Violence Against Women

Maha No. 1 in Domestic Violence Cases: Study

Tue, 01/31/2012
The Times of India

The Times of India reports on a study about the implementation of India's Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, which was enacted in 2005. Findings show physical violence as well as emotional and verbal abuse were the most common forms of domestic violence reported, and 19 states did not have specific budget allocations for implementing the act. The research was conducted by the Lawyer's Collective of Women's Rights Initiative in collaboration with ICRW and UN Women.

Protecting Human Rights

Protecting Human Rights (PHR) is a five year human rights activity project funded by USAID. ICRW is partnering with Plan and the Bangladesh National Woman Lawyers’ Association to reduce the high prevalence of domestic violence and other related human rights violations (including child marriage, anti-stalking, dowry, physical humiliation, torture, trafficking, rape and child abduction).

To achieve this goal, PHR is engaging in an array of activities to encourage policy reform and advocacy, enhance public awareness, and increase public dialogue between the government and civil society on issues of domestic violence and other associated human rights abuses. Interventions under PHR include: 1) advocating for the Government of Bangladesh to adopt and enforce comprehensive women‘s rights and domestic violence policies that includes legislation as the Domestic Violence Bill; 2) ensuring that survivors of domestic violence and other related human rights abuses have greater access to justice; 3) increasing the awareness and capacity of communities throughout Bangladesh to reduce domestic violence.

Duration: 
2011 - 2016
Location(s): 
Bangladesh

Define the Problem

Ending sexual violence requires more than words

The U.S. Department of Justice has expanded its definition of rape. But new definitions alone will not change behavior -- not without the cultural and social will to meet them halfway.

ICRW Rated as High Impact Nonprofit by Industry Experts

Group of 77 experts ranks ICRW as one of top 14 organizations
Thu, 01/05/2012

Philanthropedia identifies ICRW as one of the most effective in reducing violence against women internationally.

A group of 77 experts identified ICRW as one of 14 high-impact nonprofits working to reduce violence against women internationally. Experts noted ICRW was an“influential think-tank that focuses on issues affecting women” with “committed and qualified staff” who do “high quality research.”

The rankings were facilitated by Philanthropedia, a nonprofit organization working to help donors make smarter donations by connecting them with some of the highest impact nonprofits in a cause. A subsidiary of Guidestar, Philanthropedia surveys foundation professionals, academics, researchers, nonprofit senior staff, policy makers, and other professionals to establish nonprofit ratings.

Read more about Philanthropedia’s ratings of high impact nonprofits.

 

 

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A Tool for Social Change

Research triggers Pacific region leaders to action in ending violence against women

Research can be a powerful tool for jump starting governments and communities into action -- and that's just what happened in Melanesia and East Timor when it came to addressing violence against women. 

Moving the Goal Posts for Girls

Encouraging girls to join sports programs can help empower them and their communities

Two ICRW experts participate in an international meeting focused on the role of sport in international development and in promoting gender equality. They talk cricket, coaches and how to include more women.

Violence against Women is More Than a “Women’s Issue”

ICRW’s Mary Ellsberg discusses keys to eliminate violence against women
Wed, 11/23/2011

To kick off the 16 Days of Activism against Violence campaign, ICRW's Mary Ellsberg discusses how the anti-violence field as evolved and what it will take to eliminate violence against women globally.

Mary Ellsberg, ICRW’s vice president of research and programs, has worked to prevent violence against women for more than two decades. Below, she reflects on how the field has evolved and what she believes the keys are to ultimately eliminating violence against women. We thought her insights would be a timely way to kick off the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence campaign, which runs from Nov. 25 to Dec. 10.         Ellsberg responded to questions by e-mail.      

ICRW: There seems to be quite a bit of buzz globally in the last few years about preventing violence against women. You have been working in this space for more than two decades now – how are the conversations different today? 

Mary Ellsberg

Ellsberg: When I first became aware of violence against women in the early 90’s, no one was talking about it as a public health issue, let alone a human rights or development concern. In Nicaragua, where I was living and working in public health programs, most women who experienced domestic violence or rape didn’t tell anyone, either because of fear of the abuser or shame. Domestic violence was seen as a private family matter, and women were expected to suffer in silence and not dishonor their family by airing dirty laundry. Violence was rarely reported to the police, and the few women who did seek help were often treated with scorn. They were told to go home and learn how to be a good wife. As a result, most Nicaraguans assumed that rape and domestic violence were fairly rare in Nicaragua – certainly nothing that required special policies or programs. 

I realized how mistaken that view was when I became involved with several community-based organizations that provided support to survivors of violence. I also later joined a large coalition of grassroots groups that conducted public awareness campaigns on the issue. That network drafted a law to criminalize domestic violence and protect survivors. However, we were told that without “hard numbers” showing that domestic violence was a problem in Nicaragua, no parliamentarian would ever support such a law. In response, the network partnered with a group of epidemiologists and conducted a study that ultimately revealed the breadth and frequency of domestic violence in Nicaragua. Armed with this evidence, the law we had proposed eventually passed unanimously. 

Over the last 20 years, joint efforts such as these between women’s rights advocates and researchers worldwide have completely changed the conversation around violence against women. We now have hundreds of studies demonstrating that violence against women, from domestic violence to trafficking to sexual assault, are common in every society, with devastating effects on the lives of women and their families. Violence against women is finally receiving the attention it deserves as a critical human rights, health and development, issue. That is a huge change over a relatively short period of time. 

ICRW: What aren’t people talking about and why?

Ellsberg: Although we have made incredible strides in terms of public awareness around violence against women, we have yet to see much of a difference in the lives of women on the ground. Initiatives such as the United Nations’ Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, and legislative reforms in many countries have demonstrated international commitment to ending violence against women. But in most parts of the world, women and girls are no safer than they were 20 years ago. They are just as likely to be beaten or raped, to be mistreated or ignored by the justice and health systems. This is because laws are not being implemented, services for survivors are insufficient and of poor quality, and little has been done to change social norms that promote violence and discrimination against women. 

ICRW: You’ve said violence against women is more than just a “women’s issue.” How so, and what can we learn from looking at it beyond this narrow frame?

Ellsberg: Because women and girls are the most common target of domestic and sexual violence, people often think of violence as a “women’s issue.”  But violence against women and girls affects all members of society. For instance, studies have shown that not addressing the issue can take a toll on economies because of the costs incurred by the health and justice systems dealing with the consequences of violence. 

Also, ending violence against women has been called the “missing target” in the Millennium Development Goals. It is most often viewed in the context of MDG3, which promotes gender equality and women’s empowerment. But violence undercuts every other development issue. The reality is that we cannot hope to make significant progress in achieving the ambitious goals of ending poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, improving maternal and child health and combating AIDS and other infectious diseases, unless we end violence against women and girls. After all, if we can’t keep women and girls safe, how will they be able to successfully achieve and education, protect themselves from HIV or soar in the workplace? 

ICRW: What are – and have been – the major challenges to addressing violence against women in a sustainable way, and why?

Ellsberg: In recent years, there have been hundreds, if not thousands, of innovative efforts to address violence against women that have shown promising results. But they tend to be small scale, underfunded and often poorly evaluated. Even when great results are achieved, very few of these are brought to a scale large enough to make a real difference. I’m not saying that ending violence against women is an easy task – there are no technological solutions, such as vaccines, that will solve the problem. Instead, it involves changing deeply entrenched values and behaviors, and this type of social change is never easy or fast. That said, the primary barriers to success are not technical. What we need is the political will on the part of governments to ensure that policies and laws are actually implemented, as well as a major and sustained financial investment on the part of governments and donors in order to make a difference. At the same time, we need to invest in rigorous evaluations, so that we can find out what works and what doesn’t, and make sure that our investments are achieving results. 

ICRW: Are there a few key, universal approaches to eliminating violence against women in all its forms, whether it takes place in the home or in a war zone?

Ellsberg: Unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all” approach to ending violence against women. However, experiences from around the world have showed us a few key principles that should be considered in all efforts to address violence against women: 

Women and girls need to be at the center of any strategy. Too often, women and girls are treated as victims who have to be told what to do. In fact, most survivors of violence are incredibly resilient and know better than anyone else what they need to be safe and healthy. Respect for the autonomy of survivors is a key principle for all programs addressing violence against women. 

Integrated approaches work best. Evidence shows that projects that only address one sector or group of stakeholders, such as trainings for police or health providers, are rarely successful.  All efforts, whether in communities or at the government level, can only work if they include all stakeholders. They must also encourage coordination between sectors, and between government and civil society. By civil society, I don’t just mean women’s activists, but also religious groups, private businesses and anyone who has a stake in local development.

Prevent violence before it happens. While it is important to ensure that women have access to justice and services for survivors of abuse, these approaches alone will never end violence against women. The most successful programs use positive approaches that emphasize how communities and families benefit by not using violence. They challenge prevailing social norms that encourage men to use violence to “control” or punish their wives, and engage men and boys as potential allies in ending violence against women.

Ultimately, we need to convince people that violence against women and girls is never acceptable, no matter the circumstances, and that it is in all our interest to ensure the safety and well-being of half our population.

