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Reflecting on the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence

Updated: Dec 5, 2023




The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence campaign, which has been ongoing since November 25, has consistently been a part of my professional and personal landscape since its inception in 1999. Over the years, my engagement with this campaign has been that of a keen observer rather than an active participant, absorbing its impact and reach. The campaign's significance lies in its ability to shine a light on the grim reality of gender-based violence and the myriad initiatives undertaken to address it.


As I reflect on this campaign, a question lingers: when will we no longer need such activism? Regrettably, the persisting and unsettling statistics suggest that this day is far from near. The prevalence of gender-based violence remains a persistent and troubling reality, as evidenced by even a cursory glance at recent social media discussions.


This article, in a way, is a mosaic of my own experiences and observations, and reflections over time. It could be viewed as self-plagiarism, as it repurposes and reframes content from multiple reports I have authored. This piece aims to shed new light on the pervasive issue of gender-based violence, echoing previous insights while striving to explore new facets.


In discussions about gender-based violence, I generally prefer the term "survivor" over "victim," to emphasize a narrative of resilience and recovery. However, in this context, the use of "victim" seems particularly apt to convey the profound sense of helplessness, lack of choice, and loss of voice and empowerment experienced by women suffering from gender-based violence. This word choice reflects the harsh reality that victims often face - an absence of control over their circumstances, a muted ability to make decisions for their well-being, and a significant diminishment of their power in both public and private spheres.


Gender-based violence is often equated with violence against women primarily because women are disproportionately affected by it. This association underlines the pervasive nature of this issue in the context of women's rights and safety.


Through this article, I invite readers to join me in reflecting on the complex, multifaceted issue of gender-based violence, a topic that has been a significant part of my life's work and observations. It is my hope that by sharing these insights, we can collectively move towards a future where campaigns like the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence are a memory of the past rather than a necessity of the present.


Personal Encounters and Insights: Is this Gender-Based Violence?

My engagement with the topic of gender-based violence extends beyond academic and professional realms; it is deeply personal. Conversations with family, friends, and colleagues often tread into this sensitive area, revealing the deeply embedded nature of gender-based violence in our societal fabric. These dialogues, occasionally bordering on the incredulous, have significantly broadened my perspective on the myriad forms gender-based violence can take.


Many argue that discussing gender-based violence is overreaching into private matters, questioning how one could report a spouse or the parent of their children. This sentiment reflects a broader societal misunderstanding of gender-based violence. Addressing these misconceptions is crucial in our collective fight against this scourge.


For example, the concept of marital rape is often met with disbelief, yet it is a harrowing reality for many. Similarly, emotional abuse, frequently dismissed as 'just words', can inflict lasting psychological damage. Understanding and acknowledging the full spectrum of gender-based violence is essential in effectively combating it.


Below, I provide examples of questions I have encountered, sometimes presented in a challenging manner, questioning whether these scenarios constitute gender-based violence. These provide insight into various situations that are considered gender-based violence (GBV) but are often overlooked or misunderstood in broader societal discussions.


  1. "My partner is unfaithful to me, is that GBV?" Yes, it can be, especially when it forms part of a broader pattern of disrespect and emotional harm.

  2. "A few days after giving birth, my husband forced me to have sex, is that GBV?" Most certainly, as it reflects a grave violation of bodily autonomy and respect.

  3. "I suspect my husband is unfaithful and I asked that he uses a condom. He refused. Is this GBV?" Yes, it signifies a disregard for mutual respect and safety in the relationship.

  4. "My wife is overly jealous, is this GBV?" It can be, particularly if it translates into controlling or harmful behavior.

  5. "We already have two children, and my husband wants more and has refused to allow me to use family planning. Is this GBV?" Yes, this situation represents a form of reproductive coercion, a significant aspect of gender-based violence.

  6. "I got a loan from my savings group, but my husband took it to spend on drinking. Is this GBV?" Yes, this situation falls under the category of economic abuse, a prevalent form of gender-based violence.

  7. "When I was 12 years old, my mother used to tightly wrap a piece of clothing around my chest to make me appear flat-chested and not attract boys/men. Is this GBV?" Yes, this practice involves a violation of bodily autonomy. Sometimes young girls breasts are ironed, massaged and/or pounded down for them to disappear or to delay their development

  8. "I was taken to a fattening farm and forced to drink a lot of milk to make me more 'attractive' to my future husband. Is this GBV?" Yes, it is. Forced body modification is a violation of personal autonomy and bodily integrity.

