Thursday, September 12, 2013

Gender Violence in the Asian-Pacific and its Reflection on the Global Community

The UN has just released
its partnered comprehensive survey on gender based violence. While the report focuses only on the Asian-Pacific region, it is a lot more relevant to the global environment than we may think.

The study focuses on several key nations: Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, New Guinea, and Sri Lanka. Aside from China, who has realized economic growth over the past few years, the remaining nations are poor. Many of their citizens have no formal education and literacy rates are low, so we would expect a correlation between informal education and violence against women. But as China has shown, increased prosperity does not necessarily equal higher levels of  gender equality. 

We see this happening in the Middle East as well. Countries such as Saudi Arabia and the Arab Emirates that were once vast deserts now enjoy lucrative  wealth. Although their economies have grown, traditional perceptions of women's roles have remained unchanged. Domestic violence and gender inequality have not improved along with economic growth. Even as an increased number of women across this region continue to finish college, they are still bound to the same gender challenges of past years.

The US is another example. Women have not really experienced full equality at home or in the workplace. There has been progress, but not at the levels one would expect of an advanced democracy. It's safe to assume that as a country grows in wealth and education, we would expect the perceived roles of women to change as well. That has not been the case, because while nations focus on developing economically they seem to forget to bring their women along for the ride. 

The UN report can help wealthy or developing nations realize where they went wrong. It brings to light, for example, the warped perception of dominance men feel they have over women. Many of the participants believed they had a right to control and abuse women. Others seemed to have been unconsciously reenacting their own childhood abuses. 

Whatever the case may be, the report does show that there is a deeply ingrained negative perception of women. We are the nurturers, limited to pleasing males and caring for children.  This is evident even in the US, where women continue to battle sexual violence from the workplace to the comfort of their homes. Domestic violence is still at an embarrassing high level and women are still under-represented in the labor force. What the UN report magnifies is that women's traditional roles in the global community have not really changed because there are a whole bunch of men who don't believe they should. 

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