Socio-Economic Inequality Leads To
By Nasiruddin Haider Khan
30 July, 2009
Dhaka: If violence is not natural, and not ingrained in our genetic makeup then the question is, what the root of violence is (violence, which is gender based). Gary Barker has done lot of research in this area and he has an answer. He is associated with International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) as Director, Gender, Violence and Rights. He strongly advocates for the engagement of men in ending gender-based violence (GBV).
During sidelines of the consultation in Bangladesh, he answered volley of questions on this topic. He counted several social, cultural, economical, and political reasons for violence. He termed them structural influences of violence.
"Patriarchal legal structure has positioned women in lower social status," he starts with this opening line. "They (women) do not have property rights. They have lower income. Inequality in property and income give power to men. That power leads to subjugation and violence," Barker said. Interestingly, Barker points out, "income inequality not only persists within a household but there is class difference at social level too. Class and economic inequality put the same men in a violent situation outside home too. And Men have to understand this to prevent violence."
Globalization and economic liberalization, Gary says, is one of the emerging causes of violence. According to him, traditional form of production, profession and mechanism have been swept away by the new globalized economy. Situation is the same from farming to small-scale household industries.
Above all, he says, our socialization put onus of earning on men. This has been linked to masculinity. In this grim economical situation when men do not have enough income or he became unemployed then he feels he is a failure. As a result, he indulges in drinking, drugs, purchase sex, use violence against his better half and children, becomes carrier of HIV infection and sometime commits suicide. Gary's explanation reveals the complexities of violence.
What about media’s role? Yes, Gary say it also perpetuate patriarchal norms and promotes or justifies gender-based violence. He explains, today you will find a CD or DVD in ten Rupees. Cable TV and Internet is also easily accessible. Through different medium, men are getting access to images, which is violent and gendered. These mediums basically promote indiscriminate sex, commoditization of women body and project women as a toy. All these create web of violence around women's life.
Gary also sees emergence of nationalism as an important cause of GBV. According to him, nationalist brands anything coming from outside the country as anti-national. He said, "attack of a Hindutva organization on girls in Mangalore in India is an example of this nationalistic ideology. Attacks of Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan on women are the same mentality. They want to keep women in subjugated position." In his opinion, "this is the result of sexist interpretations of Islam and Hinduism."
According to him, militarization and wars are also major cause of violence inside a home. "State like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal has been always in a warlike like situation. Hundreds of armed personnel have been always put on high alert. And what for- to kill! Unless you stop glorifying war, they will not be on alert or ready to kill. Global war on terror did the same thing. They glorified the military might of America."
But what is the impact of war on women? Gary thinks a bit and informs, "study done in the West on the wives of military or police personnel who went for war or on peace- keeping missions, clearly showed the increased incident of violence against them at home."
He puts a simple question, "how is it possible on one hand you glorify killing and sent them for the same and also expect them to be on peace mission inside their homes. You want them to be violent outside the home and non-violent within the home!"
Thus, If we want to counter and prevent gender-based violence, we have to think about the reasons for violence in the society with all its complexities.
Caution for Media
Gary believes that expansion of media is the reflection of strong democratic society. But as far as gender based violence is concerned, he has a different opinion. He thinks media did a lot to cover incidents of violence. But, yes, but ... he says, media sees the issues of violence in a man and a woman as a binary structure. Media should give up this binary and antagonistic type stories. His suggestion is very sharp and crisp: show the complexities of violence.
(A slightly different version of this series had been published in Hindi daily Hindustan . Nasiruddin Haider Khan is a Hindi journalist based in Lucknow and a researcher in gender issues. His website is www.genderjihad.in and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org )