  9. "When my husband died, my brother-in-law forced me to become his third wife. Is this GBV?" Yes because forced marriage is a violation of individual rights and personal autonomy

  10. "I was pressured into selecting subjects for a medical career, deemed suitable for girls, and was denied the opportunity to study mathematics, despite my ambition to become an engineer. Is this GBV?" Yes because it educational and career coercion based on gender stereotypes


These are not just hypothetical queries but real concerns voiced by individuals in my circle, underscoring the pervasiveness and complexity of gender-based violence.



What are the Various Forms of Gender-Based Violence?

Firstly, let us understand what gender-based violence entails. Gender-based violence is violence directed against a person because of their gender. It encompasses acts perpetrated against women or men, resulting in, or likely to result in, physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering. This includes threats of such acts, coercion, or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.


The categorisation of gender-based violence varies widely. Often, I find it challenging to strictly categorise these acts due to their overlapping characteristics. For instance, while certain acts are primarily sexual or physical in nature, they often also inflict psychological harm, thus blurring the lines of categorisation.


Below are some forms of gender-based violence, though this list is not exhaustive:


Physical Violence: This includes acts that cause bodily harm, such as assault, hitting, slapping, burning, and strangling. Physical violence not only causes immediate harm but can also have long-term health implications.


Sexual Violence: This form of violence involves any act that compromises a person’s control over their own sexuality. It ranges from explicit acts of violence to coerced sexual activities within marital relationships. It encompasses conduct that abuses, humiliates, or degrades a person, including defilement, sexual harassment, forced sex, and marital rape.


Psychological/Emotional Violence: This includes actions that degrade or humiliate a person, causing emotional distress. Examples are repeated insults, ridicule, threats, possessiveness, and jealousy that invade privacy and autonomy. Such violence can also restrict freedom of movement and involve acts that cause psychological harm, especially in the presence of children.


Economic Violence: Economic violence, often an overlooked aspect of gender-based violence, entails controlling or manipulating an individual's financial resources. This form of violence includes actions such as depriving a person of economic or financial resources to which they are legally or customarily entitled, controlling access to money, selling property without consent, and denying access to basic necessities. It also extends to restricting access to vital opportunities and resources such as education, particularly for girls, healthcare, and land rights. These actions not only limit the individual's financial independence but also impede their overall well-being and ability to exercise their rights and make autonomous life choices.


Intimate Partner Violence/Domestic Violence: This type of violence occurs within domestic settings, such as marriage or cohabitation, and can include a combination of physical, sexual, psychological, and economic abuse.


Tech-facilitated violence: Cyber violence intensified by the rapid advancements in technology and the increasing use of social media, poses a heightened risk. The ubiquity of digital platforms not only amplifies the risk of direct but also facilitates other forms of gender-based violence. Technology can be employed for stalking, harassment, intimate partner violence, and in coordinating or executing trafficking and exploitation. This intersection of digital technology with various forms of gender-based violence underscores the complexity of these issues in the modern digital age.


Harmful Traditional Practices: These include widow inheritance, female genital mutilation/cutting, early or forced marriages, denial of education for girls, forced control over women’s reproductive functions, treatment of women as commodities through bride price, trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation, scarification, honour killing, son preference, fattening women before marriage, breast flattening, forced abortion, and forced sterilization. These practices are often overlooked in national accounting of GBV but are prevalent and harmful.


Reflecting on the Pervasiveness of Gender-Based Violence

The prevalence of gender-based violence is alarmingly high, presenting a critical challenge to global efforts towards equality and safety. According to UN Women, more than one in three women are subjected to gender-based violence in their lifetime, a figure that notably excludes sexual harassment. Disturbingly, this statistic has remained largely unchanged over the past decade, suggesting that there is approximately a 50 percent chance that any given person one encounters may have experienced gender-based violence. The likelihood of underreporting, driven by fear, stigma, and societal pressures, adds to the gravity of this issue. It is crucial to recognize that national gender-based violence statistics typically focus on physical and sexual violence, potentially overlooking other forms of abuse.


