Gender-based violence indicators...Are we there yet?
There are a number of global instruments that commit states to reducing gender based violence (GBV). The Beijing Platform for Action committed governments to prevent and eliminate violence against women. In 2008, the Southern African Community Protocol on Gender and Development set a target of reducing the levels of gender based violence by 50% by 2015. The question is: how would we know if we are there yet?
Take the case of 82-year-old Thelma Mkhize* who was walking with two friends in the Limpopo province in South Africa. A young man approached, asking to follow her because he had important news from the church. Once in her house, he raped her, because "he could not find a girlfriend." Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Programme assisted Mkhize after her assault.
Across the globe, in 2009 the Acid Survivors Foundation of Bangladesh reported 2313 cases of acid attacks on women and girls in 10 years. The main reason for the violence is dowries, refusal of love proposals, or land disputes. The vengeful perpetrators throw acid on their victims' faces to disfigure them.
The cases above show two different manifestations of gender-based violence. But there is one similarity: we know about these cases and statistics because the efforts of non-governmental organisations who could rightfully shout to their governments ‘We are doing the work for you'!
Gender-based violence is the most widespread and pervasive of human rights violations. However, patriarchal systems that condone violence, along with unfriendly and insensitive criminal justice systems deter reporting. These factors - coupled with under-resourced statistical offices - contribute to a situation where little reliable data is available, particularly in countries of the South. Moreover, governments disregard commitments constantly.
This dilemma underscores the need for a standard tool that can be applied across communities and countries. Enter gender-based violence indicators! In simple words, an indicator is something that helps us to measure where we are, where we are going and how far we are from our goals. In recent years, UN bodies and governments have begun developing indicators.
In 2009, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) African Centre for Gender and Development initiative followed hot on the heels of Gender Links, who in the year 2008 developed a standard set of indicators for the SADC region. Gender Links is currently testing the set of indicators with a flagship prevalence study in the Gauteng province of South Africa, to be extended to the rest of the country and Mauritius later in the year. Plans for Botswana and Tanzania are under way.
Indicators will not provide the answer to end violence against women, but they are a useful tool to raise awareness and to identify prevention strategies based on the analysis of risk and protection factors. And maybe one day governments will be able to answer the ‘dreary' question posed by gender activists...Are we there yet?
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