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In 1993, the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women offered the first official definition of gender-based violence:
Article 2 of the Declaration states that the definition should encompass, but not be limited to, acts of physical, sexual, and psychological violence in the family, community, or perpetrated or condoned by the State, wherever it occurs. These acts include: spousal battery; sexual abuse, including of female children; dowry-related violence; rape, including marital rape; female genital mutilation/cutting and other traditional practices harmful to women; non-spousal violence; sexual violence related to exploitation; sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in school and elsewhere; trafficking in women; and forced prostitution.
The 1995 Beijing Platform for Action expanded on this definition, specifying that it includes: violations of the rights of women in situations of armed conflict, including systematic rape, sexual slavery and forced pregnancy; forced sterilization, forced abortion, coerced or forced use of contraceptives; prenatal sex selection and female infanticide. It further recognized the particular vulnerabilities of women belonging to minorities: the elderly and the displaced; indigenous, refugee and migrant communities; women living in impoverished rural or remote areas, or in detention.
Evolution of the issue of GENDER BAESD VIOLENCE
Over the past few decades, gender-based violence has increasingly come to be
Recognized as a serious problem at the international level, not only for women but
also for the attainment of equality, development and peace (United Nations, 1986a).
The issue has also become a priority for women’s organizations in the region and
a subject for feminist thought during the United Nations Decade for Women:
Equality, Development and Peace (1976-1985), and in recent years Governments in
The region has also begun to devote attention to the issue.
Although in 1979 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on
The Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women,3 which incorporated
Women into the sphere of human rights, that instrument did no more than to touch on
The problem of violence against women. One of its defects is precisely the lack of a
Cleared definition of gender-based violence. Specific concern for this problem began
To manifest itself in 1980, when the World Conference of the United Nations Decade
For women Equality, Development and Peace, held in Copenhagen, adopted the
Resolution on “Battered women and violence in the family”. Likewise, paragraph 288
Of the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women (1985),
Issued by the Third World Conference, calls for specific measures to deal with
Violence against women. Since that time, the United Nations has organized meetings
Violence against women and has taken steps to bring the issue to the attention of the
Commission on the Status of Women, the Economic and Social Council, the Division
For the Advancement of Women, the United Nations Statistical Office and the
Crime Prevention Control. In 1989, the Committee for the Elimination of
Discrimination against Women recommended that member States report on violence
Against women and the measures adopted at the governmental level to eradicate it.
At the Expert Group Meeting on Violence against Women held in 1991, it was
Determined that the existing instruments did not give due consideration to gender bas-
ed violence and that a specific definition of this crime was lacking. In the opinion of
The group, the absence of a clear definition hindered the effective application of
International human rights regulations aimed at solving this problem (United Nations, 1991a, b, and c).
Accordingly, the expert group produced a draft declaration on the elimination of
Violence against women which was analysed in depth by the Commission on the
Status of Women at its thirty-sixth session with a view to its adoption by the General Assembly.
At the region level, pursuant to the resolution entitled “Women and violence”
Adopted at the Fifth Regional Conference on the Integration of Women into the
Economic and Social Development of Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC,
1991b) and General Assembly resolution 45/114 on domestic violence (United
Nations, 1990), the documents and policy recommendations issued by the Economic
Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) have characterized
Problem of gender-based violence as one of the obstacles that must be overcome in
Order to improve the status of women in the countries of the region and achieve development with social equity.
Women’s groups in the region have carried out a variety of activities to promote
Respect for women’s human rights. This process intensified during the preparations
for The United Nations World Conference on Human rights, held in Vienna in June
1993. At the Conference, the women’s movement proposed that the Universal
Declaration of human Rights include specific references to gender-based violence and
That the Declaration be reformulated from the gender perspective, which is not
limited to the s ituation of women but rather encompasses all of society.
For their part, in the San JosÃ© Declaration on Human Rights, which was adopted at?
