Violence against women and girls is not limited to any culture, region, country, or specific group of women. It happens in times of peace and war. It has enormous social and economic costs, as well as having a human cost to those involved.
Such violence is a violation of human rights and an extreme form of gender-based discrimination. It robs women and girls of their dignity, violates their fundamental rights, damages their health, reduces their productivity and prevents them from achieving their full potential. It also has significant consequences for peace and security and a negative impact on development.
Attitudes that tolerate violence are recognised as playing a central role in shaping the way individuals, organisations and communities respond to violence. Five key categories of violence supportive attitudes that arise from research. These include attitudes that:
- justify violence against women and girls, based on the notion that it is legitimate for a man to use violence against a woman;
- excuse violence by attributing it to external factors (such as stress) or proposing that men cannot be held fully responsible for violent behavior (for example, because of anger or sexual urges);
- trivialise the impact of violence, based on the view that the impacts of violence are not serious or are not sufficiently serious to warrant action by women themselves, the community or public agencies;
- minimise violence by denying its seriousness, denying that it occurs or denying that certain behaviours are indeed violence at all; and
- shift blame for the violence from the perpetrator to the victim or hold women at least partially responsible for their victimisation or for preventing victimisation.
There are Violence Against Women Acts, but laws and resources are only part of the approach to prevent the violence. There must be a change in culture to end gender inequalities and the stereotyping of women, both of which are at the root of gender-based violence. To help change attitudes and social and cultural norms, we should encourage relevant education for boys and girls. We should build strong partnerships with men so that we can work together for change and capitalize on the untapped potential of non-violent men.