by Katie Langford
[Assistant Director of the Latinx Action Group]
The versatility of violence is expressed through its various forms: physical, mental, and sexual. Neglect and maltreatment are also forms of violence. What do these multiple areas of violence tell us about the issue itself? Violence is present in many communities, relationships, and family households today in ways that numerous cultures deem as cultural norms. The fact that in 48 countries spousal rape is not a criminal offense exhibits the issue of judicial officials either unwilling or uninterested to change the law, because they have accepted this custom. Mexican-American actress Salma Hayek raises a concern about the epidemic.
“There is a subconscious way of taking violence as a way of expression, as a normality, and it has a lot of effects in the youth in the way they absorb education and what they hope to get out of life.” - Salma Hayek
Violence has become a way for people to express their emotions in an aggressive way in order to instill fear in the victims. This manner of “resolving” disagreements in, for example domestic relationships, is incredibly damaging to these relationships. A couple relationship’s becomes empty if there is a lack of security, trust, and the willingness to be honest with each other without fear of recurring violence.
Violence in every form is an issue that disproportionately affects self-identifying women. There are billions of women in this world who are afraid to denounce their abusers because law enforcement authorities would not protect them. It is important that we talk about this issue because violence against women cannot be eliminated until everyone is clearly able to identify first what constitutes an act of violence.
Now, I will share some statistics that are incredibly disturbing, but are important in understanding the depth of this issue in numbers:
Worldwide, more than 700 million women alive today were married as children (below 18 years of age). Of those women, more than 1 in 3—or some 250 million—were married before 15. Child brides are often unable to effectively negotiate safe sex, leaving them vulnerable to early pregnancy as well as sexually transmitted infections, including HIV .
At least 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone female genital mutilation/cutting in 30 countries, according to new estimates published on the United Nations’ International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation in 2016. In most of these countries, the majority of girls were cut before age 5 .
I am sharing these statistics because those of us who are not well-versed in the relation between women’s rights issues and acts of violence may not have these examples and their implications before. A child marrying an adult is perfectly acceptable in many cultures; however, not everyone considers or cares about the sexual and physical violence that not only affect the child’s mental perception of sex and affection, but also affects their physical health by being at high risk for STDs. This is a form of violence.
Female genital mutilation is a practice in various African, Middle Eastern, and Asian countries where it is concentrated. The beliefs behind this practice vary depending on the country, but one of the most common beliefs is that it ensures premarital virginity and marital fidelity. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en/ However, this practice can cause immediate complications, which include severe pain, excessive bleeding, and even death; FGM’s longterm effects can be vaginal infections, menstrual problems, and increased risk of childbirth complications. This is a form of violence.
Worldwide gender-based violence specifically targeting folks who identify as female, in my opinion, are due to sexism and male chauvinism. Why is it that in Saudi Arabia it is illegal for women to drive or vote? In the country of Yemen, why are women not allowed to leave the house without their husband’s permission? These laws were put in place by men who believed that a woman cannot be trusted with making decisions that affect the policies of the society in which they live - that men are the only gender with the mental capacity to do this. These men also believed that women could not possibly be trusted to drive through the streets, “endangering” the lives of pedestrians and others in vehicles - because males can only be trusted with this. Furthermore, these men believed that a woman could never be given the independence or control over her own life enough to make the decision of leaving the house without her husband by her side - because a man has complete control of his wife’s life. Does sexism and male chauvinism not stand as the driving force behind the implementation of these laws? Keep in mind that there are many laws and cultural practices in the world that inhibit rampant violence against women, but from my understanding, they are all connected to the above reasons - sexism and male chauvinism.
Let’s take a look at this year’s U.S. Presidential elections. Hillary Clinton became the first woman in U.S. history to not only be elected as the presidential nominee for a major political party, but she also was the first female presidential candidate to win the popular vote. I was watching a video the other day of a reporter from The Guardian’s journey throughout the U.S. during the campaign trail, and it really disturbed me to hear women claiming that they are voting for Trump, because “a woman should not be this country’s president. A woman’s place is at home cooking and cleaning, not running the country.” Hillary Clinton is, though not without her faults, a woman who possesses decades of political experience. Due to our faulty electoral college system that discredits the false notion that every vote counts, Clinton lost the electoral college vote to a male candidate who is the alleged perpetrator of sexual assault claims from twelve women, including a thirteen-year-old girl, as well as facing accusations of exploitation, and promoting harmful rhetoric targeting marginalized communities. If Clinton was a man and Trump was a woman, would Clinton have lost this election? We have to think of the effects of these election results on the girls growing up who are interested and involved in politics. These results were a message for them: a woman can be much more qualified that her inexperienced male opponent, but the country’s people will likely elect the male candidate either way, because of his gender. This is of course not the only reason that Trump was elected, but his gender did play a major role in the decisions of this year’s voters.
Tying it back to the reason for my post, the Latinx Action Group in collaboration with the Women’s Caucus and Latinx Caucus of the College Democrats of Massachusetts are participating in the United Nation’s Annual Orange Your World Campaign, which advocates to bring awareness and eventually eliminate the issue of worldwide violence against women and girls. The campaign starts on November 25th, which is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and ends on December 10th. During those 16 days of activism, we will be launching a photo campaign, which will include photos from 75 participants as well as infographics depicting the severity of the issue. November 25th was declared with that title, because it is the anniversary of the day that the Mirabal sisters were brutally assassinated by the men of the former dictator of the Dominican Republic, Rafael Trujillo, who held presidential office from 1930-1961. The Mirabal sisters were three incredible Dominican activists that led a secret organization that repeatedly attempted to overthrow Trujillo’s regime. The Orange Your World campaign starts on that day in their honor, which is why we are planning a film screening of the sister’s biopic film “In The Time of The Butterflies.” Please follow the Latinx Action Group's Facebook page for the Orange The World Campaign to view the photo campaign, info-graphics, and updates on upcoming film screenings! Feel free to email me directly with questions at email@example.com.