“Together we can help both men and women [all sexes too] stand up for their rights and support them to become the best version of themselves for tomorrow.” Seemal Saeed, Human Rights Activist, Pakistan (MENCARE, 2015). Prevention surely is better than cure.
Prevention plays a central role in the efforts to eradicate the root causes of gender-based violence in society. Ending Gender-Based Violence is everyone's business. Nothing good ever comes out of volence; if we desire a society of peace, then we cannot achieve that through violence, and if we desire a society without discrimination, then we must not discriminate against anyone. There are several ways where we can make a difference, safely and impactfully.
Listen to and believe survivorsThe first step in breaking the cycle of abuse is when the person who has been violated shares their story. It takes a lot for people who have gone through violence to speak out, and when they do, they need a safe space to let it all out. When discussing cases of sexual violence, a person’s sobriety, clothes, and sexuality are irrelevant.
Change attitudes and stereotypesGender stereotypes are the beliefs that people have about the characteristics of what it means to be male, female, intersex, agender or transgender (C.L. Martin, 2001). Stereotypes change and vary with cultures over time. These expectations are often related to the roles that people with any of these sexes fulfill in the culture. For example, in binary cultures, gender stereotypes cast men as more agentic and women as more communal (supportive, caring, warm, and emotional). These binaries can limit our personal expressions of our genders.
It is possible to shift gender norms in a more equitable direction. Promoting community-based interventions and training encourages society to reflect on and shift their perceptions of inequality. Changing the attitudes that make gender-based violence possible means empowering people through education, health, and livelihood opportunities.
Sexual violence against people who identify as men is treated differently than that committed against people who identify as women in most societies and is largely unrecognized by international law. We need to call out GBV for what it is regardless of the gender involved.
Know the data and demand more of itGender-based violence is rarely discussed, and data at a local or regional level is often not available or is incomplete. Many people who have experienced GBV choose not to report incidents, and certain forms of violence may not be punishable by law.
To effectively combat gender-based violence, we need to understand the problem. Relevant data collection is key to implementing successful prevention measures and providing survivors with the right support (UNWOMEN, 2022). Data on GBV enables organizations and countries to make informed decisions on where and how to target funding and other support. Perpetrator data and information on the times and locations of incidents of violence can inform prevention efforts and enable more specific advocacy for policy change (UNFPA, 2013). Proper use of this data can have a positive impact on the survivors; it will show them that they are not alone and give them the courage to speak out so that they can get help.
Train the next generation and learn from themGender stereotypes start from a very young age. Start conversations about the imposition of gender roles early on, and challenge the traditional features and characteristics assigned to people based on their genders (male, female, transgender, agender, etc) even on matters of sexuality (UNWOMEN, 2022). Point out and call out the stereotypes that children encounter and let them know that it is okay to be different. Encourage a culture of acceptance; let them know that it is okay to chart our paths in the roles that one takes up in society, in the choice of a partner, and one's sexuality.
Train the upcoming generation about consent, bodily autonomy, and personal accountability and also listen to what they have to say about their experiences of the world. By empowering young people with information and education and room to be themselves we can greatly improve our future.
C.L. Martin, L. D. (2001). Gender related development. From International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/social-sciences/gender-stereotypes
MENCARE. (2015, November 20). During 16 Days, MenCare shares 16 ways fathers can act against gender-based violence. From MENCARE: https://men-care.org/2015/11/20/join-mencare-during-the-16-days-of-activism-against-gender-based-violence/
UNFPA. (2013, February 21). The role of data in addressing violence against women. From UNFPA : https://www.unfpa.org/sites/default/files/resource-pdf/finalUNFPA_CSW_Book_20130221_Data.pdf
UNHCR. (2021). Gender-based violence. From UNHCR: https://www.unhcr.org/gender-based-violence.html
UNWOMEN. (2022, November 17). ake action: 10 ways you can help end violence against women, even during a pandemic. From UNWOMEN: https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2020/11/compilation-take-action-to-help-end-violence-against-women
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Sarah Hobson, Ph.D. specializes in supporting teams, departments and schools, businesses, and government agencies in building inclusive innovative change-making communities who understand how to connect well with and join diverse populations in providing needed sustainable resources for all youth and families.