Intimate partner violence is the most prevalent form of violence against women globally, affecting 26% of those aged 15 and older. This staggering number highlights the dangers women and girls face in their personal relationships, often with someone they love and perhaps share children with.


Another concern is non-partner sexual violence, with 6% of women globally reporting such experiences. Given the stigma surrounding this form of violence, the actual incidence is likely much higher.


Human trafficking also remains a significant issue, with data showing that for every 10 victims detected globally, approximately four are adult women and two are girls. Furthermore, child marriage remains a significant global concern, affecting 19% of girls. Equally concerning is the practice of female genital mutilation, which affects one in four women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, every hour, more than five women and girls are subjected to lethal violence within their families, tragically transforming what should be safe havens into environments of danger.


Breast ironing, a practice affecting an estimated 3.8 million women worldwide, is an example of an under-reported form of gender-based violence. Often performed by family members, it is particularly prevalent in Cameroon, where up to 50% of girls are affected. Practices like fattening and widow inheritance, though lacking comprehensive statistics, further compound the gender-based violence landscape.


Despite the lack of more recent global studies, the reported prevalence of affecting 73% of women, as noted in the 2015 United Nations Broadband Commission report, could still hold relevance or be even higher today. The continuous evolution of digital platforms and communication methods may contribute to sustaining or escalating these figures. The increased digital connectivity in today's world highlights the need for ongoing research and updated statistics in this area, particularly as it may heighten the prevalence of various forms of gender-based violence.



The fact that less than 40% of women who experience violence seek help, hindered by fear of reprisal and societal stigma, underscores the urgent need for more effective support mechanisms and societal changes. Addressing and preventing gender-based violence requires creating reliable support systems and safe environments for those in dire circumstances, ensuring that victims have access to the help they desperately need.


Sources: 1 & 2


Driving Change and Seeking Solutions: Addressing Gender-Based Violence

It is a harsh reality that gender-based violence continues to be a pervasive global issue, despite decades of concerted efforts. This situation necessitates a serious reflection on our current approaches: What critical elements are we missing? How can we enhance our strategies to achieve more effective outcomes? What sustainable measures can be adopted to address gender-based violence comprehensively? Our goal must be to create a future where campaigns like the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence are no longer needed, a future where gender-based violence is not a prevalent threat. Reaching this future requires introspection, innovative solutions, and an unwavering commitment to change.


  1. Dismantle and challenge societal norms: Actively work to dismantle and challenge the underlying social norms and stereotypes that fuel gender-based violence.

  2. Awareness and attitude change: Implement sustained awareness campaigns and initiatives aimed at changing attitudes towards gender and violence.

  3. Redefine masculinity: Challenge existing beliefs about masculinity and actively engage men and boys as allies in the fight against gender-based violence.

  4. Recognise all form of gender-based violence: Acknowledge and address all forms of gender-based violence, including those that are often overlooked or emerging.

  5. Leverage AI for prevention: Utilise AI-driven predictive modeling to identify risk areas and optimise intervention strategies, thereby enhancing the effectiveness of gender-based violence prevention and support programmes through advanced analytics and pattern recognition.

  6. Implement blockchain for data management: Adopt a blockchain-based approach to ensure secure, immutable, and transparent data management for gender-based violence, providing a reliable foundation for assessing prevalence and systematically evaluating interventions over time.


Through these concerted and innovative efforts, we can significantly contribute to the global endeavor to eradicate gender-based violence, making our communities safer and more equitable for all.


Concluding Reflections: A Call to Action at NITE TANZARN IntellectNest

As we mark the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence, it's crucial to acknowledge that our battle against GBV extends beyond this designated period. This struggle demands consistent dedication and advocacy, not just during these 16 days but every day. At NITE TANZARN IntellectNest, we recognize that every conversation, every shared story, and every raised voice plays a crucial role in this fight. Together, through our collective efforts in raising awareness, challenging deep-rooted stereotypes, and offering unwavering support to victims, we inch closer towards a world where gender-based violence is a thing of the past. Let this campaign be a reminder of our ongoing commitment to a safer, more equitable world, where the need for such campaigns becomes obsolete. Let us all, at IntellectNest and beyond, unite in this vital cause and continue to strive for a world free from gender-based violence.



