Changing perceptions

first_imgDomestic violence is a global issue reaching across national boundaries as well as socio-economic, cultural, racial and class distinctions. This problem is not only widely dispersed geographically, but its incidence is also extensive, making it a typical and accepted behaviour (The WHO Multi-country study on Women’s health and domestic violence against women. Geneva: World Health Organisation; 2007).Further, the study showed that the continued existence of domestic violence is morally indefensible. Its cost to individuals, to health systems and to society is enormous. Yet no other major problem of public health has been so widely ignored and so little- understood.More recently, the findings of a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report has revealed that in Guyana, domestic violence is widely accepted in local communities and that the highest level of acceptance of wife beating occurs in the indigenous community, where one in every four adults believe that it is justifiable to hit a woman.A combination of social norms and social and cultural practices have been identified as the main factors that influence violence against women in this country. “In this sense, using a sociological perspective, gender-based violence (GBV), and attitudes toward it, could be subdivided into two sets of causes: those at the individual level and those at the social level,” UNICEF reported.The statistics also point to a dark reality: the Crime and Social Observatory (CSO) within the Public Security Ministry found that between 2011 and 2013 more than 9200 different types of domestic violence cases were registered in Guyana, with 65 per cent of them involving assault.UNICEF added that domestic violence also has a straight connection to gender-based violence. “Between 2006 and 2007, there was an estimated 50 per cent increase in the total number of GBV victims, 3600 more than the previous year,” it said, adding that the largest increase was recorded in Berbice (Regions Five and Six), where reported cases rose steeply from approximately 300 in 2006 to 1890 in 2007, representing a 500 per cent increase.In relation to the high incidence of cases in Berbice, UNICEF found that domestic violence was more accepted among those living in the rural areas than those living in urban settlements, for both men and women. Further, it stated that it was also highly prevalent in the poorest of families. In many instances, financial dependency on the abusers keep many women locked into abusive relationships.In many communities across Guyana, incidents of domestic violence continue to be “nobody’s business”, and too often the excuse of “justified punishment” or “discipline” is used to excuse the act itself.The report stated that overall, 10 per cent of men and women between 15 and 49 years old believes it is justifiable that a husband hits his wife if she goes out without telling him, neglects the children, argues with him, refuses sex with him or if she burns the food. This figure is said to be a considerable reduction when compared to 18 per cent in 2006, according to the Bureau of Statistics and UNICEF Guyana, 2008.Notwithstanding the other existing factors that contribute to the perpetuation of domestic violence, communities need to understand that the effects of domestic violence are widespread; they are not just physical – but emotional, mental, and financial as well.The issue, therefore, should be aired openly, not tucked away in hushed tones as if it never happens.Additionally, with the advent of social media, more persons are willing to talk about it, and become outraged over how prevalent domestic violence is. Survivors are now believed, rather than treated as if nothing had happened.It is also important to acknowledge that women are not the only victims of domestic violence; men, children, the disabled, and the elderly, can also become victims. The rich, as well as the poor, can become victims. In fact, domestic violence doesn’t distinguish between victims, nor does it distinguish between perpetrators.It is time for society to focus on changing cultural norms and attitudes that promote the acceptance of and even encourage violence against women, which undermine women’s enjoyment of their full human rights and freedoms.last_img read more