Event Video: When She is Safe ... A Conversation on Ending Violence Against Women

ICRW on June 8, 2011 hosted “When She is Safe...” the second gathering in our Passports to Progress discussion series. The conversation focused on solutions to end violence against women worldwide and was moderated by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, deputy director of the Council on Foreign Relations’ Women and Foreign Policy Program, ICRW board member and author of “The Dressmaker of Khair Khana.” Lemmon was joined on stage by panelists Mary Ellsberg, vice president of research at programs at ICRW, Abigail Disney, filmmaker and philanthropist, and Donald Steinberg, deputy director for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Examining Men’s Attitudes toward Son Preference

Son preference is well-documented in many countries of the Asia-Pacific region. Sons are seen as essential for the survival of the family and are given greater value than daughters, resulting in skewed sex ratios, female feticide and higher child mortality.

Previous ICRW research has shown that solutions to limit son preference must address the underlying parental motivations for son preference and sex selection. Men can play lead roles in transforming harmful cultural and traditional norms and practices, and it is critical to better understand their unique role in sex selection in order to form effective policies and programs to reduce this practice.

ICRW partnered with the United Nations Population Fund's (UNFPA) Asia and the Pacific Regional Office (APRO) to conduct a quantitative survey in Nepal and Vietnam of men’s attitudes towards gender equity, gender-based violence and son preference. The study adapted the International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES), a comprehensive survey designed to measure men’s attitudes and behavior on gender, health, violence, family dynamics, fatherhood and other issues. The survey results were widely disseminated to guide policies and programs that aim to reduce son preference practices.

Duration: 
2011 – 2012
Location(s): 
Nepal
Location(s): 
Vietnam

Panel: Women Integral to Ending Violence

View Women as Change Agents, not Victims
Wed, 06/15/2011

Experts discuss challenges to and solutions for ending violence against women during second installment of ICRW’s Passports to Progress discussion series.

To successfully prevent – and ultimately eliminate – violence against women in all its forms requires sustained investments, enforcing anti-violence laws and addressing the social norms that fuel violence, a panel convened by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) said June 13.

And, they said, it calls for a collective mind-shift, one where women are viewed not as victims, but contributors, change-makers and agents of stability.

“(Women) don’t actually need someone coming from the outside telling them how to organize themselves or what a safe community looks like,” said ICRW’s Mary Ellsberg. “They know.”

Ellsberg, ICRW’s vice president of research and programs, was one of three panelists for “When She is Safe…” a discussion on challenges to and solutions for ending violence against women. The event, held at The National Press Club in Washington, D.C., was the second in ICRW’s Passports to Progress year-long discussion series.

Ellsberg was joined by filmmaker and philanthropist, Abigail Disney, and the deputy director for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Donald Steinberg. The discussion was moderated by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, deputy director of the Council on Foreign Relations’ Women and Foreign Policy Program, ICRW board member and author of “The Dressmaker of Khair Khana.”

The panel covered a variety of topics, from peace agreements to HIV to ongoing conflicts. Each panelist drew from experience to illustrate that violence was a symptom of underlying gender disparities, and effective solutions would require the full participation of women and men.

“The key is to follow (women’s) lead,” said Steinberg, who praised the Obama administration and U.S. State Department for their commitment to gender and women’s issues. “If you’re going to have sustainability, you’ve got to incorporate ground troops of women from the beginning.”

Women also must be “reinserted into the landscape” of how the world traditionally views conflict, said Disney, whose upcoming series, “Women, War & Peace,” which airs on PBS this fall, was previewed at the event. Women always have been a part of war throughout history, she said, but their role often is underestimated.

Disney added that the world needs to change its view of women and war – to see women not as collateral damage, but as integral to discussions about the causes and consequences of war as well as building peace.

Such a collective mind-shift may take time. Ellsberg said that despite increased awareness of violence against women and more anti-violence laws globally, the world still has “a long way to go” in combating violence.

Despite increasing calls to end violence against women, Ellsberg said that in most parts of the world, “women are just as likely to be beaten or raped as they were 15 to 20 years ago.” Anti-violence laws often are not implemented. And although there have been successful efforts to address violence against women, she said they’ve been small in scale and last a short time. Ellsberg suggested that much of this is generally due to a lack of political will and broad, sustained investments – throughout development assistance, not just for specific anti-violence projects – to expand successful programs.

“And I think the most important thing we’re not addressing are the social norms – (where) people think it’s okay to use violence if your wife doesn’t get food ready on time,” Ellsberg said. “Until we start addressing that, we’re not going to make more progress.”

Gillian Gaynair is ICRW’s writer and editor.

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