This morning for two and a half hours, between 6:30 and 9am, ±80 women stood at a busy intersection in the pouring rain holding the news headlines that society sees, but doesn’t SEE…
Yesterday was Human Rights Day in South Africa, and yesterday, like every other day, 360 women were the victims of abuse. What about the rights of women, the right to safety, the right to dignity, the right to not exist in a state of constant fear and vigilance?
So, armed with a paper (thedailyabuse.co.za) filled with 360 stories of abuse and ±80 women standing in solidarity against this daily abuse, we are calling for an end to these daily headlines. We are calling for human rights to be honoured equally, women’s rights need to be protected.
This was the article I wrote for the newspaper:
The hidden cost of intimate partner and sexual violence against women
Year after year, article after article, report after report we hear about the rampant violence against women in South Africa, but year after year, report after report the stats don’t improve. Taking the emotion out of this topic is seemingly impossible, but it has become necessary because appealing to society’s heart is not provoking the change required to end this behavior. So, perhaps we need to appeal to society’s head and their wallet.
Simply put, this behavior has a ripple effect on many aspects of our country. Violence against women is no longer just unconscionable, it is illogical.
Obviously, the ‘cost’ of violence against women is most profoundly felt by the women themselves, but there is a societal and economic ‘cost’ felt by the country as a whole. According to a report by World Health Organisation released in 2010, this relationship has been recorded around the world in numerous countries.
There is a ‘cost’ associated with the overall burden of disease a country experiences. A study conducted in Victoria, Australia estimated that among women 18-44 years of age, intimate partner violence was associated with 7% of the overall burden of disease (Vos et al., 2006).
Another ‘cost’ is a debt that the next generation will be required to pay, as studies have shown that “children from households where abuse is present may exhibit increased rates of behavioural and emotional problems that can result in increased difficulties with education and employment, often leading to early school drop-out, youth offending and early pregnancy”, (Anda et al.,2001; Dube et al., 2002).
Research has further found that there is a hard ‘cost” associated with intimate partner and sexual violence against women, as it has a significant adverse impact on a country’s economy. In the United Kingdom, one analysis estimated its annual cost to the economy in England and Wales was approximately £22.9 billion (Walby, 2004).
Another causal effect of intimate partner and sexual abuse is it link to increased risk of HIV in victims of abuse. Studies from several countries have found that there is increasing evidence that HIV risk is linked to lifetime exposure to violence in complex ways (Campbell et al., 2008). Violence and gender inequality are more likely to increase HIV risk through indirect pathways, like a woman’s ability to negotiate for contraception use.
We as South Africans need to ask ourselves; “Is this ‘cost’ worth it?”.
This ‘cost’ buys us a society that maintains a patriarchal or male dominated structure. A society where power hierarchies are created which place men as economically and religiously superior, and of higher social status compared to women (Ali & Bustamante-Gavino, 2008). As such men are socialized to believe they are superior to women, that they should dominate their partners and endorse traditional gender roles.
In this society women’s subordination and submission is then considered normal, expected, accepted and even attractive (Russo & Pirlott, 2006). A society where men have economic and decision-making power and women do not. A society where the community in which a woman lives does not sanction intimate partner and sexual violence. In this society women are likely trying to change their status, trying to uplift themselves and trying to be seen as equal to their male counterparts. In this society, this kind of gender transition is viewed as incredibly threatening, redressing the status quo will not be tolerated.
This is the type of society that that turns a blind eye to violence against women. A society made up of communities that do not protect their women, that seemingly accepts this ‘costly’ behavior. A society where women are starting to fight for a transition in their status, starting to fight for equality, only to be beaten back down.
A society that believes women are inferior and as such men have the right to use violence and sexual abuse to exercise their superiority and power over them. A society that legitimizes intimate partner and sexual abuse.
South Africa we must ask ourselves; ”What type of society do we want to be?”.
And, ”Is this society worth the cost?”.