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When will violence against women stop?

November 24, 2014

Today is the International Day Against Violence Toward Women.

Exactly one month ago, on Oct. 25, another Costa Rican woman was killed at the hands of her companion. A young mother, with young children. Another lost life.

She is the fifteenth woman this year in Costa Rica to be killed by her partner, husband or compañero sentimental. These women were victims of jealousy, anger and misogyny. Of course, not all victims of spousal aggression die. According to the National Women’s Institute (INAMU), calls to 911 for domestic violence average 10 per day. When feelings run high, so does violence toward women: The 2014 FIFA World Cup brought excitement to Costa Rica, and also more aggression. INAMU received over one thousand calls for help during the tournament. Statistics show that femicide numbers are down from previous years overall, but the crime continues to be prevalent.

Women are victims because they are valued less than men from birth on. In many parts of the world, sons carry on the family name; in too many places, sons are also the offspring who bring honor to the family, and go out into the world to work. Women’s roles rate less status. In the workplace, they receive less pay and advancement than men in the same roles, and are excluded from certain positions because they are  not considered capable. In the media and in advertising, women’s bodies are used to sell, with breasts and legs pictured to sell beer as well as other products.  In sports, men dominate; women athletes are seen as threatening. Older women are seen as worthless, a burden in the social order. All of this makes it easier for certain men to use degradation, insults, name-calling, and isolation to keep women feeling helpless.

On the international scene, crimes against women, rape and sexual assaults go unpunished; women are blamed as provocateurs, and are killed for the honor of the family. They are hidden away or covered up for the sake of modesty. In Nigeria, 250 girls were abducted in April and disappeared. With all the resources in the world they have never been found, never been rescued. In times of war women and girls are booty, the spoils of the conquest. Some churches exclude women from decision-making, even over their own bodies. Militarism glorifies the image of the robust warrior facing danger to protect the small, the weak, the women. Most any international forum is dominated by men.

A lot must change in our world, in our communities and in our minds if we want to put a stop to violence toward women. Women are more than half the world’s population. Women add to the gross national product in every country of the world. Women are as capable as men as workers and thinkers and producers. Women are not the “weaker” sex. Women come in all shapes and colors and cultures and each is valuable as a partner in this world. Let’s show it and put an end to violence toward women.

Olive Branch is the collective name for the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Costa Rican section.  WILPF was founded in the Hague in 1915 to promote peace and human rights, and continues to this day in countries around the world.  Contact the organization at peacewomen@gmail.com. 

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