Gender-based Violence and Gender Knowledge: How Evidence-informed Policy Can Improve Justice for Women

By Mirisa Hasfaria

Violence against women is one of the most pervasive violations of human rights in the world, one of the least prosecuted crimes, and one of the greatest threats to lasting peace and development.”

(Speech by the Acting Head of UN Women, Lakshmi Puri, on Ending Violence against Women and Children, at the ACP-EU Parliamentary Assembly on 18 June 2013 in Brussels)

 

Gender-based violence[1] is violence against women that occurs due to women’s subordinate social status. It includes any act or threat by men or male-dominated institutions that inflicts physical, sexual or psychological harm on a woman or girl because of her gender. In most cultures, traditional beliefs, norms and social institutions legitimize and therefore perpetuate violence against women.[2] Violence against women impacts on and impedes progress in many areas, including poverty eradication, combating HIV/AIDS, and peace and security.

The Codification of Women’ Rights

For a long time, international human rights law did not recognize gender-based violence as a problem. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948, but the international bill of rights for women, the UN Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), was not adopted until 31 years later. In the 1980s, violence against women was still considered a private, domestic matter not requiring state intervention, so it was unsurprising that CEDAW contained no provision on violence against women. The gap was closed in 1992 when the CEDAW Committee adopted General Recommendation No. 19 (CEDAW GR 19) on violence against women, which clarified that gender-based violence against women was a form of discrimination and therefore covered by the scope of CEDAW.

The women’s movement made another remarkable achievement during the Second World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna on 14 to 25 June 1993, which culminated in the concept of violence against women and girls as a violation of human rights (see Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action). The two events led to the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (DEVAW)[3] in 1993. Both CEDAW GR 19 and DEVAW explicitly encompassed violence perpetrated by either state officials or private persons such as family members, acquaintances or employers. Furthermore, they closed an important gap under international human rights law that originally excluded the private sphere from the human rights agenda, the sphere in which many women’s rights violations occur. The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was adopted in 1995 and further expanded the definition of DEVAW to include violations of the rights of women in situations of: armed conflict; forced sterilization, forced abortion, coerced or forced use of contraceptives; prenatal sex selection; and female infanticide. The inclusion of gender equality as Goal 5 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development made ending violence against women and girls a part of the global development agenda.

The State of Gender-Based Violence in Indonesia

The Government of Indonesia ratified CEDAW through Law No. 7 1984. The National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan) was established in 1998 as a mechanism for the protection and promotion of women’s human rights and was recognized by the CEDAW Committee[4]. Concerns about gender-based violence in the private sphere were addressed in the Law on the Elimination of Domestic Violence in 2004. As part of its reporting tasks, Komnas Perempuan produces an annual report (commonly referred to as Catatan Tahunan or CATAHU) every March 8 to commemorate International Women’s Day. The report is a compilation of data on cases of violence against women handled by civil society and state agencies around the country, including women’s crisis centers, hospitals, police stations and courts. CATAHU 2016 reported 321,752 cases of violence against women. Over the years of national data compilation, domestic violence[5] is consistently the most-frequently occurring form of violence against women. This evidence highlights the urgent need for action as well as legislation if it is to achieve any real effect.

Child marriage is another form of violence that remains prevalent in Indonesia. Indonesia is among the ten countries with the highest absolute numbers of child brides – 14 percent of women aged between 20 and 24 years are married before they were 18 years old. In figures, this equates to 1,408,000 child brides annually.[6] Child marriage is a harmful practice and a fundamental violation of human rights. It limits girls’ opportunities for education and development and exposes them to greater risk of domestic violence and social isolation. Research confirms that girls who marry in childhood are at greater risk of intimate partner violence than girls of the same age who marry later.[7]

Nevertheless, Indonesia has made some progress towards reducing gender inequality. It was ranked 88 out of 144 in the 2016 Global Gender Gap Report.[8] The report examined four areas of inequality between women and men, namely economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, political empowerment, and health and survival.

 

The Availability of Data

 

Levels of violence against women are not the same in all places and at all times. By identifying the social, cultural, legal and economic factors that influence such violence, it is possible to predict its occurrence and to understand how to prevent it. Equally important are relevant, reliable and timely gender statistics to understand the differences between women and men in a given society. Such information is critical to policy and decision makers and to advancing progress towards gender equality.

