For centuries women have been subjected to injustices all across the globe. As part of our own history, women have only in the last 100 years begun to emerge as viable participants in our modern society. Throughout the passage of time, even in cultures where women held a relatively acceptable role it was only secondary to that of any male counterpart in her family. It is that secondary status that has permitted most crime against women to be accepted by societies all over the world.
A Global Perspective
Although the passage of laws in more developed countries has brought about a reduction in violence against women, the problem still exists in large form due to lingering cultural attitudes. According to the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, at least 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence. Other reports go even further by saying that 70% have experienced intimate partner violence in their lifetime.
In countries like Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the United States, this type of violence accounts for 40-70% of their female murder victims.
Rape as a Weapon of War
In countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina there were 20-50,000 women raped during their 1992-1995 wars. In Rwanda estimates suggest that 250,000 to 500,000 women and girls were targeted for violent rape in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The tactic is used to humiliate, dominate, instill fear, disperse and forcibly relocate civilian members of a community or ethnic group. According to the Global Justice Center, “rape is being used more than any other prohibited weapon of war including starvation, attacks on cultural objects, and the use of herbicides, biological or chemical weapons, dum-dum bullets, white phosphorus or blinding lasers.”
More than 64 million girls worldwide become child brides, however 46% of women between the ages of 20-24 in South Asia are reported to be married before the age of 18. This has resulted in early and unwanted pregnancies that bring on life-threatening risks for many adolescent girls making them the leading cause of death for girls between the ages of 15-19.
Every year millions of women and girls are brought into modern day slavery. At least 55% of those in forced labor worldwide and 98% of those in forced sexual exploitation are female. According to the UNODC, the most common form of human trafficking, making up 79% is sexual exploitation of women and girls. In regions of the world where there is a lot of political unrest like the Middle East, there has been an increase in the human trafficking of women as they are forced to flee conflict areas in search of refuge. Instead, many are then forced into prostitution and sex slaves in other countries.
Even in the more developed European countries it is reported that between 40 – 50% of women experience unwanted sexual advances, physical contact or other forms of sexual harassment at work. According to the UNICRI, one in ten women have been stalked by a previous partner, 31% of women who report being raped by a partner have been repeatedly raped (six or more times) and just over one in ten women experienced some form of sexual violence by an adult before they were 15 years old.
In the United States, 83% of girls aged 12 – 16 have experienced some form of sexual harassment in public schools. The UN reports that in Latin America a woman is assaulted every 15 seconds in Brazil’s Sao Paulo. In Colombia, the number of cases where women have been disfigured by acid thrown in their faces quadrupled between the years 2011 – 2012. And of the 25 countries that are considered “high or very high” in rankings for “femicides” (killings of women that seem to be related to their gender), more than half are in the Americas.
Space does not permit the detailed listing of the rampant crime against women that happens on a global scale every day. It is clear that even in our modern day and age, the issue still remains to be of major concern. While these numbers may appear to be staggering it should be a sobering fact to note that even they represent a far lower number of crimes than actually occurred. Because of the shame and guilt felt by most, many crimes are never reported. It is clear that more work needs to be done in this area.
With the UN and other organizations campaigning worldwide in reeducation programs designed to change the view many people have about women, there has been a great deal of improvement but the problem still continues on a large scale. Even developed countries that claim to be more progressive still have underlying cultural biases that keep women in a more vulnerable position.
As more and more laws are passed like the Campus SaVE Act, designed to protect the human rights of women, we will continue to see a progressive change in the world’s view of women and a major reduction in these numbers and the promise of a better future for women the world over may eventually get fulfilled.