Gender-Based Violence - A Humanitarian Crisis



Gender-based violence is one of the most significant abuses of justice in any culture, and it is a problem profoundly embedded in gender inequality. Women and men both suffer from gender discrimination, but women and girls constitute the bulk of the victims. The phrases “gender abuse” and “violence against women” are often used interchangeably, since the bulk of gender violence is prevalent against women, by, more often than not, men. Nevertheless, it is important to use the component of gender when it comes to a discussion of violence based on sex, as it underlines the idea that certain aspects of violence against women are embedded in differences of authority between women and men.

Crimes like these may be committed in the form of rapes and incestual acts, sexual assault in or at work, brutality against female migrants, trafficking of women and girls, sexual exploitation against women inmates or prisoners, conventional and domestic violence.

In a report[1] by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on 25th November, 2017, shows that one in every three women has been beaten, raped, or mishandled in some way — often by somebody she knows.


Ways in Which a Woman has Her Rights Violated

  1. Acts of violence against her by an intimate partner - One in every three women, all across the world has been a victim of some form of sexual or physical violence. A majority of the time, it was caused by a partner.[2] Many national statistics indicate that up to 70% of women have suffered in their lives from intimate relationship physical and/or sexual harassment.[3] UNICEF estimates that around 15 million teenage girls worldwide (15 to 19 years of age) have sometimes experienced coercive sex in their lives. These victims also suffer from severe mental health red flags, like depression, PTSD, and so on.[4]


  1. Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting - This is the practice in many cultures, that involves the removal of the external genital parts of a girl and the cutting of it, for reasons not medical. On average, it happens to girls between their birth till they turn 15 years old. There are various types of FGM - most common is the partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora. This tradition is not based on religious practices and is not medically beneficial. This can lead to physical and emotional damage that lasts for a lifetime.[5]

  2. Child Marriage - A form of extremely traumatising and dangerous forms of violence, child marriage is not as uncommon as one might think. In the past decade, 25 million marriages have been stopped, but by 2030 more than 150 million girls are predicted to be forcefully married[6]. 12 million girls are marrying every year prior to their 18th birthday[7]. Child brides have a greater danger than girls of the same age who later marry when it comes to intimate partner abuse. Child brides, unfortunately, face a greater risk of death due to complications arising in childbirth. Overall, pregnancy and birth defects are the leading cause of death for girls aged 15 to 19 years. Girls also are highly vulnerable to pregnancy-related complications, including obstetric fistulation, due to early births caused by child marriage.[8]

  3. Human Trafficking - Women and girls face a heightened risk of human trafficking while living in vulnerable and humanitarian environments and in forced migration. The Sex Trafficking Survey of 2016 reveals that 71% of all trafficked women and girls worldwide. Sexual trafficking accounts for 75% of trafficked women and girls.[9]

  4. Economic Inequality - Women's desire to provide full access to schooling, jobs and public life has a detrimental effect on violence toward women and children. Abuse impacts the right of women to livelihood severely. Men are estimated to have 60% fewer than women in institutional pay for jobs subject to extreme partner abuse.[10]



Important Factors that Aid in Promoting Gender-Based Violence

  1. Toxic Gender Norms - Gender stereotypes that are commonly used to promote women's abuse. Cultural traditions also expect men to be violent, handle and prevail while women are docile, subordinate and reliant on men as suppliers. These norms will encourage a culture of violence that is completely obsolete and dangerous, including early and compulsory marriage, genital and virginity mutilation of women. For example, 4 out of five are women and children out of 5,6 million people who left Syria for neighbouring countries. Surveys report that men who believe it is up to them but cannot find the resources, frequently use gender-based abuse. They feel it is their duty to help their families.[11]

  2. Hunger - Much as inspiring women will contribute to poverty reduction, food shortages also lead to more sex-based violence. The continuing food crisis has only exacerbated the state in Malawi, where 61% of women and girls reported sexual harassment, and 64% reported physical abuse for 2013. Extremely early and more forced marriages occur between women and girls as families attempt to pay for dowries and reduce their food bill. Women can need to sell sex to survive, and money shortages may lead to violence and heightened conflict within communities. Although the latest Marriage Act in Malawi raises the minimum legal age of marriage to 18, in fact, that's not always the case.[12]

  3. War and Conflict - Forced marriage is not only a result of drought but has also produced more children's brides in war areas. Since the beginning of the crisis, child marriage has risen as parents hope for their daughters' care by marriage. [13]These pessimistic coping strategies are all about Syrian family members' urgent solutions to desperate circumstances in the expectation that the welfare and financial stability of their daughter is assured and the stress on the family is minimised.[14]


Acts of Violence Against the Queer Community

In a shocking experience that happened in Kolkata, West Bengal, in July 2020, Sanjit Mondal, who identifies as a gay man, was assaulted by the police.

