16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence

Mandy Van Deven, Online Administrator

Gender-based violence is endemic in many countries; however, reliable data on the overall prevalence of gender-based violence is scarce. World Health Organization research in ten countries around the world indicates that between 15% and 71% of women have experienced physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner. Violence against women is a significant cause of injury and death worldwide, as well as a risk factor for many physical and psychological health problems; it also has serious negative economic and social costs, both for individual women and for society as a whole.

The information that is available on gender-based violence comes mostly from the small number of cases that are reported to the authorities and, on occasion, to nongovernmental organizations. Because gender-based violence tends to be greatly underreported, statistics don't present an accurate picture of the scope of the problem. Nonetheless, they suggest that gender-based violence is common.

Gender-based violence is a pervasive public health and human rights problem throughout the world, but the patterns and prevalence of violence vary from place to place. In Caracas, Venezuela, 40% of women who seek hospital emergency services report having been beaten by their partners, and 89% of abuse victims had been treated previously for problems related to violence. Twelve percent of adult women in Nicaragua report having been physically assaulted by an intimate partner in the past year, and in Brazil, 19% of women say they were abused during their pregnancy.

The abuse is not limited to battering. In Venezuela an average of 12 women report being raped every day. Seventy-two percent of these women are under the age of 19, and most are raped by someone they know.

IPPF/WHR believes that violence is a sexual and reproductive health issue—and that bodily integrity is a human right. Fear of violence affects a woman’s health and impedes her ability to use contraception or protect herself from STIs. The right to be protected from, and to have recourse against, all forms of violence—including physical, verbal, psychological, economic, and sexual abuse—underpins the need to strengthen sexual rights. Violence may be inflicted because of a person’s gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, marital status, real or imputed sexual history or behavior, age, or sexual practices. Ensuring sexual rights for everyone necessitates a commitment to freedom and protection from harm, which is a guiding principal of IPPF/WHR's Sexual Rights Declaration.

The existence of gender-based violence is often minimized, rationalized, and denied by individuals from every social class, and aggressors who are detained by the police are generally released without any sanctions. This lack of accountability allows violence to continue unchecked.

Our Member Associations throughout Latin America and the Caribbean recognize the impact women’s social context has on their clients’ sexual and reproductive health, and they meet the needs of victims of violence by integrating work on gender-based violence into their sexual and reproductive health programs. In 2008, for example, over 149,000 GBV related services were offered. This issue hits close to home for many of our staff and partner organizations, as it involves not only the clients who are treated professionally but also many individuals we know personally, including members of our own families.

As a part of this year’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign, IPPF/WHR has organized a 16-part blog series for The Bikini with contributions from our staff, Member Associations, and community allies that engage in advocacy against violence. This multimedia series will focus on several aspects of gender-based violence (GBV) that are underrepresented yet extremely important. It will include writing, video, and visual art on topics such as the connections between GBV and HIV, how comprehensive sexuality education empowers youth to resist GBV, why violence against women is an international human rights issue, and how GBV affects women’s reproductive decisions. The series will showcase the work of individuals and organizations in Latin America and the Caribbean that have experienced great success. It will also reveal the story of a woman in the Dominican Republic who escaped domestic abuse and now helps other women to do the same.

We hope you will join us in celebrating the steps that are being taken to make our world a safer and more just place for everyone in it. We are excited to share the next 16 Days with you.


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