Written by Adebayo Blessing
Violence is a form of action that causes pain, destruction or suffering to the affected persons. All over the world, gender-based violence act as threats to human rights and hinders the ability of the victims to contribute meaningfully to societal growth, sustainable peace and development. This is because victims of violence often find it difficult to express themselves freely or explore the talents embedded in them to make their environment more soothing, loving, peaceful and comfortable.
By definition, gender-based violence constitute any form of violence that affects individuals or groups on the basis of their gender. In other words, it is a form of violence directed against a person because of their gender. Gender-based violence is a phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality and continues to be one of the most notable human right violations. The European commission has it that gender-based violence can take different forms and mostly affects women and girls, which can result in physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm, depending on the society or individual being affected. Notable examples of gender-based violence include: domestic violence, sex-based harassment, online violence, female genital mutilation, and forced marriage:
Domestic Violence: It includes all acts of violence that occurs within the family, domestic unit or intimate partners either by physical, sexual, psychological or economic means.
Sexual-Based Harassment: This is a form of unwelcome verbal, physical or other non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person. It is stated that 45% to about 55% of women in the EU have experienced sexual harassment since the age of 15.
Online Violence: This is a unique term used to describe all sought of illegal and or harmful behaviours against men and women in the online space. It could include offensive or sexually explicit emails or messages, sharing of private images and videos without consent.
Female Genital Mutilation: The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines it as all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injuries to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It violates women’s bodies and often damages their mental health, sexuality, well-being and participation in their community activities.
Forced Marriage: It refers to marriage conducted under force or coercion. It is closely linked to child or early marriage i.e. when a marriage is between two minors or an adult and a minor often before the minor has reached puberty.
Consequences of Gender-Based Violence
Gender-based violence takes different forms to operate within its environment thus they include: physical, sexual or psychological. Factors such as poverty, lack of education and unemployment are set to cause gender-based violence in the life of a person or a community. No matter the form of gender-based violence, it leaves several short and long-term implications for victims which prevents them from contributing actively to the promotion of sustainable peace and development, some of which include:
Lack of trust: Victims of gender-based violence usually feel insecure and find it very difficult to trust people because of their experience.
Psychological trauma: The presence of violence on the lives of affected persons causes depression, low self-esteem, anxiety and even mental illness, which hampers them from relating meaningfully with people around them.
Fear: The presence of any form of gender-based violence such as sexual-based harassment is liable to cause fear on affected victims. Due to their experiences, they often feel afraid to move out of their vicinity because they don’t know the person that has a plan of harm against them out there.
Health crisis & complications: Gender-based violence such as female genital mutilation or rape can cause serious health crisis or complications for victims such as infections, sexually transmitted diseases etc. Furthermore, females who are forced to marry at an early age may face traumatic fistula, reproductive health consequences, and severe pain in their body.
Insecurity: In the sense that their future and dreams are shattered, unsecured and unprotected, many are forced to drop out of school while their aspirations to be educated and sound is trampled on increasing the risk of poverty, lack of education, livelihood opportunities and impunity for crime and abuse, also tend to contribute to and reinforce a culture of violence and discrimination based on gender.
The Way Forward
To every problem there must be a way out here. Possible solutions to curbing the menace of gender-based violence especially among women and girls who tend to be more vulnerable to the issue include:
The need to take a stand against regressive forces: Globally, it is stated that 1 in 3 girls have or will experience violence in their lifetime thus there is a need to reach out to marginalised and rural girls to enlighten them on the various forms of gender-based violence. Child Marriage denies girls their rights to make vital decisions about their bodies, well- being and future. It forces them out of education and into a life of poor prospects with an increased risk of violence, abuse and ill-health. This occurrence is common to the less developed countries.
Encourage girls to speak out: There is a need for workshops about sexual exploitation, girl’s right and advocacy for young girls to build their confidence on the ability to speak up about the violence they face.
Engage boys and young men to become agents of change: Boys can take up the responsibility of standing up for gender equality and breaking down the attitude that cause violence against girls and women. The need to be educated from a young age is pertinent to their lives. Youths can also be mobilised youth to fight against harmful practices such as child marriage and FGM.
Active Listening to girls who have experiences would help: One of the ways of solving and tackling gender-based violence is if we take our time to listen to the stories of victims and respond to their needs. This gives room for a positive approach and a brighter understanding of the situation.
Educate yourself and those around you: Proper self-education and educating those around you about the occurrences and dangers of gender-based violence is a great tool to combat the menace and reducing the percentage of victimization in the country.
Use your voice on social media to bring awareness to GBV: The social media is a great tool to spread news, information’s, ads, across boundaries reaching out to millions of people at once. International bodies can easily reach out to societies affected without delay.
Sponsor a woman survivor of conflict and war: A woman who already has an experience of violence knows and feels the hurt. Thus, sponsoring more people like these survivors who are passionate about being agents of change to in their community can help to protect the upcoming generations.
The various forms of gender-based violence represent examples of human rights violations, with serious physical, emotional, and psychological implications on victims, survivors and their families. While gender-based violence affects both men and women, entrenched gender discriminatory norms and the patriarchal nature of most African societies account for the prevalence of gender-based violence on women and girls in countries like Nigeria. To reduce the prevalence of gender-based violence in Nigeria, there is need to strengthen access to information and justice for victims of GBV.