In an interview with Mumbai Mirror[15], Mondal recounts the humiliating experience he was made to endure. He had been on the way home when he was ambushed by 6-7 policemen near the Chinar Park area. They had shown proof of identity and had pushed him on the motorbike of another policeman, taking him to Narayanpur Police Station. They proceeded to physically torture him, and verbally abused him with slurs like “chakkha” because of his feminine appearance. They also confiscated his phone and went through his gallery and mocked him - simply because he was gay. They refused to tell him for what crime he had been brought to the police station - and even if he was tortured, Mondal had refused to falsely confess to a crime that he had not committed.

Mondal insists he was never locked up during his more than 12-hour ordeal at the police station. He was held in a vacant room, instead.

Unable to contact his parents because of their intolerance, Mondal finally contacted his sister after 12 hours of interrogation and got a lawyer to bail him out. He was threatened by the police that if he did not “start behaving like a man” they would torture him and feed his to a crocodile. When the journalists contacted the police for the reason of the arrest, they stated that Mondal had been causing some form of “nuisance”. No further explanation was given.

In an excerpt from an article that covers Mondal’s story[16] -

“It’s a regular tactic of harassment that happens throughout the country with people who are perceived to be gay or trans, or even sex workers who are just doing their jobs,” says Chandni Chawla, a lawyer in Bombay high court who has worked extensively on gender justice.

Talking about Mondal’s case, she says that when Section 377 was read down, such instances of abuse were highlighted in the Supreme Court judgment and it is unfortunate that this continues. “It is very insensitive. Also, what are you going to charge this person with? On what basis do you think he has solicited? There has to be some concrete proof.”

It is disheartening to see cases like these - people being discriminatory towards individuals simply because they did not conform to the heteronormative structure of the society that everybody was accustomed to. A case like Mondal’s is, by no means, new news, even in an India where it is perfectly legal to be a gay man.

Conclusion

In a world where men feel pressured to be the sole caregiver of the family, where being a “macho man” is preferred over being kind and understanding, we see an overwhelming amount of hurt and grief that the victim undergoes - more often than not delivered by someone they knew and trusted.

Often victims feel scared to come out and talk to the concerned authorities, simply because they fear what society would speak of them, despite there being legal provisions to protect the victims - POCSO Act, Domestic Violence Act, and so on.

Violence based on gender is a representation and affirmation of gender discrimination and threatens the safety, protection and autonomy of its victims. Gender-based violence It includes a wide spectrum of human rights abuses such as child sexual assault, rape, home violence, physical abuse and intimidation, women's and girl trafficking and a host of negative customary practises.

Any violation of these will result in deep emotional wounds, harm to the general well-being of women and girls including their sexual and reproductive wellbeing, and death in some cases. Violence toward women is regarded as 'the most insidious and the least renowned human rights violation on earth and is evidence of the tradition of the disjunct dominance of men and women which has culminated in the superiority and inequity of men over women and a hindrance to the full advancement of women.

Hence, in order to curb and keep cases like these in control - the biggest tool one can possess is education and equal opportunities for all genders.

[1] Violence Against Women, World Health Organisation, who.int, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/violence-against-women (last visited Jan 3, 2021) [2] Violence Against Women, Chapter 6, https://unstats.un.org/unsd/gender/chapter6/chapter6.html (Last visited Jan 4 2021) [3] Ending Violence against Women, Global Database on Violence Against Women, https://evaw-global-database.unwomen.org/en (last visited Jan 4 2021) [4] Supra note 1. [5] What is FMG?, End FMG, https://www.endfgm.eu/female-genital-mutilation/what-is-fgm/ (last visited Jan 4 2021) [6] 25 million child marriages prevented in last decade due to accelerated progress, according to new UNICEF estimates, https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/25-million-child-marriages-prevented-last-decade-due-accelerated-progress-according (last visited Jan 4 2021) [7] https://www.girlsnotbrides.org/about-child-marriage/ (last visited Jan 4 2021) [8] Adolescent Pregnancy, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/adolescent-pregnancy (last visited Jan 4 2021) [9] Global Report of Trafficking in Persons 2016, https://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/glotip/2016_Global_Report_on_Trafficking_in_Persons.pdf (Last visited Jan 4 2021) [10] Ending Violence Against Women and Girls, https://www.womankind.org.uk/what-we-do/violence-against-women-and-girls/ (last visited Jan 4 2021) [11] Olivia Giovetti, 3 Causes of Gender-Based Violence, https://www.concernusa.org/story/causes-of-gender-based-violence/ (Last visited Jan 4 2021) [12] Ibid. [13] https://www.girlsnotbrides.org/syria-child-marriage-humanitarian-crisis/ (Last visited Jan 4 2021) [14] Supra note 11. [15] Jayatri Nag, Even after Supreme Court’s judgment on Section 377, violenceagainst queer individuals continues, Mumbai Mirror, https://mumbaimirror.indiatimes.com/news/india/even-after-supreme-courts-judgment-on-section-377-violence-against-queer-individuals-continues/articleshow/77171267.cms (last visited Jan 4 2021 [16] https://thewire.in/lgbtqia/police-violence-against-lgtbqia-people-in-kolkata-highlights-need-for-sensitisation (last visited Jan 4 2021)


Submitted by,

Medha Mukherjee,

Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad.