Tuesday, November 26, 2013

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Yesterday (25/11/2013) was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and I was engaged in a debate on the issue on the Debating Europe website.

It is obvious that above all, education reform is the key solution to a lot of issues that our societies are facing today and this problem is not an exception. 

Our youths should be taught gender equality, sex education that will include education on homosexuality, the differences between the genders and other relevant issues at school. 

Women must also be empowered to realize that they are the "hand that rocks the cradle", so if they want future generations of men to respect women, it is also up to them to raise boys, that will become men that are respectful towards women.

If women do not have respect for themselves, or they accept the stereotypes that exist in our societies and pass them on to their children at home, then nothing will change. In other words if our society must change, women must change as well, in how they see themselves in it and the roles they can or can not take.  

It is not just women who are stereotyped and the statistics reveal that suicide rates among young men are much higher than those of women, and that states something. Young males are also under pressure to conform and play the role that the society has assigned to them very well, that of the "real man".

We also have to examine why certain women, or indeed men who also suffer from violence, enter in a relationship with a violent person in the first place. Normally what any self respecting person would do if his or her partner was violent towards them, would be to leave such relationship.

But some people seem unable to do so, either because they suffer from low self esteem, financial dependency on their partners, family or public opinion restrictions, shame, an idea that the best interests of their children would be to stay in such relationship and so on. 

As a society we must struggle to remove such taboos on relationships and the family institution, the role of each gender in them and the stereotypes that we have created on how must a man or a woman act in them. Perhaps laws must be extended and developed by the state, to protect the most vulnerable people of our community.

People who are violent towards their partners most likely come from a family that abuse by the father, the mother or both was the norm, and so they continue what they know best and think it is normal: violence.

Perhaps they saw their mother being hit by their father at home, or the mother herself was abusive towards her children, or she allowed the father to be abusive towards their children, or both parents were abusive towards them.

And so the circle of violence never ends. The issue here is, how do we stop it and empower women to have more confidence and economic independence, that if they enter into a relationship with such men, to be confident and proud enough, but also financially independent to break away. 

Help them protect their children from violent men, but also stop being abusive towards their children, to retaliate for the violence they receive from the man that they "love" or are dependent on financially.

Perhaps women that enter such relationships believe that that is what they deserve and they do not deserve better. Or themselves have grown in an abusive family and they are just accustomed to violence. 

Potentially more state intervention is needed in family affairs, but then people will understandably object to such thing. Maybe this kind of intervention must be more discreet, with the establishment of agencies to support families in need and of course education. 

What I mean by "education" is not by its academic dimension of course rather its social, though promoted through our educational institutions. In this way we should try and change the stereotypes that portray men and women as they are under our current social role models.

Punishing one single case of violence, may solve the problem of one abusive relationship but it does not stop the phenomenon in the long term. It has been going on for too long and punishing one violent man here or there does not make it go away. Not that these men shouldn't be punished.

But preferably all of us as a society must take action collectively, both men and women, to raise children that do not think that violence is acceptable at any form. And our schools and governments must play an active role in this effort.  

We all know what shameful secrets, exist in the institution of family behind closed doors. Struggles between the parents to gain influence or power over another, or show to the society a fake facade of appropriateness, morals, happiness and accomplishment. And within these struggles, both male and female children are forced to comply with certain stereotypes, to be a "good wife" or a "real man".

It is those stereotypes that do most of the damage. In their effort to assert themselves in the family, in the eyes of a domineering father or mother figure and in the cultural stereotypes of the society they live in, men and women often find themselves at odds with each other, in an ever lasting struggle of dominance and role playing.

Perhaps if we get rid of those stereotypes, men won't beat women when they can not assert themselves, or prove to their mother, father, friends and family that they are "real men". Perhaps it is time to say, it is ok to be weak even if you are male, or it is ok to take the lead even if you are female. 

We should create new role models, that do not bow to any gender or sexual orientation. Perhaps then the disgraceful phenomenon of family violence will be eradicated, when the issue is not focused solely on violence against women, but violence in the family environment in general and the role of the two sexes in it.

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