Violence against women, girls is global pandemic problem

19Feb 2021
The Guardian
Violence against women, girls is global pandemic problem

Violence against women, also known as gender-based violence and sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), are violent acts primarily or exclusively committed against women or girls. Such violence is often considered a form of hate crime, committed against women or girls specifically because-

-they are female, and can take many forms.

Violence against women has a very long history, though the incidents and intensity of such violence have varied over time and even today vary between societies. Such violence is often seen as a mechanism for the subjugation of women, whether in society in general or in an interpersonal relationship. Such violence may arise from a sense of entitlement, superiority, misogyny or similar attitudes in the perpetrator or his violent nature, especially against women.

The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women states, "violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women" and "violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men."

Violence against women and girls is a problem of pandemic proportions. At least one out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime with the abuser usually someone known to her.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretariat, with the support of the European Union, is implementing the Support to Peace and Security in the SADC Region Programme (SPSS).

The SPSS Programme is, among other issues, aimed at enhancing capacity in SADC for gender-sensitive conflict prevention, management and resolution and for addressing the prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence.

The SADC Executive Secretary's report for the 2019/2020 financial year notes that GBV continues to be a challenge for the SADC region in efforts towards achieving gender equality and promoting peace and security within the regional integration agenda. In the report, SADC Executive Dr Stergomena Tax said through the SPSS Programme, the Secretariat was developing tools to guide the regional response to GBV.

These tools include the Regional Sexual and Gender-based Violence Training Guidelines which will support capacity strengthening of frontline officers, especially law enforcement officers, at national level to ensure effective and efficient prevention and provision of comprehensive GBV services. The Training Guideline is also intended to build awareness among key service providers on gender-based violence, its impacts and consequences.

The second instrument under development is the Regional Guideline on Developing GBV Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and Referral Mechanisms. This Guideline is intended to provide member states with steps to follow in the development and implementation of the GBV SOPs and referral mechanisms in order to facilitate access to quality, timely and appropriate services for GBV victims/ survivors.

The Regional Guideline describes essential services to be provided to GBV victims by the health, social services, police and justice sectors and it provides overall guidance on co-ordination of essential GBV services at national level.

In addition, the Secretariat is developing a Regional Inventory of sexual and gender-based violence legislation. This exercise also includes conducting a rapid assessment of GBV laws and policies with recommendations to Member States for addressing existing gaps.

The SPSS Programme continues to support the wide dissemination of the SADC Strategy and Framework of Action for Addressing GBV (2018-2030) across the region and undertaking public education and awareness raising interventions. In addition, one of the key result areas of the SPSS Programme is to further strengthen SADC's capacity to address issues of SGBV by training service providers, in particular law enforcement officers, on effective response to GBV.

The programme also specifically targets engagement of parliamentarians as policy makers and advocates for change in the response to GBV.  

SADC member states continue to be urged to accelerate prevention and elimination of GBV and to strengthen resourcing and implementation of existing GBV laws and policies. Recognising and tackling gender inequality as the root cause and driver of different forms of GBV is critical.

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