The communities of Choloma, La Ceiba and el Progreso in Honduras all had one question in common: "When can we get started?"
"We want solutions that work and we want them now," said a community leader from La Ceiba during a meeting with national and international experts on the adaptation of an evidence-based intervention to Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) in Honduras. La Ceiba is one of the cities most affected by violence in Honduras, which has the highest homicide rate in the world at 90.4 deaths/100,000 people. More specifically, rates of violence targeted towards women and girls are also alarmingly high:
A total of 27% of women aged 15-49 have experienced physical violence since the age of 15; some regions have rates up to 40%.
Violence against women is a pervasive issue in Pakistan. The problem manifests itself in many ways, most of them extreme: honor killing, spousal abuse including marital rape, acid attacks, being burned by family members, attempted murder at the hands of husband or in-laws, or even driving a woman to suicide. According to the latest Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) in the country, 32% of ever married women aged 15-49 years report having experienced physical violence at the hands of their spouses, and 1 in 10 women reported experiencing violence during pregnancy.
However, violence against women goes beyond physical intimate-partner violence. As an example, a study based on face-to-face interviews with 759 women in Karachi found that 82% of married women aged 25-60 years had experienced some form of psychological abuse. Another smaller survey of 176 married men 18 years or older in age and from different socio-economic backgrounds in Karachi found that 95% reported perpetrating some type of verbal abuse during their marital life. strict rules about how men and boys should behave, including protecting honor, and an adult male can never be questioned or ordered to do anything. A woman’s behavior is also strongly linked to honor. When a woman challenges her traditional role, or is perceived to step outside the lines, honor may be threatened. The drive to preserve honor can be so strong that it has resulted in some of the most heinous crimes against women ever committed in Pakistan.
In Jamaica, widespread violence constitutes a serious development challenge that affects men and women across generations. Young men and women are particularly at risk of experiencing violence, albeit in different forms and for different reasons.
For young women, sexual violence is a particular concern: 12% of women report having been forced to have sexual intercourse at some point in their lives, and nearly half of Jamaican women report that their first sexual intercourse was coerced in some way, e.g. through violence, threats, verbal insistence, deception, cultural expectations or economic circumstance (see Jamaica Reproductive Health Survey 2008-2009 for additional data) In line with global trends, Jamaican women who are sexually assaulted are likely to know their aggressors; 85% of young women who experienced forced first sexual relations reported that the perpetrator was a boyfriend.
Like their victims, perpetrators of sexual violence are also young. Official crime statistics show that 57% of perpetrators arrested for rape in 2007 were young males between 16 and 30 years of age, with the highest rates among 16-20 year olds. Similarly, the largest share of persons arrested for other forms of sexual violence in 2007 were males between 16 and 25 years.
How can we explain the high incidence of sexual violence among Jamaican youth?
Through the World Bank’s NextGENDERation Initiative, we have sought to understand whether and how social and gender norms shape youth decision-making and behaviors relating to violence. By listening to young people through focus groups, social media outreach as well as school and community-based engagements, our team has been able to gain more insight into the drivers and triggers of sexual violence among youth, and to provide them with a space to think critically about how gender roles and stereotypes affect their attitudes and actions with regard to dating, relationships and sex.
Violence against Egyptian women has received extensive coverage in the newspapers, accompanied by numerous online testimonials. Without looking too closely at the headlines, the sheer volume of stories might have led a casual observes to believe that the media had taken a keen interest in observing the everyday life of Egypt’s street children. In fact, one would have been justified in concluding that there was now an acknowledgement of the prevalence and near normality of sexual violence that very young children live through in towns and cities here every night.
Today, November 25, is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. According to the United Nations, more than a third of women and girls worldwide experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. In some countries the proportion is at two thirds. More than 130 million girls and women have undergone female genital mutilation. Child marriage is even more pervasive, with 700 million women living today who married as children. In Africa and South Asia, close to half of girls still marry before the age of 18. These practices are declining, but only slowly.
“Despite all the work that we have been doing, the number of women reporting domestic violence cases has been increasing,” one of the participants in a workshop of the Safer Municipalities project said, expressing his frustration. The Safer Municipalities project is an initiative of the Government of Honduras aimed at preventing violence nationwide. He added, “There must be something missing in the services and referral system we offer for domestic violence in the Municipal Office for Women.”
As the facilitators of the workshop discussion, we replied that quite the opposite was true: an increase in the reporting of domestic violence cases is a positive sign that there is growing confidence in local institutions and a result of the Municipal Office’s efforts. The challenge, we explained, is to address the causes of violence to better support prevention efforts and improve services and response systems.
For nearly a month, I have not read a single newspaper without an article on the harassment of women in the public space and transport. In newspaper articles across the world, there is a brewing sentiment echoing the story of violence that a woman recently faced on a bus in Delhi.