Good policy starts with good data, which is why the work of Together for Girls (TfG) begins with nationally representative Violence Against Children Surveys (VACS), led by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as part of the TfG partnership. The VACS generate data on prevalence and incidence of physical, sexual, and emotional violence as well as risk and protective factors, consequences of violence, and access to services. VACS have generated data for almost 10% of the world’s youth population (aged 13–24). VACS data catalyzes and informs national action to prevent and respond to violence. With strong data to guide the way, national governments lead the development and implementation of a comprehensive multi-sector policy and programmatic response to violence against children (VAC).
16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence
In order to raise public awareness about violence against women and girls around the world, in 2008 the United Nations Secretary-General launched the UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign, with the objective to bring together a number of agencies committed to end violence against women and girls.
Gender based violence is a human rights violation that needs to be rooted out. “In 2012, 1 in 2 women killed worldwide were killed by their partners or family. Only 1 out of 20 of all men killed were killed in such circumstances” – reports UN Women, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. In order to reach the new Sustainable Development Goals, violence against women and girls needs to be at the forefront of the global agenda.
Leading up to the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (November 25), UN Women Pakistan published a powerful campaign video focusing on women’s rights.
This powerful video showcases a woman daring a man to beat her at things she is good at. It as an unusual campaign video, with a dramatic plot line, aiming to inspire women.
Source of the video: UN Women
The global #16Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence campaign started on November 25 with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and ended on International Human Rights Day, which was celebrated on December 10.
Throughout those #16Days, the World Bank’s message was clear: Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) is a global pandemic that has or will affect 1 in 3 women in their lifetime. Violence is not only a personal struggle for the victims, but also has severe consequences on social and economic outcomes.
For many, the connection seems strange at first. What do gas and mining have to do with women’s economic and social empowerment, let alone gender-based violence? The reality is that in many extractive industries areas money from extractives flow predominantly to men. This can lead to adverse results: men have more say over how benefits are used; men have more access to related jobs, and the associated increase in available cash allows them to take second wives (which can in many cases cause violence in the home between wives); some men leave their families for jobs in the industry, while some use cash for alcohol or prostitution.
These changes and stresses – also present when the benefits from mining don’t materialize as expected - can increase the risk of family and sexual violence, especially in fragile countries like Papua New Guinea (PNG).
Working on addressing and preventing sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in fragile and post-conflict areas is a challenging endeavor for government staff and NGO partners in the field.
They are escaping abusive husbands, parents, in-laws, or siblings. Their stay ranges from three months to a year, and apart from shelter and food, residents have access to a dedicated team of lawyers, counselors, social workers, and health care professionals. Perhaps more importantly, they encounter others who have also escaped violence and sought alternative lives for themselves.
These women are the lucky and courageous ones. Those who dared to make that phone call to seek help. Those who risked breaking the silence in spite of family, religious and community norms. Those who were listened to by the police, who had a ‘strong enough’ case to obtain official ‘victim’ status. This status ensured them a room in the shelter.
But the majority of women never call.
Stuffed animals line the window sill, toys crowd the room’s perimeter, children’s crayon drawings depict a loss of childhood.
"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%.
- Similarly to other countries around the world, the vast majority of the perpetrators are intimate partners or ex-partners.
As part of the World Bank's involvement in the #16Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign, we'll be holding a discussion this Monday, December 7 at 9:30 a.m. EST (14:30 GMT) to look at how we can end violence against women and girls. Moderated by journalist Joanne Levine, it'll include gynecologist and Sakharov Prize winner Denis Mukwege, M.D.; pediatrician Nadia Hashimi; Imam Yahya Hendi from Georgetown University; the president of the Representation Project, Kristen Joiner; and World Bank Vice President for the Africa Region, Makhtar Diop.
Follow the live stream here and participate through the live blog hosted by experts in gender issues here at the Bank.
In Jordan, the violence against girls and women embodies the problem. The Jordanian government’s Population and Family Health Survey captures only a portion of the scale of violence against women. Social norms are at play; roughly 70% of Jordanian women think there are circumstances that justify a husband beating his wife. Over one-third (34%) of Jordanian women report that they have experienced some form of physical violence since the age of 15. One in three Jordanian women experienced some form of emotional, physical, and/or sexual violence from their spouse, and almost 1 in 10 experience sexual violence at least once in their lifetime.
One of the major concerns resulting from the survey is that almost half (47%) the women reporting violence did not seek any type of help, with less than 5% taking steps to address sexual violence. Very few women seek help from medical providers, police, lawyers or social service organizations.
Over the past four years the World Bank Group has been collaborating with the Justice Center for Legal Aid (JCLA) -- a Jordanian civil society organization -- to pilot legal aid services for poor Jordanians as well as Syrian, Iraqi and Palestinian refugees. As is often the case, poverty status is a strong indicator of the likelihood of violence in Jordan. Poorer women were more likely to report all types of violence, and higher frequency of such violence. They are also more likely to believe such violence is justified.
The legal aid program provides awareness/information, counseling and legal representation by a lawyer to aid the poor in addressing legal problems. The majority of JCLA beneficiaries – just over 70% - are women. And one of the ‘justice gaps’ identified by JCLA is in providing effective legal services to female victims of violence.
Jordan adopted legislation to protect victims of domestic violence in 2008, giving victims, for the first time, access to protection orders – one of the most effective tools in addressing violence. Victims can also receive direct compensation. It also provided confidential proceedings and procedures to detain alleged abusers. A specialized institution – the Family Protection Department of the Ministry of Interior – was established to implement the reform, providing access to multiple services, including complaints/investigation, medical care and social counseling.
Yet the law left a number of gaps in place. It applies only to perpetrators living with the victims, so ex-husbands, boyfriends and brothers may not be covered, and the survey shows they are often the ones committing the abuse. It also leaves in place a heavy focus on reconciliation, to the possible detriment of protecting the victims. Lack of shelters for victims, along with the inability to link requests for child custody and child support with protection orders, may prevent many women from seeking help.
To date, JCLA’s assistance has been focused primarily around awareness and information for victims. This focus is now about to grow. With the assistance of the World Bank Group, JCLA is launching an initiative to provide more comprehensive services to women victims of violence. The plans include establishing a referral system in the Family Protection Department and placing a legal aid lawyer at each of the Department’s in-take centers.
What do we hope to achieve? There are several opportunities. The overarching goal is to ensure poor women can access services and achieve some level of justice to address the violence they suffer. More specifically, the referral system should aid in providing victims the legal services they need to initiate and navigate criminal proceedings, including obtaining and enforcing protection orders. Victims will also have assistance addressing legal problems commonly linked to domestic violence, such as divorce, child custody, child support and alimony.
As a lawyer, I volunteer my time representing poor persons, including women seeking protection orders, at the Superior Court here in Washington, D.C. I understand the importance of providing legal assistance to female victims of domestic violence, and am encouraged to see such an initiative launched in Jordan.