The conclusion of the Regional Meeting for Latin America and the Caribbean of the
World Conference on Human Rights held in January 1993 in Costa Rica, the
Governments of Latin America and the Caribbean reiterated that the State should give
Priority to actions that promote respect for women’s rights, their participation in
National life under equal conditions, the eradication of all forms of hidden or open
Discrimination and especially the elimination of gender-based violence.
The resolutions adopted at the World Conference on Human Rights emphasize the
Importance of ensuring that women are able to enjoy the highest possible level of
Physical and mental health throughout their lives and, to that end, recognize their
Right to accessible and adequate health care, a broad range of family planning
Services, equal access to all educational levels on an equal footing, and to a life free
Of violence. One of the achievements made possible by the proposals put forward by
The women’s movement of Latin America and the Caribbean was the inclusion in the
Final declaration issued by the Conference of a recommendation that a Special
Rapporteur should be designated to report on the status of the situation as regards
Violence against women in all countries of the the world. In November 1993, the
forty-eighth session of the United Nations General Assembly established that post.
Recently, two new international instruments have been proposed which would
recognize that all forms of gender-based violence are human rights violations:
Declaration 48/104 of the United Nations General Assembly on the elimination of
Violence against women4 and an inter-American convention on the prevention,
Punishment and eradication of violence against women, which has been proposed by
The Organization of American States through its Inter-American Commission of Women (IACW).
The Declaration recognizes the urgent need to extend to women the rights and
Principles concerning the equality, security, liberty, integrity and dignity of all human
Beings. Article 1 defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based
Violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological
harm or Suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary d
eprivation Of liberty,whether occurring in public or private life”. Article 2 states that
“Violence against women shall be understood to encompass, but not be limited to, the following:
(a) Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family, including
Battering, sexual abuse of female children in the household, dowry-related violence,
Marital rape, female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to
Women, non-spousal violence and violence related to exploitation; (b) Physical,
Sexual and psychological violence occurring within the general community, including
Rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational
Institutions and elsewhere, trafficking in women and forced prostitution; (c) Physical,
Sexual and psychological violence perpetrated or condoned by the State, wherever it occurs” (United Nations, 1994).
In summary, progress has been made mainly in two areas: dissemination of
Information about violence against women and violations of their human rights, and
The consideration of their interests and demands in United Nations instruments for the
Protection and promotion of human rights.
This growing international recognition of the problem is due to greater awareness at
The world level of the rights of women and to the work of such organizations as the
Latin American and Caribbean Network against Sexual and Domestic Violence,5
Which have repeatedly said that gender-based violence is a priority issues for women the world over.
Thanks to these efforts, the defenceless situation of victims is gradually changing and,
Today, most of the countries of the region have laws that defend women and places
Where they can seek shelter, support and assistance. Governments6 and
Nongovernmental organizations are also organizing information and sensitization
campaigns that help to make the problem known and offer various informational and
The media, too, are more open to publishing articles denouncing gender-based
Violence, editorials concerning the issue and the conclusions of studies on the subject.
Gender-based violence is no longer reserved for the news sections devoted to
Sensationalist police reports. Other sections of newspapers carry women’s viewpoints,
Although there is still no critical reflection on the responsibility of the media as
Regards the reproduction and perpetuation of violence against women and the dominant gender system.
Professionals and students of various specializations are also showing more interest
In the problem. The academic world has been slow to study the causes, consequences
And characteristics of gender-based violence, but the fact that it is now doing so is an
Important advance. In 1989, the National University of Buenos Aires established a
Degree programme focusing on family violence, and post-graduate courses on gender
Are given in universities in a number of countries, including Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico and Venezuela.
Even though public debate and dialogue on the issue have become more widespread
And are delving more deeply into the problem, Governments still lack a defined
Policy for combating and preventing gender-based violence in all its forms. Despite
the limitations that still exist, over the last decade there has clearly been an increasing
and awareness social consciousness about problems affecting women. This is
Reflected in the existence of a greater concern about gender-based violence,
Especially at the international level, and the activities that have been carried out in the countries.
