Violence Against Women: The Ultimate In Discrimination
A blog post by Hannah Bourne, Equalities Ambassador

On 25 November 2017, we here at EaRN will be recognising the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, as designated by the UN General Assembly.

Continuing from my previous post I will be focusing on gender equality – and as violence is the most extreme form of discrimination – as in some cases this discrimination can kill the victim, gender-based violence in Scotland as well as across the world is a hugely important issue, and one that despite taboo is important to discuss. Gender-based violence can encompass a huge range of abuse, including forced marriage, FGM, and non-consensual sharing of intimate media, but to be more relevant to the discussion of Edinburgh and Scotland, I will focus on domestic violence – as perhaps the most prevalent and harmful experience of violence the Scottish population can face. Evidently domestic violence affects men too and so this is not a female-orientated piece, but as I will discuss the effects on the two genders are often quite divergent as being female is a key risk factor in experiencing abuse.

For many, domestic violence alludes to physical fights between unhappy and argumentative couples, and too often is dismissed as a problem easily escaped – leaving your partner is not an option for a lot of people particularly when children, family or friends are involved and the violence can continue once the relationship is over – and this makes up almost half of cases in Scotland.

Police Scotland define domestic abuse as:

‘Any form of physical, sexual or mental and emotional abuse [that] might amount to criminal conduct and which takes place within the context of a relationship. The relationship will be between partners (married, cohabiting, civil partnership or otherwise) or ex-partners. The abuse can be committed in the home or elsewhere.’

This definition clearly goes beyond the typical images society holds.

Including mental and emotional abuse allows for a much wider range of mistreatment to be classified as domestic abuse – benefiting victims in pursuit of legal action, and more vitally – greater recognition of these actions as abuse in society – promoting discussion about their effects and hopefully reducing the incidence of cases. Attacks such as cyber-crime or non-consensual sharing of intimate media (NCSIM) – which even a decade ago were not perceived in the general public to be crimes- have become well noted examples of a clear shift in attitudes by formal institutions which has begun to trickle down in to the population.

So what does domestic abuse look like for Scotland? In the year 2016-17 58,810 incidents of domestic abuse where reported, but as with most crimes this is under-representative of the actual figures as there are many reasons victims may not report their abuse. In reality its estimated one in four women in Scotland will experience violence in their lifetime, and the incidents involving police and so referenced here, only make up 21% of incidents. Edinburgh’s statistics closely resemble the average Scottish statistics, whilst the worst areas were West Dunbartonshire and Dundee City.

The statistics also show an interesting story about the gender balance of reported crimes that is noticeably changing (see chart below). 79% of incidents are female victims reporting male abusers, and although this is a majority, has slightly reduced over recent years, whilst the figure of 18% for male victims reporting female abusers shows an increase. This would suggest not necessarily that the type of incidents are changing, but that less stigma around domestic violence means more men are reporting their abusers – a substantial shift in attitude in the right direction in how to tackle gender equality.

Chart 5: Gender of victim and accused, where known, 2016-17

If this high prevalence of abuse wasn’t already distressing, the dominance of female victims has much wider implications for gender inequality as a whole. Regardless of the reasoning behind this dominance – whether it be that women are seen as easier to be violent towards or assert dominance over, or whether social norms and their household role have an effect, this discrimination further perpetuates gender inequality, and so creates a cyclical effect – as violence occurs, the gender gap is widened, so further violence against women occurs, and the problem grows.

This is even more concerning when we consider the intersectionality of gender inequality with other inequalities women in Scotland face. Whether these be because of their age, a disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or sexual orientation, discrimination caused by violence against women can be accentuated by these channels. For example women may live within racial or religious cultures that are more likely to tolerate domestic violence, or their disability or pregnancy may give men more believed reason to be violent.

The interest and research in violence against women is an increasingly expanding and interesting field, particularly in the fields of economics and sociology, and so with the backing of academic research these issues are being brought to the attention of policy discussion today, but as I hope to have shown – there is still huge leaps to be made for gender-based violence even in Scotland, but the increased discussion and awareness is elevating this priority in to the eyes of those who can help make real change.

So why not get involved in the UN’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, and help increase public awareness and help mobilise people everywhere to bring about change! These days run from 25 November to Human Rights Day – 10 December, and this year’s theme focuses on those most marginalised across the globe.

For more information on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women or the 16 Days of Activism, see: http://www.un.org/en/events/endviolenceday/

For support and advice surrounding domestic violence, see:

http://www.scottishwomensaid.org.uk/

http://edinwomensaid.co.uk/

And for any further information feel free to contact me, Hannah Bourne, at equalities.ambassador@volunteeredinburgh.org.uk

Hannah Bourne
EaRN Equalities Ambassador

 

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