A glance at the world’s news headlines will tell you all about today’s military wars, terrorist attacks, and territorial disputes. But there is an oft forgotten war occurring everywhere in the world and at all times; the war in our homes.
To paraphrase a worker at Vancouver’s Rape Relief & Women's Shelter: no country in the world, developed or developing, is exempt from the otherwise ordinary men who beat their wives or lovers.
I recently attended a discussion panel consisting of professors and women’s activists at my university addressing this very issue. The panel was set up in response to a case of domestic violence against one of our international graduate students, Ramuna Monzur.
In a visit back to her home in Bangladesh, her husband brutally attacked her in front of her daughter; she was left hospitalized and hurt in many heartbreaking ways. Rumana Monzur, by publicly seeking justice, has garnered much international media attention for the unheard victims of domestic violence.
The panel was quick to dispel any myths that domestic violence is contained to developing countries like Bangladesh. In my own country of Canada--where we pride ourselves in gender equality--violence and sexual violence against women is prevalent and largely goes unreported.
The problem is of course exacerbated in many developing nations.
There is a common notion that lack of economic development causes domestic violence, as insinuated on one of the World Bank’s own webpages: “An increase in poverty, unemployment, stress, and frustration among men leads to a rise in marital disagreements and domestic violence.”
While this is likely true, the panel decided it was wrong to view economic development issues as causes of domestic violence. Domestic violence is a reflection of attitudes engrained in all cultural systems of the world that view women as lesser human beings. This is why rich men, and men in developed countries, still beat their wives and lovers.
Therefore, developmental efforts to reduce domestic violence should not focus on alleviating men’s frustrations, but on empowering women.
Rumana Monzur came to Canada to advance her education, and her right to education was challenged by her husband through violence. The global epidemic of domestic violence will not end until societies proactively support women in their life endeavours.