Violence against women and girls is an epidemic in many countries including Ghana. It takes many different forms, including domestic violence, sexual assault and harassment, child, early and forced marriage, sex trafficking, so-called ‘honour’ crimes, and female genital mutilation, etc.
You may think, “well, a few women are being raped and trafficked into prostitution and being abused in various ways, what does that have to do with me?”
Do you know that currently, 1 in every 3 women has experienced some form of violence in their lifetime?
These are the numbers that are recorded, many more get pushed under the rug. You hear about these cases in the news, people close to you are affected.
Still, you say, “bad things happen to everyone, that’s the way of the world. We should all deal with our portions.”
This is why you should care:
Because VAWG is one of the most widespread violations of human rights and has devastating effects on the lives of women.
You should care because violence against women and girls has been normalized to a point where the perpetrators do not fear condemnation or punishment as it is indirectly supported by society as normal behaviour.
Let me give you a relatable scenario;
A girl is born, many parents prefer male children, due to incorrect societal misconceptions that male children are somehow capable, and that’s how life begins for most females.
A girl grows up into a toddler, is lucky if she doesn’t get “touched” inappropriately even as a baby. Lucky if she escaped FGM if born within a certain geographical location.
She grows into adolescence. She’s at an even greater risk of sexual assault. Perhaps what even makes sexual assault on adolescent girls more harrowing is the fact that 9 in 10 of all sexual assault cases against teenage girls were perpetrated by family members and people close to the victims.
Add the uncomfortable fact that rape cases are very difficult to prove, thereby discounting any chance of getting justice and you will understand why so many females are so “wounded”.
Then she grows into a woman.
Women get beaten
Women get raped
Women get killed by intimate partners
Women are yanked from their lives and sold into sex slavery even today
Women are being killed in marriages
Widows are being treated as outcasts and tortured in the name of tradition and culture
Women’s mental health being destroyed by the constant fear of living in fear of abuse
I’m no psychologist but I can very well see how violence can cause a victim to lose trust in society and even her family, after having gone through such a violent ordeal such as abuse or FGM.
We (society) are breaking down the bodies, minds, and wills of women and girls through the scourge of gender-based violence.
The course of a girl/woman’s life can change drastically as a result of exposure to violence.
Much of this violence happens in a home setting which means for most victims, it’s a lifetime of suffering from nowhere to run to.
I believe, that if there ever was a cause worth laying down one’s life to fight for, it’ll be to end all forms of Violence against women and girls.
VAWG will probably not end in our lifetimes. The MDGs tried and failed to address it. Now we look to the SDGs as well as to our local homegrown solutions, drawn from our own experiences, to finish the work.
We have also seen an increase in legislation that seeks to end violence against women and children, beautiful on paper, difficult to implement.
Again, push back from those whose interests are against the liberation of women have also eroded gains made.
The issues are too many to be left to the ministry of gender and social protection precisely because it’s mostly under-funded and has little state support.
How can gender equality be a tool to end violence against women and girls?
I believe strongly, that gender-based violence is rooted in the gender inequality that women face throughout their lives from childhood through to old age.
Therefore I am of a strong conviction that Gender-based violence can be prevented through the promotion of gender equality, women’s empowerment and their enjoyment of human rights
Additionally, making public spaces safer for women and girls, ensuring women’s economic autonomy and security, and increasing women’s participation and decision-making powers—in the home and relationships, as well as in public life and politics.
Before you dismiss the issue of violence against women and girls, ask yourself:
Do you want to live in a society where more than half of its citizenry is oppressed, marginalized and has an alarming amount of violence perpetrated on them?
The thing about violence against women is that no matter who a woman is, how empowered she is, what position she has attained in life, how old she is, violence spares no one.
If it did, baby girls and old women would not be among the violated and abuse.
This means that a woman could be president, but still get beaten at home by a husband. I once witnessed an old woman getting slapped by a driver’s mate. A woman could be a lecturer and still get raped by her student. A girl could be born to wealthy parents and still get stolen off the streets and trafficked for sex. No woman is safe until violence directed at women by mere virtue of their gender is curtailed completely. None of us is safe until we all are.
Help us end this problem by telling your neighbour to stop beating his wife.
Tell your father not to force your little 15-year-old sister into marriage with a 60-year-old man.
Educate your friends about the fact that rape is wrong.
Stop that grandmother of yours from calling the village herbalist to come and conduct FGM on your niece.
Call out your colleagues for sexist remarks they make against women.
These women and girls are your daughters you claim to love so much.
The sisters you swear to heaven and earth to protect.
The mothers who suckled you at their teats.
The friend you like so much.
A complete stranger in the annals of some remote village you should still care about.
It doesn’t always have to hit home to make you care.
If we all join hands and realize that women aren’t commodities to be sold and exchanged, realize that women deserve to live a life free of gender-based violence, and free to live to their fullest potentials, and accorded the full benefits of the human rights, the world will indeed be a better place for all.