The terrorizing of women takes many insidious forms. Women comprise a little more than half the world’s population. Yet they do 2/3’s of the work, receive 1/10th of the pay and own less than 1% of the property. They are routinely denied health care, housing and food.
Women experience many types of violence during their lives. These include:
- Pre-birth: Sex-selective abortion; effects of battering during pregnancy on birth outcomes.
- Infancy: Female infanticide; physical, sexual and psychological abuse.
- Girlhood: Child marriage; female genital mutilation; physical, sexual and psychological abuse; incest; child prostitution and pornography.
- Adolescence and adulthood: Dating and courtship violence (e.g. acid throwing and date rape); economically coerced sex (e.g. school girls having sex with “sugar daddies” in return for school fees); incest; sexual abuse in the workplace; rape; sexual harassment; forced prostitution and pornography; trafficking in women; partner violence; marital rape; dowry abuse and murders; partner homicide; psychological abuse; abuse of women with disabilities; forced pregnancy.
- Disability: As a result of the stigma that increases vulnerability and decreases resources, women with disabilities are estimated to be two to five times more likely to be abused than non-disabled women. Further, according to “Let the World Know,” (Report of a Seminar on Human Rights and Disability held at Almasa Conference Centre), “Women subject to sexual abuse are commonly misdiagnosed with major mental health disorders, institutionalized, and then re-traumatized through the coercive treatment they receive in institutions. Within institutions, woman are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse by staff or other patients. Non-consensual sterilization, forced abortions, and the arbitrary denial of parental rights are common.”
- Psychiatric Abuse: When women (and men, and children) experience emotional/mental/spiritual turmoil, we need to be treated with respect in order to make a safe space for healing and resolution. Instead, the psychiatric system punishes us for our failure to meet up to society’s expectations. While people around us may think they are helping or keeping us safe, nobody is safe in a psychiatric institution. Besides the risk of physical and sexual assault, psychiatry’s routine practices like forced psychotropic drugging, electroshock, seclusion and restraint, and being confined against one’s will by people whose purpose is to perpetrate these acts of violence against you, is enough to terrorize anyone and, far from permitting healing to occur, gives the person additional trauma to cope with. These practices also violate our equal human rights to not be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and to not be subjected to arbitrary detention.
- Elderly: Forced “suicide” or homicide of widows for economic reasons; sexual, physical and psychological abuse.
- Rape and sexual assault: According to Robert Weller, Associated Press, “In 2001, the U.S. Justice Department reported there were 249,000 victims of rape, attempted rape or sexual assault nationwide….[S]tudies have shown that only about 38 percent of victims report the attacks.”
During times of armed conflict, additional forms of violence are perpetrated against women by both enemy and “friendly” forces, including:
- Mass rape, military sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced “marriages” and forced pregnancies.
- Multiple rapes and gang rape (with multiple perpetrators) and the rape of young girls.
- Sexual assault associated with violent physical assault.
- Resurgence of female genital mutilation, within the community under attack, as a way to reinforce cultural identity.
- Women forced to offer sex for survival, or in exchange for food, shelter, or “protection.”
Adapted from World Health Organization, Women’s Health and Development Unit and “Let the World Know,” Report of a Seminar on Human Rights and Disability held at Almasa Conference Centre, Stockholm, Sweden, November 2000.
Additional Statistical Information: