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Gender-Based Violence

Researching violence against Syrian refugee women

Bassam Sebti's picture

He often used a stick or an iron wire to beat her. Her body was covered in bruises, sometimes in all kinds of colors. Hamada's husband, frustrated with losing his son and his job in warring Syria, directed his anger and depression towards the mother of his children.

It is a fact: War is one of many forms of violence to which women are subjected, and for some Syrian refugee women it is a prolongation of what has been happening already in their war-torn country.

They have been beaten, forced into having sex and asked to never talk about it or else get killed — by their own husbands.

For the helpless women, most of whom are mothers, the abuse has been taking physical, emotional and sexual forms.

So how do you address and understand the reasons behind this major, often undermined, issue that adds to the misery of the already miserable women refugees?
 

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A team of researchers working with the Women and Health Alliance International non-profit organization is working on formative research to prevent intimate partner violence among Syrian refugees in Izmir, Turkey.

"Often, from a worldwide perspective, when we think about conflict, we think about the forms of violence that are highlighted in the media," said team member Jennifer Scott, a physician and researcher at Harvard Medical School.

"But what we are not talking about is what is happening in the household, and the types of violence that are related to stress, cultural norms, or social and gender norms," she added. 

To address this issue, Scott and her team talk with men, women, community leaders, policymakers and religious leaders. They ask questions about what is happening in the household, what sorts of violence women and girls experience, and how has this changed as a result of conflict and displacement.

The goal, she said, is to understand that this kind of violence does not have one dimension.

"It's really multiple layers that we need to understand," Scott said. "In our experience as researchers, when we offer women and men the opportunity to speak, they want to talk about it because it's a very important issue."  

The research project, set to start in June 2016, will take place at a community center in Izmir that offers services not only to Syrian refugees but also other refugees currently living in Izmir. The project will conduct focus group discussions and interviews among community and religious leaders to examine some of the factors that lead to intimate partner violence, and explore possible solutions.

The research data will inform the development of a future program to prevent intimate partner violence among displaced populations.

The World Bank Group and the Sexual Violence Research Initiative recently awarded this project and eight other teams from around the world a total of $1.2 million in recognition of their innovations to prevent gender-based violence.
 

Experts, communities convene to develop evidence-based approaches to prevent intimate partner violence in Honduras

Amber L. Hill's picture
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%.
  • Similarly to other countries around the world, the vast majority of the perpetrators are intimate partners or ex-partners.
These statistics clearly demonstrate the need for interventions that seek to affect the root causes that underlie gender-based violence in Honduras.
 

The missing men in violence against women

Maria Correia's picture
Photo: Dominic Chavez/World Bank

To end violence against women, we must ask the fundamental question of what is going on with men – the main perpetrators of this violence – and why societies worldwide are producing so many violent men?

As we know from the seminal 2013 WHO report, gender violence has reached epidemic proportions:  fully one third of women worldwide – nearly one billion women – will experience physical violence from a male partner in their lifetimes.  The problem has persisted or even increased in rich and poor countries alike – across age groups, classes, cultures and races.  
 
The time has come to shift our thinking and approach to the perpetrators of this violence.  We need to turn our attention to the behavior and motivations of the men and ask a different set of questions. What is going on with the men who are committing these violent acts?  Why do so many men use violence against women and girls – particularly their own family members?  Why is men’s use of violence against women so commonplace across countries in the world today?  And how do institutions perpetuate the practice of men abusing and violating women? 

If you cannot say it, then draw it: comic books against gender-based violence in India

Ram Devineni's picture
(The author is a co-creator of the comic book “Priya’s Shakti”, a multimedia project that helps illuminate attitudes toward gender-based violence (GBV) through the Hindu mythological canon.)
 
Tushar Kamble with the comic book panel he drew about one of his teachers.

