A recent discussion with a friend regarding the responses of NUS students who were asked if they felt it was alright to hit women, brought sadness to my heart. What I found sad was that the majority, including the female students, said that it was appropriate in certain circumstances to physically hit a woman. What saddened me more was that we adults have taught this to our children, it is our fault!
When a father lays his hand on his wife in front of his children, he is showing them how to treat women. When a woman stays in such an abusive situation and does not take action to stop it, she is showing her children that it is ok to have a man lay his hands on her so disrespectfully. When friends and family witness such violence and do nothing to stop it, they are condoning the abuse of women.
Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO, said “Laws alone are not enough. We must educate to shape new norms and behaviors…To empower women and ensure equality; we must challenge every form of violence every time it occurs.”
An example of where laws are not enough is when a husband comes home drunk and physically abuses his wife in front of their son and daughter, her mother and a house girl. The police did not respond to the call for help and the neighbors did not provide any assistance either. He did not spend any time in jail and charges were not even made. This example shows that while the laws are in place they are worth nothing if women don’t follow through on charges. This example also shows that we are not caring enough of our neighbors to help each other.
Violence is not just physical. There is sexual, psychological and economic violence all of which are a violation of fundamental rights and human dignity.
The increase of sexual abuse of women and young girls in Samoa is heart breaking, particularly in cases where these acts of violence are at the hand of their spouses, fathers and other family members. The fact that these cases are often hushed and swept under the mat are a major factor as to why they continue and why young boys think it is acceptable behavior when they are older. Surely saving the name of a family is not as important as the well being of a precious young girl or a beloved mother and daughter.
Calling names and belittling a woman to the point where she has no self confidence to do anything is a form of psychological violence. Making a person feel small just to make you feel better about yourself is one of the most cowardice things a person can do. This is because it can be done behind closed doors and there are no physical marks to show the abuse, but the deterioration of a person’s self worth and soul can be far worse than physical abuse.
Economic violence is not one that is well publicized and yet it exists here in Samoa. An example of economic violence is advertising a job opportunity and encouraging women to apply when the organization already have in mind that a male counterpart is preferred resulting in wasted time and money for female candidates who are shortlisted and interviewed. The inequality of pay for women and men is also an example of economic violence.
March 8, 2013 is International Women’s Day and the theme is “A promise is a promise: time for action to end violence against women.” Ending violence against women is something that everyone needs to do and can do. We need to challenge each and every form of violence in order for it to end. We as a country have made the promise to end the violence now is the time for action, what will you do to end violence against women?