
View the documentVII. Guidelines on the Coverage of Crimes Against Women and Minors
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V. The Political Aspect

VAW is not a function only of personal or cultural relations, but also of politics and power. It is the result of the structural relationships of power, domination and privilege between men and women in society. Violence against women is central to maintaining those political relations at home, at work, and in all public spheres.

Failure to see the oppression of women as political also results in the exclusion of sex discrimination and violence against women from the human rights agenda. Female subordination runs so deep that it is still viewed as inevitable or natural, rather than as a politically constructed reality maintained by patriarchal interests, ideology, and institutions.

Is male violation of women inevitable or natural? Such a belief requires a narrow and pessimistic view of men. If violence and domination are understood as a politically constructed reality, it is possible to imagine deconstructing that system and building more just interactions between the sexes.

A male writer explains how boys are brought up into a culture of violence and domination:

“Why do men batter women? We have to discard the easy answers. Portraying batterers as ogres only serves to separate ‘them from ‘us.’ But men who batter and men who don’t are not all that different. Male violence is normal in our society and vast numbers of men participate. Men batter because we have been trained to; because there are few social sanctions against it; because we live in a society where the exploitation of people with less social and personal power is acceptable. In a patriarchal society, boys are taught to accept violence as a manly response to real or imagined threats, but they get little training in negotiating intimate relationships. And all too many men believe that they have the right to control or expect certain behavior from ‘their’ women and children; many view difficulties in family relationships as a threat to their manhood, and they respond with violence (“Men Changing Men,” by Robert L. Allen and Paul Kivel, Women in Action).

Though VAW affects women as individuals, it also has implications on overall development goals. The current definition of development is that it is “a process of enlarging people’s choices.” Fundamental to ensuring that women become active partners in development with men must be increasing their self-confidence and their ability to participate in all aspects of society by making available real choices to them on what they are to do with their lives.

Violence against women is in direct contradiction to these development goals. It disrupts women’s lives and denies them options. It undermines women’s confidence and sense of self-esteem at every level, physically and psychologically; and it destroys women’s health, denies their human rights, and undermines their full participation in society.

Where domestic violence keeps a woman from participating in a development project, force is used to deprive her of earnings, or fear of sexual assault prevents her from taking a job or attending a public function, development does not occur.

VAW deprives society of the full participation of women in all aspects of development. The development community has come to realize that problems such as high fertility, deforestation and hunger cannot be solved without women’s full participation. Yet women cannot lend their labor or creative ideas fully to the work of building society when they are burdened with the physical and psychological scars of violence or the threat of it.

VAW also has its economic costs. The loss of time and opportunity resulting from the consequences of violence, including emergency care, hospitalization, loss of livelihood and mental and physical deterioration involves not only the victims, but the work time of the police and authorities, and others in the legal, medical, mental health and social services communities.

Violence in an environment where public safety measures are inadequate and public transport unprotected, severely limits women’s integration into the paid work force.

VAW denies developing countries the full talents of their women. Control and violence by male relatives can lead some of the best educated women to leave their countries, contributing to the brain drain in the Third World, and to the loss of highly skilled women in the development process. Though no scientific studies have been made yet, anecdotal evidence indicates that many educated Filipinas with families choose to work as domestics abroad partly to escape an abusive relationship, allowing them to leave spouse and children without being condemned for it.