International Women’s Day is marked every year on March 8. Today, women are no longer the frail, vulnerable gender of our species. They have proved themselves in every field. Yet cases of physical abuse of women still occur, in both poor as well as affluent families, the world over.
Gender-based violence is the violence perpetuated towards an individual based on gender. Mostly, women are the victims of gender-based violence, though in exceptional cases it can be other way around.
“Male ego” is the first reason for gender-based violence. Traditionally, men have been considered superior to women, though the superiority is only natural physical strength. Because of this, some men regard themselves as ‘superior’ and do not hesitate to use physical force on women, for different reasons.
In spite of being educated, some men remain orthodox in their outlook towards women. Today, women are also getting educated and pursuing careers equal to men. But some men see the progress of their wives as violation of their superiority and do not hesitate to inflict violence on them at the slightest excuse to ensure their subordination.
For some men, wives are soft targets to beat at home to leash out their frustrations at work place. Sadist attitude, psychiatric problems and alcoholism are other causes of gender-based violence.
Violence heaped upon women may not be in a physical form, it can be of words also. Using abusive language, threatening and constant nagging is also a form of violence inflicted on women at home.
Gender-based violence harms the individual concerned and also spoils the peace and tranquility of any home. Some women suffer in silence, which breaks them physically and mentally over a period of time. Those who retaliate suffer more violence. Women who resort to legal action often end up with a broken home. Children in such homes are usually silent sufferers as they watch the situation helplessly.
Women who face domestic violence feel trapped. They usually do not report the matter for various reasons. Spoiling the reputation of a husband and family, losing security provided by the husband, causing distress to own parents, and etcetera, are various reasons why women avoid reporting violence inflicted on them by their spouses. There are very few cases which come into light. They can be said to be tip of the iceberg.
Gender-based violence needs to be remedied not only in individual cases but in society as a whole. Religious and social leaders, social workers, all who have the potential to influence society members should educate people extensively about the ills of GBV. Men need to understand that though they are physically superior, women are equally important members of the household, society and need to be cherished and respected. They should know that harmony and happiness in the home depends on both partners, which is violated when violence is used against wives. A total change of attitude in men is what is needed to stop violence against women.
Those with a short temper should learn to tame their minds and temper. They need to realise that unreasonable anger and violence over petty issues is a cause for marital disharmony.
Medical treatment would be useful for the people suffering from mental perversions, alcoholism and other psychiatric problems.
Government of Rwanda has done appreciable work regarding creating awareness on and curbing gender-based violence.
If in spite of counselling and education somebody does not refrain from inflicting violence, women should not hesitate to seek help from concerned authorities. After all, it is an issue of their own safety and welfare which should not be ignored.
Dr Rachna Pande, Specialist, internal medicine