‘Women’s exposure to violence is related
to their position in the multiple systems of inequality and shows a tendency
to increase as these systems intersect, creating layers of discrimination
and exclusion for different groups of women.’
Yakin Erturk, former UN Rapporteur on VAW (2005:8)
Intersectional analysis exposes the ways that different systems, such as patriarchy, racism and economic advantage, create and perpetuate layers of inequality. In these systems, women are marginalised because they are women but also because they are members of an ethnic, religious or linguistic minority or as a result of multiple identities (sexual orientation, HIV status, disability or age).
Violence against Women and girls (VAW) is the extreme manifestation of sexism and gender discrimination and persists in all societies and in every socio-economic group, ideology, class, race, and ethnic group. While poverty, conflict and social crisis are factors that trigger an increase in male violence, they are not the only causes of VAW. These factors are complex and require different responses in order to protect women and girls from different forms of violence and abuse throughout their life cycles. Violence affects women and girls in their intimate relationships, in their working life and economic activities, and jeopardises their freedom to participate in their community. VAW also marginalises women from political activity, damages the fabric of societies, and acts against communities being inclusive and promoting equality.
Consequently a number of actions are needed to support individual women, to challenge unequal social relations, to transform attitudes and practices, and to change social values and institutions. In order to effectively target actions to tackle VAW and discrimination, it is necessary to use approaches that take into account issues of multiple identities and the different contexts that oppress women. Women’s identities can limit their choices, their access to resources, and determine how they participate. For example, in some countries lesbian women may experience stigma and suffer persecution that heterosexual women are not exposed to, or black or indigenous women may choose to organise politically with men in their communities in order to fight racism over and above their demands as women.
Good practice approaches to work on VAW
In this Toolkit we link the issues of identity and discrimination raised in Intersecting Violences to case studies in order to show how theoretical deliberations are reflected in practical actions to address these issues.
Violence against women and girls is widespread and reaching alarming proportions throughout Latin America. This extreme violation of women’s human rights has led many women’s organisations, local and international NGOs (Non-Govermental Organisations) throughout the region to take actions. In the case studies we highlight examples of innovative projects that focus on issues of multiple identities and discrimination when working on VAW. These use a variety of approaches that we have grouped into the following categories:
Actions and campaigns to transform the power structures of society including: working with young people to change attitudes and behaviour; awareness- raising activities with men; and strengthening policy, procedures and the implementation of legislation – in other words, pushing for a rigorous policy of arrest and punishment of perpetrators of VAW aimed at reaching zero tolerance of violence.
Actions to support women survivors of violence such as education and information on rights; mutual support and self-help groups; self-defence training and counselling; training the police and judiciary, local authorities and health service professionals; and legal advice and support for victims of violent crime going through legal processes.
Setting up refuges and income-generation activities; actions demanding governments and/or local and regional authorities provide properly resourced services to empower women and help them to survive and fight back; advocacy activities for policy development and legislation, and improved services.
Actions to challenge society to take more responsibility to protect women and girls; actions to inform and educate the public and influence policy and decision-makers; training journalists and those working with the media to address sexism and discrimination; public information campaigns, and producing films, radio and TV programmes on issues relating to VAW; carrying out research, dissemination of publications, holding seminars and conferences to inform the debate and influence society.
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