About the Author

Nite Tanzarn, a leading authority in sustainable transport, is also deeply engaged in the advocacy for gender equality and the fight against gender-based violence. Renowned for her dedication to integrating transport with socio-economic development, her work extends to developing inclusive systems that consider the unique challenges and needs of women. Nite’s commitment to gender-responsive policies transcends transport, influencing broader societal issues, particularly in developing regions. As a respected speaker and author, her insights are not only grounded in her extensive experience in sustainable transport but also in her persistent efforts to address gender disparities.



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10 Comments


Guest
Dec 08, 2023

I have liked the way you have thrown more light on the different forms of Gender Based Violence . For example, intimate partner/domestic violence is multi-faced and yet it is the one that is most under reported. I guess, this is largely due to the fact that survivors have ties( love and other forms of relationships with the perpetrators of Domestic violence). HHow can I report my spouse, parent or child??? It requires tough love.

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Nite Tanzarn
Nite Tanzarn
Dec 09, 2023
Replying to

Thank you for your insightful response. You've rightly pointed out the multifaceted nature of intimate partner/domestic violence and the complexities involved in reporting, especially when there are emotional ties with the perpetrator. It indeed requires a great deal of courage and 'tough love' to take action in such challenging circumstances. This highlights the need for sensitive support systems that can assist survivors in making difficult decisions and provide them with the necessary help and protection. Your contribution to this discussion is invaluable, as it brings to light the intricate dynamics of domestic violence.

Cheers,

Nite

#NITETANZARNIntellectNest

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Guest
Dec 03, 2023

Indeed thought provoking.


As usual well written and to the point.

You brought out the pain in a palatable manner.


Thank you Nite.

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Nite Tanzarn
Nite Tanzarn
Dec 03, 2023
Replying to

Thank you for your thoughtful response. I'm glad to hear that you found the article both thought-provoking and well-written. It's always a delicate balance to bring out the realities of such a painful topic in a manner that's accessible and engaging. Your feedback is deeply appreciated, and it's heartening to know that the message resonated with you. Thank you for your continued support and engagement.

Cheers,

Nite

#NITETANZARNIntellectNest

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Guest
Dec 03, 2023

Thank you for sharing such a researched and educative write up. It covers almost all areas. I am sure whoever reads it will be inspired to learn more in this area. A lot of appreciation for being generous with sharing such knowledge with the public.


May this knowledge often distinguish you and stand out to benefit the current and future generations. Be blessed

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Nite Tanzarn
Nite Tanzarn
Dec 03, 2023
Replying to

Hello Sophie,

Thank you for your kind words and for taking the time to read my article. I'm delighted to hear that you found it comprehensive and educational. The goal is indeed to inspire more people to learn about and actively engage in addressing gender-based violence. Sharing knowledge is a powerful tool in our collective effort to make a lasting impact. I am grateful for your encouragement and hope that this information continues to enlighten and empower current and future generations.

Be blessed,

Cheers,

Nite

#NITETANZARNIntellectNest

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Guest
Dec 02, 2023

I experience gender-based violence all the time...my wife is a jealous one!

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Nite Tanzarn
Nite Tanzarn
Dec 03, 2023
Replying to

Thank you for sharing your experience. It's important to recognize that gender-based violence can affect anyone, regardless of gender. Jealousy, when it leads to controlling behavior, emotional abuse, or violence, is a serious issue and should be addressed. It's vital for anyone experiencing such situations to seek support, whether it's talking to a trusted friend, counselor, or a professional support service. Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. If you're in immediate danger, please reach out to local authorities or a crisis center. Your safety and well-being are paramount.

Cheers,

Nite

#NITETANZARNIntellectNest

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Guest
Dec 02, 2023

A whole 16 days dedicated to gender-based violence? What is special about it?

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Nite Tanzarn
Nite Tanzarn
Dec 03, 2023
Replying to

Thank you for your comment. The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is indeed a special and significant campaign. It serves as an international call to action to raise awareness, encourage discussions, and inspire concrete steps towards eliminating gender-based violence. These 16 days, symbolically linking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (November 25th) and Human Rights Day (December 10th), emphasize that gender-based violence is a major human rights violation. This period is crucial for reflecting on the progress made, calling for changes, and mobilizing people everywhere to think about and act on this pervasive issue. It’s a time when we can collectively amplify our voices and work towards creating a safer, more equitable world for…

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