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Locating Policy Approaches To Addressing Gender Based Violence

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Locating Policy Approaches to Addressing Gender Based Violence

Session Report
Christeena Sabu

The Gender Impact Studies Center, at IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi conducted a  Four-Week Online Immersive Certificate Training Course on ‘Ending Gender-based Violence – Cohort 2: Awareness of Policies & Governance’ from 5-27 March 2024.

The training course aimed at equipping participants with the knowledge and tools needed to understand, address, and eradicate gender-based violence. Led by distinguished experts, it provided a well-rounded understanding of the challenges surrounding gender-based violence.

On Day 2 of the ‘Ending Gender-based Violence – Cohort 2: Awareness of Policies & Governance’ course by Adv. Dr Albertina Almeida ji, Lawyer and Human Rights Activist, Goa, delivered a compelling presentation on different aspects of gender-based violence.

Approaches for Addressing Gender-Based Violence

The session was initiated by Adv. Dr Albertina Almeida, during which she discussed her reasons for addressing the issue of Gender-based Violence. Coming from Goa, she witnessed women in Goa being objectified and considered easily available sex objects.

She explained how women were used as advertisements for hotels and tourism during Carnival Parades in Goa.Women were deliberately reduced to sex objects, expected to dress in a particular way, and were commodified for tourism, resulting in women in the streets being harassed and considered as commodities. Projections that objectify women hence perpetuated violence against highlighting their need to be challenged.

She added that there are various approaches to dealing with violence against women. It is necessary to consider all the approaches instead of prioritizing one against the other.

Social Norms Approach

Dr. Almeida highlighted that some social norms normalize and legitimize violence against women. The social norms approach is about calling out the gender insensitive by identifying them. These existing social norms causing gender-based violence needed to be identified and changed. She explained that addressing the issue could be achieved through research, sensitization, and orientation programs. For example, there are gender sensitization programs that try to look at how people perceive a situation of violence or how they seek to justify it and then address it depicting how violence cannot be justified under any circumstances.

She further stressed some norms in which people justify gender violence by putting the fault on the victim. She gave the example of how people think sexual violence is caused by how women dress. The social norms approach underlines that there are studies that even women wearing burkhas get harassed. And these acts are more about power than lust. This segment also focused on double standards in gender-based violence. The social norms approach tried to unpack these norms, the requirement to change behaviors and what constitutes appropriate accepted actions by individuals.

She addressed the requirement of institutional support so that women are safe, can live a life with dignity and well-being, and have equitable access to services. She revealed that there are laws that legitimize secondary status to women, whether by active discrimination or by not providing safe specific safeguards. For example, when it comes to property rights, some laws do not give equal property rights to women. They do not weave in special safeguards so that women or the oppressed genders can access those rights guaranteed in the law.

She threw light on judgments that say that women should be able to have support services from that point where she comes to complain to the police station. She stressed the requirement of legal aid systems for women and the need for separate provisions as women may or may not have income certificates.

Gender-based violence has also been recognized as a public health issue, and therefore health centers be trained to address it.

Inter-Sectional Approach

Dr. Almeida moved on to the inter-sectional approach, emphasizing that women have different identities. For example, there could be a disabled woman. People with disabilities have challenges on their own, but when they are female and disabled, the issue becomes even more complicated. The intersectional approach has been considered in how the laws have been formulated, to provide aid by taking complaints from people with disabilities.If a woman who cannot speak or write wants to file a complaint, she can take a support person to lodge it on her behalf.

Dr. Almeida mentioned the Vishakha ruling which aimed to protect women from losing their jobs due to filing sexual harassment complaints while further explaining this topic.

The judiciary has adopted an intersectional approach in recognizing that women may be susceptible to sexual harassment but this doesn’t mean that they’re accepting it.

There are social justice committees that every village is supposed to set up at the panchayat level that also includes addressing issues of violence against Dalit women. However, these committees must be activated many times and are not set up. Even if they’re set up, they’re just on paper. She underlined the requirement of such intersectional approaches to be engaged, operational, and functioning.

Dr. Almeida elucidated on the Object of Development approach and pointed out that it lacks agency for women despite establishing aid systems for women.

It is not designed keeping in mind the problems that women face, for example, if they decide on establishing a women’s police station, which is operational only during the day, It doesn’t take into account that when women face domestic violence, the majority of it could be faced at night because the spouse is out during the day at work.

Survivor-Centric Approach

The next segment discussed was the survivor-centric approach. It focuses on the survivor’s experience of how the violence against them is redressed. This system aims to understand their experience with addressing violence, its impact on them, and the systems in place.

Dr. Almeida proceeded to discuss the feminist approach. It focuses on looking at a problem holistically. Feminist power theories analyze societal, cultural, and institutional influences on norms and normativity, including state bureaucracies, international governance, and market logic. She stressed the need to address the experiences of gender-based violence by individuals at a micro level and at a macro level. So, for example, if people think nothing of commoditizing women, this is a macro-level issue. She revealed that there are market logics such as men needing to be dominative and assertive in order to be considered as a real man. Such thinking also promotes violence against women as they find the requirement to show their power over women.

In conclusion, she emphasized the importance of taking a comprehensive approach to tackle issues at the individual and societal level while examining gender norms. She also highlighted the need to focus on how bureaucracies, international governance, and market logic are functioning from a gender lens perspective.

Acknowledgment: This article was posted by Christeena Sabu, a research intern at IMPRI.

Read more at IMPRI:

Gender Based Violence and Convention on Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women

Legal Hands on Gender Based Violence

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