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Gender-based violence, let's talk about it!

Photo Credits: CC 2.0 Barbara Minishi

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Gender-based violence “refers to any act that is perpetrated against a person's will and is based on gender norms unequal power relationships”. It constitutes a violation of human rights, and is common in areas where these are not respected.

Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) exist because society, having arbitrary established that women and men are unequal, assign them different roles. This violence is embedded in individual behaviors and has been tolerated within our own societies for a long period of time. However, its damaging consequences can be a serious impediment to the well-being of the community and personal development.

How violence is expressed. Violence manifests itself in different forms: psychological, emotional, physical, sexual abuse, traditional practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM) (currently 200 million women alive have been victims in 30 countries according to recent data) etc… For example, in the whole world, one in every three women has already been beaten and forced to have sex or had experienced other forms of violence during her lifetime.

GBV usually occurs against women and girls but it can also be practiced on men and boys.

Where is it manifested. If SGBV manifests itself in different forms, it also manifests itself in different places. Within a couple, in a family, in the workplace, in the street etc... It has also been documented during conflicts or humanitarian crisis where numbers here are dramatically high due to the vulnerability of the people exposed.

Over the years, during conflicts, women and young girls are the first victims. Raped, tortured, mutilated, condemned to sexual slavery, they are the main targets of this violence.

The gender-based violence is also present in the context of migration. People who undertake a long trip to flee their countries often find themselves isolated and so more vulnerable. They are more likely to be victims of violence during the trip, but also on arrival.

The consequences are horrendous for people suffering such abuses. GBV leads to serious short and long term physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health problems for survivors and may end fatally.

How to address the problem It is important to be even more vigilant and to prevent this phenomenon by finding real solutions to solve it.

For example, in Malta, the UNHCR, is working with the Maltese Government as well as with local stakeholders "to ensure that asylum seekers and refugees have access to their basic rights in terms of International, European and National law".

Since 2017-2018, the UNHCR Malta Protection Unit has developed one project about the protection of persons of concern in detention from GBV. The UNHCR cooperate with national stakeholders in order to better coordinate the work of relevant organizations by this topic.

At the same time, another project was established by the UNHCR with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) and the Women's Rights Foundation (WRF), targeting this time stakeholders and government entities.

So these two projects are intended to facilitate access to services able to provide legal and financial assistance in view to compensate for the damages suffered by the victims.

Another initiative is available to support victims of this violence. This project is called Violet, is an online support . "Is a free and anonymous chat and email support, for individuals who have been impacted by gender-based violence."

However, even if in Malta there are any initiatives, this is not the case everywhere. Gender-based violence is a real problem in our societies and it is urgent that efforts be made to stop this global scourge. As a reminder, Gender Equality is one of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) which must be achieved by 2030. This violence is not only harmful to women but for all societies.

Campaigns, but much more to do Even if due to movements like #Metoo, #Timesup or #Notonemore the dialogue is open, in many countries, nothing is done to help victims of GBV or worse, there are no laws protecting women.

So, Gender-Based Violence, let's talk about it!

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