Gender-sensitive social protection in Diaspora Sixteen percent of young women aged 15 to 24 experienced this violence in the past 12 months

Dr Masimba Mavaza

As Zimbabwe joins the world in the two week fight against gender-based violence, the world has coiled itself in incredibly diverse environments.

This has cruelly shaken the world into realisation that gender inequality knows no boundaries.

Gender equality is universal and it exposes the world to a cruel culture of oppression against women and children, especially girls.

Many people have formed charitable organisations purporting to be fighting the cause for women, yet they oppressively deny women their voice and line their pockets in the name of women.

In the last decade alone, nearly 60 million people became international migrants, seeking better opportunities and a brighter future outside their countries of origin, approximately 48.5 percent of whom are women.

These women often face specific challenges such as gender-based violence (GBV), limited access to healthcare and education and economic exploitation.

Addressing these challenges through gender-sensitive social protection is crucial to ensuring migrants’ well-being and empowerment.

It is also key to the empowerment of women and girls in their respective countries of origin. Gender-sensitive social protection means creating and implementing programmes and policies that consider the different needs and challenges faced by men, women and gender-diverse individuals.

World wide, an estimated 900 million women — almost one in three — have been subjected to physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence, non-partner sexual violence, or both, at least once in their life (30 percent of women aged 15 and older).

Many women have been killed by those they love in a show of superiority.

Gender based violence has gone unnoticed in the Western world because women still bear the pains of silence and are so embarrassed to report any such violence.

The major reason for women dying in silence is the culture that marriage is all what they are born for. This then gives them the thick skin to accept any form of abuse so that they can keep their marriages intact.

The cruelty women have endured in the name of marriage is unacceptable.

This abuse does not include sexual harassment.

The rate of depression, anxiety disorders, unplanned pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, and HIV are higher in women who have experienced violence compared to women who have not, as well as many other health problems that can last after the violence has ended.

This experience comes with worse effects on women in the diaspora, away from the support of their close communities.

Most violence against women is perpetrated by current or former husbands or intimate partners. More than 640 million or 26 percent of women aged 15 and older have been subjected to intimate partner violence.

Most of these husbands have followed their wives or girlfriends in the diaspora.

Of those who have been in a relationship, almost one in four adolescent girls aged 15–19 (24 percent) has experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner or husband.

Sixteen percent of young women aged 15 to 24 experienced this violence in the past 12 months.

In 2023 alone, seven Zimbabwean women and girls in England alone were killed by their intimate partners or other family members.

This means that, on average, more than one Zimbabwean woman or girl in the UK is killed every month by someone in their own love bubble.

While 56 percent of all female homicides are committed by intimate partners or other family members, only 11 percent of all male homicides are perpetrated in the private sphere.

While the world battles climate change at Dubai COP28, the very climate change and slow environmental degradation exacerbate the risks of violence against women and girls due to displacement, resource scarcity and food insecurity and disruption to service provision for survivors. Women migrate in search of a better life for their children and end up in places where they are exposed to violence.

Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the rate of rape among women displaced to trailer parks rose 53.6 times the baseline rate in Mississippi, USA, for that year.

This was in America where we believe women are fully protected. In other parts of Zimbabwe, there is an increase in girls jumping into early marriages in exchange for livestock to help their families.

This has been more pronounced in some religious sects.

Africa as a whole has witnessed an increase in trafficking in the infamous boat migrants.

There has been no meaningful investment in the cause for women. Those championing women’s rights are actually championing their own selfish gains at the expense of women.

The lack of a common definition of technology-facilitated violence against women and girls impacts on the lack of comparable data at a global level.

But available evidence collected at country and regional levels confirms high prevalence rates.

Many organisations purporting to be fighting for women are just collecting funds and nothing beyond making money.

Coming to Europe for the first time has seen many Zimbabwean women facing and experiencing cyber-harassment.

Many have been abused on social media including having received unwanted and/or offensive sexually explicit emails or SMS messages, or offensive and/or inappropriate advances on social networking sites.

Many female internet users have been exposed to online violence in the diaspora.

While we bemoan the prevalence of gender based violence, there has been a surge of women being tortured by other women physically, sexually embarrassed and paraded naked on camera by other women.

Crimes of passion have escalated in the diaspora and perpetrators usually go scot free.

In the majority of countries with available data on this issue, among women who do seek help, most look to family and friends and very few consider formal institutions such as police and health services.

Fewer than 10 percent of those seeking help reported to the police.

The most evil of all this is when family members actively play a role in stopping any report to the police.

There are few laws on violence against women and girls and if the laws are there then no enforcement is taking place.

We take pride and solace that Zimbabwe passed laws on domestic violence, and laws on sexual harassment in the workplace.

However, even when laws exist, this does not mean there is always compliance with international standards and recommendations or are implemented and enforced.

A regional analysis of Women’s Health Surveys conducted from 2016 to 2019 in five CARICOM Member States — Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago — found that ever-partnered women aged 15–64, who were in relationships with men who had attitudes and behaviours that reinforce men’s dominant position over women and perpetuate gender inequality, were more likely to have experienced lifetime and current intimate partner violence.

Behaviours intended to control women’s bodies, autonomy, and contact with others are also strongly correlated with an increased risk of intimate partner violence.

There are serious economic costs of violence against women and girls and it is the duty of every person to fight these evils.

Violence against women can result in significant costs to the state, victims/survivors, and communities.

Costs are both direct and indirect, and tangible and intangible.

For example, the costs of the salaries of individuals working at shelters are direct tangible costs. Costs are borne by everyone, including individual victims/survivors, perpetrators, the government, and society in general.

In 2021, gender-based violence across the European Union was estimated to cost around EUR 366 billion a year.

Violence against women makes up 79 percent of this cost, amounting to EUR 289 billion. Sexual violence against women and girls is not only in bed.

It goes beyond our comprehension.

Globally, six percent of women report that they have been subjected to sexual violence from someone other than their husband or partner.

However, the true prevalence of non-partner sexual violence is likely to be much higher, considering the stigma related to this form of violence and fear to report.

Fifteen million adolescent girls worldwide, aged 15–19 years, have experienced forced sex. In the vast majority of countries, adolescent girls are most at risk of forced sex (forced sexual intercourse or other sexual acts) by a current or former husband, partner, or boyfriend.

Based on data from 30 countries, only 1 percent have ever sought professional help.

In 2020, for every 10 victims of human trafficking detected globally, about four were adult women and about two were girls.

Most of the detected victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation (91 per cent) are women. Analysis of court cases shows that female victims are subjected to physical or extreme violence at the hands of traffickers at a rate three times higher than males.

Some Zimbabwean women have been trafficked to the Middle East.

As we commemorate the Gender Based Violence weeks, we need to take a moment and ask our selves – despite just talking and celebrating, what are we doing to end this scandalous experience of our lives?

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