Before creating the comic book “Priya’s Shakti”  we spoke with several rape survivors and their accounts were critical in developing our story. What they told us had a profound impact on everyone involved. We knew we had to create a compelling and inspiring character – Priya, who is a survivor of rape and the hero of our comic book.
 
While finishing the comic book, we realized that the process of drawing Priya made us more sensitive and aware of the struggles of the real-life women we interviewed and who influenced our character. We wanted to share the power of storytelling and drawing with teenagers in India and elsewhere.
 
We observed that the internet and watching TV is a very passive endeavor and once it is over, the viewer is disconnected from what they experienced. But, drawing and especially telling the stories of survivors of gender-based violence was a very active process and had a lasting effect on the people who were involved. The more the person was engaged with the subject – the deeper their empathy was with them.

Gender-based violence: lesbian and transgender women face the highest risk but get the least attention

Saurav Jung Thapa's picture

 
​Strategies to curb violence against women too often exclude the experiences of lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women.  The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is marking this year’s 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women by highlighting the disproportionate violence and discrimination that many lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women face, and calls on the World Bank to develop policies that consider the unique needs of these women.
 
The laws are changing but the violence remains
 
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people have made great strides in the fight for full equality. As of today, 34 countries permit marriage or civil unions for same-sex couples, and many other countries have passed vital non-discrimination protections. For example, in the United States, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 expanded non-discrimination protections for LGBT people to prohibit shelters and other domestic violence services from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
 
Sadly, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women face disproportionate levels of violence at the hands of both strangers and intimate partners.  A recent U.N. human rights report  noted that LGBT people are at a disturbingly elevated risk of homicidal violence, highlighting the increased risk that lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women face because of gender-based discrimination. Another study by the Human Rights Campaign and the Trans People of Color Coalition estimates that transgender women in the United States face 4.3 times the risk of becoming homicide victims than the general population of women. Factors such as poverty or belonging to a racial minority exacerbated the incidence and rates of violence experienced. Transgender people are also more likely to experience violence from law enforcement, in homeless shelters, and in healthcare settings. The recent Transgender Day of Remembrance served as a stark reminder that transgender people around the world face disproportionate levels of violence: in the United States alone, at least 21 transgender people have been killed in 2015.

The Rio Via Lilas initiative: Using transport infrastructure to help reduce gender-based violence

Shomik Mehndiratta's picture
A train decorated with a "Via Lilas" awareness campaign leaves Rio's Central Station.
Follow Shomik (@shomik_raj) and Daniel (@danpulido) on Twitter

There was cause for celebration at the State of Rio de Janeiro’s Office of Women’s Affairs last week. The office had just launched a new program that provides support and legal assistance to survivors of gender-based violence, which was covered by a wide range of media and commemorated by a visit from senior World Bank leadership to Brazil.

Our team is currently visiting Rio to help with activities for this new program, called “Via Lilas.” Rio’s government has a lot to cheer about; the program is both innovative and significant.  Its primary component is a system of electronic kiosks, placed at stations along Supervia suburban rail lines, which contain helpful information about how women can seek support for gender-based violence.
 
Women using a "Via Lilas" kiosk

The placement of these kiosks is strategic; the Supervia provides some of the poorest communities in the region access to jobs and services. 

​The rail service connects downtown Rio de Janeiro to the periphery in this sprawling metropolitan area of more than 4,500 square kilometers and 12 million people. Outlying parts of the metropolitan area, such as the community of Japeri, can be more than two hours by train to Rio’s Central station.

​The “Via Lilas” kiosks will be placed at high-profile locations along the Supervia system, providing easy information access to the approximately 700,000 passengers who use the rail network each day.

​Smart measures in transport: Moving beyond women’s-only buses

Bianca Bianchi Alves's picture
Civil society has been dealing with the problem of sexual harassment in public spaces in innovative ways. Creative marketing campaigns are popping all over the world, including Take Back the Metro in Paris, Chega de Fiu Fiu in Brazil, and Hollaback in 84 cities around the world.
 
The problem seems to stem from strong, ingrained cultural beliefs. Unfortunately, the problem might be getting stronger as formal barriers to the participation of women decline, as suggests Marty Langelan, a World Bank consultant, professor of American University.

 
Bus operators receive harassement
response training.
Specialists know that the complexity of the problem requires changes in social norms, and that this can only come from comprehensive approaches and time. Some governments may acknowledge the same; however, they still have to deal with the pressing urgency of the theme, and therefore adopt quick, pragmatic solutions.

Currently, countries like Mexico, Brazil, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, and Nepal all have some form of women-only cars in public transportation.

While there are strong arguments that these women-only cars are effective temporary solutions, in the long-term they could reinforce the stereotypes of uncontrollable men and victimized women. They also remind us of the United States Supreme Court decision Plessy vs. Ferguson, which considered constitutional segregated black and white populations in public facilities under the idea of “separate but equal.”

What are we learning about how to prevent the intergenerational transmission of GBV?

Leigh Stefanik's picture
Some data rise up out of the research din and stick with you – nagging, troubling, surprising. For me, one of these pieces of data has been around the increasing global evidence about the link between witnessing or experiencing violence as a child, and later use of violence against women in adulthood.

Because there are more of us who want this to stop… Our experience taking on gender-based violence in public transport

Shomik Mehndiratta's picture
Follow the authors on Twitter: @shomik_raj and @aldotudela7
 
The room was quiet. The group sat, thoughtful, each one of the participants with their heads around a complicated issue, silent. Suddenly, one man stood up and spoke out, “We have to set something straight, there are more of us who want this to stop”. This sentiment, expressed during a focus group in Mexico City, has become a powerful anchor for an ongoing initiative we are undertaking to understand and address gender-based violence in public transport.

Personal security on and around Mexico City’s public transport system is a serious problem that frames the travel experience for many, particularly for women. A recent report by the Mexico City Women’s Institute showed that 65% of women using the system have suffered some form of sexual assault while on the system or when accessing it. However, there is little argument that only a fraction of these events are reported… which leads us to believe that the actual percentage could be much higher.

1 in 3: What Does It Take for You to Be Outraged?

Marina Galvani's picture

Circumstance © Hanifa AlizadaThe exhibition "1 in 3" was inspired by the work of a young Afghan photographer, Hanifa Alizada, and I picked her photo "Circumstance" for this blog as it conveys the painful march we are all on to fight this incredible level of violence against women worldwide. The exhibition highlights that this epidemic of violence does not single out any socioeconomic class. It knows no ethnicity, race, or religion. The scourge of violence against women and girls transcends international borders.
New research from the World Health Organization finds that some 35% of women worldwide — one in three — are subject to violence over the course of their lives, mostly at the hands of husbands or partners and at a huge personal and economic cost. 
 
Horrific events such as a gang rape on a bus seize headlines, but in fact no place is less safe for a woman than her own home. Estimates of lost productivity alone range from 1.5 to 2% of GDP, or roughly what most developing countries spend on primary education.
 
With "1 in 3," the World Bank Group Art Program seeks your engagement through art and encourages action to tackle gender-based violence.
 
This exhibition brings together hard data with some 80 nuanced, powerful artworks that explore the various ways in which violence affects the lives of women and girls around the world.
 
These works conveys the impact of domestic violence as experienced or witnessed by children, as in the paintings of Laben John of Papua New Guinea, and of sexual and gender-based violence as weapon of war, as in the sculpture of Freddy Tsimba from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Artist Nasheen Saeed of Pakistan depicts the deadening neglect so many girls suffer in their own families simply because they are girls.
 
Photographers Kay Cernush of the United States and Karen Robinson of the United Kingdom take on human trafficking with intimate portraits of young women lured abroad by the false promise of a better life. All help break the silence that often surrounds violence against women, encouraging survivors to stand up and speak out.


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