History is replete with examples of one peoples demonstrating excessive hatred and violence towards other peoples merely because the former believed the latter was ‘inferior’ (more specifically, ‘sub-human’).
Gender violence seems to have its basis in a similar mindset- that of male superiority. It is not difficult to see why:
Male superiority implies that men are superior to women.
Taken to extremes, this world view considers women to be no more than possessions- sexual objects to be precise. Their sole purpose is to provide progeny to propagate the male name/ lineage- and of course, be available for the pleasure and comfort of men.
As objects, their ownership is merely transferred from one male to another. It is the male who dictates what, when and how the female ‘objects’ can and cannot do. In addition, since they are mere objects, only slightly better than animals (because animals cannot co-habit with men to the same degree), it is alright to be violent and abusive towards them. The logic is simple: ‘This is my possession. Just as I can beat my dog, or break my chair if I want to, so can I do the same to the women I possess.’ Just as an object is not considered to have any feelings, so, too is the case with women.
All communication is a one-way street in which the man/ men instruct(s), and the women comply. A woman having an opinion is quickly and brutally ‘put in her place’.
Boys learn that it is okay to misbehave with and abuse their female relatives- they see their fathers and other male relatives do it. Girls learn that it is ‘okay’/their ‘fate’ to be abused by men- that is the norm, and they have to accept it.
By the same logic, gender violence is always the woman’s fault- “she did not heed my instructions to do/ not do ________”.
Sadly, this ‘extreme’ view is all too common.
This attitude has health consequences that are well known- female malnutrition, unwanted pregnancies (either due to sexual violence, or the man’s insistence on more progeny) and their attendant effects, etc.
When one considers another to be an equal, there is mutual respect. Individuals have greater powers of self-determination and autonomy. The rights of the other assume significance, and are considered as important as those of the self. Decision-making is a collective and democratic process that weighs the options so that no one person or group is unfairly and excessively affected.
The notion of gender equality is fundamental to resolving the issue of gender violence. It is not sufficient to ’empower’ women by educating them, enabling financial security through jobs, raising their morale, or teaching them self-defence.
Men are an integral part of the problem-in fact, more often than not, they are the problem.
Boys and men must accept girls and women as their equals, for only then will they treat them as human beings instead of objects.
If you think I am exaggerating, look around you. Examine your own life and family. How often have you seen a man treating a woman as his equal, with equal say and rights? How often have you seen a man being abusive towards a woman? How often have you encountered a man who does not view the women in his life as his ‘property’? How often have you heard a man tell the women in his life that they could pursue any dream; do anything the boys/ men can do? How often have you seen a man allow the women in his life decide for themselves without any interference from his side?..
As an actor says on television, “Start with the boys.”