However, the use of disaggregated gender and social inclusion data and analyses is not commonplace in Indonesia. This is due to the fact that the prevailing development ideology in Indonesia is economic growth, in which equity is enforced as a form of security control, not in the context of the fulfillments of equal rights among citizens. Researchers, policy analysts and policy makers therefore tend to focus on economic issues rather than those which impact on equality and inclusion. This further limits the type of knowledge available to other policy stakeholders (such as civil society organizations and various media outlets) who rely on robust knowledge to lobby for change and to inform the broader community.

 

Proposed Actions

 

Three things are required to ensure that gender equality and gender-based violence are addressed when designing and implementing policies. First, the availability of gender, and gender-based violence knowledge should be improved. It can be in the form of research results, quantitative and qualitative data (including sex-disaggregated data), analysis and reflection of research/studies related to gender inequality, gender-based violence, development of gender mainstreaming and other relevant policies.

 

Secondly, the effectiveness of gender knowledge for policy making also requires intermediaries to carry out intensive communication and advocacy. Activists, NGOs, gender focal points at government institutions, and centers for women’s studies at universities can manage data in a way that can provide practical recommendations.

 

And finally, for gender equality to be improved and gender-based violence to be reduced, these ideas need to be embedded in the ethical principles of legislation and justice. This is unlikely to be fulfilled unless there is equal participation of women and men in politics, and these politicians have a deep understanding of the importance of gender knowledge. The World’s Women 2015: Trends and Statistics cited a study conducted between 2006 and 2008 among parliamentarians from 110 countries and reported that women in parliament were more likely than men to prioritize gender and social issues such as childcare, equal pay, parental leave, pensions, reproductive rights, and protection against gender-based violence. Thus, equal participation of women and men in politics is central to more inclusive and democratic governance. [Mirisa Hasfaria]

 

 

[1] The term, along with violence against women, is often used interchangeably, as most violence against women is gender-based, and most gender-based violence is inflicted by men on women and girls.

[2] Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights (2003), Handout of What is Gender-based Violence, accessible through https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.stopvaw.org/sites/3f6d15f4-c12d-4515-8544-26b7a3a5a41e/uploads/what_is_GBV_5-19-2003.doc&sa=U&ved=0ahUKEwiR75HK8aHVAhWETrwKHeBKAns4ChAWCAwwBA&client=internal-uds-cse&usg=AFQjCNG8iJ1uTXyirV1E1XTfPRkyGC6l9w

[3] DEVAW is currently the main international document addressing the problem of gender-based violence. Each year, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women–which is on 25 November–marks the start of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence, calling for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls, and promoting the rights and principles of the declaration.

[4] Article 18 of CEDAW required national reports to the CEDAW Committee, stating that: “1. State parties undertake to submit to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, for consideration by the Committee, a report on the legislative, judicial, administrative or other measures which they have adopted to give effect to the provisions of the present Convention and on the progress made in this respect: (a) within one year after the entry into force for the State concerned; (b) thereafter at least every four years and further whenever the Committee so requests. 2. Reports may indicate factors and difficulties affecting the degree of fulfillment of obligations under the present Convention.” The existence of Komnas Perempuan is in accordance with Article 2c of the Convention.

[5] Domestic violence, also known as domestic abuse, spousal abuse, battering, family violence, dating abuse, and intimate partner violence (IPV), is a pattern of behavior which involves the abuse by one partner against another in an intimate relationship such as marriage, cohabitation, dating or within the family. Domestic violence can take many forms, including physical aggression or assault (hitting, kicking, biting, shoving, restraining, slapping, throwing objects, battery), or threats thereof; sexual abuse; emotional abuse; controlling or domineering; intimidation; stalking; passive/covert abuse (e.g., neglect); and economic deprivation (TEARS Foundation, accessible through: http://www.tears.co.za/)

[6] UNICEF, The State of the World’s Children 2016: A Fair Chance for Every Child, accessible through: https://www.unicef.org/publications/files/UNICEF_SOWC_2016.pdf

[7] Gene B. Sperling, Rebecca Winthrop and Christina Kwauk (2016), What Works in Girls’ Education: Evidence for the World’ Best Investment, accessible through: https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/whatworksingirlseducation1.pdf

[8] Compare this to the previous rankings: 97 out of 142 in 2014 and 92 out of 145 in 2015.

 

Mirisa is a social scientist with 11 years working experience in evidence informed policy making, good governance, political education and conflict resolution; 3 years of which in post-disaster rehabilitation and reconstruction. Area of expertise includes management and support to policy research and communication, knowledge production and publication, policy research and analysis, human development and gender equality, good governance and advocacy, international relations/political science with a focus on human rights as it relates to gender, poverty alleviation and conflict resolution.

 

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