Main consequences of gender based violence:
Gender-based violence in the household, when understood as an act that denies a
Woman the ability to exercise her rights, has social, economic and political
Implications for society, since it reproduces and perpetuates a system of
Discrimination against and subordination of more than half the population and constitutes a violation of human rights.
It also reflects the absence of a socio-political structure characterized by the type of
Greater symmetry in social relations that would provide a substantive basis for the
Consolidation of democracy and directly or indirectly impedes the harmonious
Development of nations (Rico, 1992).
Acts of aggression against women have many negative consequences. The World
Health Organization (WHO) considers gender-based violence to be a serious public
Health problem, since the following effects have been identified:
Physical injuries: fractures, burns, cuts, bruises, wounds, headaches, temporary or
Permanent disability, sexual abuse, gynaecological problems, unwanted pregnancies,
Premature births, miscarriages, sexually transmitted diseases, transmission of the HIV
Virus, and the abusive consumption of alcohol, drugs and tobacco.
Psychological damage: depression, anxiety, anguish, eating disorders, stress,
Phobias, obsessions, compulsive behaviour, toxic substance, abuse, insomnia,
Hypersonic, frigidity, low self-esteem, sexual dysfunctions, emotional instability,
Decreased productivity and reduction of cognitive and intellectual capacities. Two
Other phenomena which must be added to this list have fatal consequences: suicide
and homicide.13 In view of the psychological vulnerability of the victims ââ‚¬”who
normally react to the situation with guilt feelings, low self-esteem, shame and fearââ‚¬”
different State agencies and non-governmental organizations have set up “self-help
groups “, whose basic purpose is for the participants to given one another mutual
emotional support so that they can escape from the silence and isolation in which
They usually experience such aggression. One of the first to carry out this kind of
activity was the “Women’s Place”, organization headquartered in Buenos Aires that
Works with self-help groups comprised of victims of abuse. These groups offer interested women a place where they can share their experience and learn to value
themselves as persons while at the same time becoming more sure of themselves
So that they will be able to break the destructive circle of violence.
Gender-based violence has particularly serious repercussions for children who live in
households where it is habitual. Abused women say that their children become
nervous,irritable and fearful, do poorly in school, and are often physically abused by
The father or by the women themselves. Today, children who witness violence are
also considered to be “battered children”, since they exhibit the same psychological
Symptoms as do those who are the direct victims of abuse (Jaffe and others, 1986).
Another factor that needs to be considered is that children depend emotionally and
Affectively on their parents, and that they tend to imitate the roles and behaviour they observe.
Therefore, later on they may have problems establishing affective relations different
From those they experienced in their childhood. Thus, children in such households
tend to grow up to be violent men and battered women, and may also have greater tolerance for social and political violence.
Some countries have established shelters where abused women can go, together
With their children, so that if they have no help from family members nor the
Economic means to look for another place to live, they can leave the scene of
aggression and be in a place where they feel safe while they try to resolve the
problem. An example of this is Refuge House, a shelter for abused women and
children in Quito, which was founded as a result of an agreement between the
Ministry of Social Welfare,represented by the National Women’s Department, and the
Ecuadorian Centre for Women’s Advancement and Action (CEPAM). Over a 29-
Month period (1991-1993), this centre provided shelter to 245 women who had been
battered by their spouses and counseling to another 120 non-residents, for an average of one case every 2.5 days (Vega and GÃ³mez, 1993).
Gender-based violence is a cause of concern for a number of international
organizations, not only because of its individual physical and psychological
Consequences, but also because it places greater demands on general health care and
Emergency services and has a high economic cost for the countries where it occurs.
The 1993 World Development Report of the World Bank states that in market
economies it is possible to determine the number of years of life in good health lost by
Women during their reproductive years (15-44 years of age) because of premature
death or illness directly attributable to problems caused by domestic violence or rape.
Although these problems cannot be considered as illnesses in and of themselves, they
Are clearly important risk factors that increase the incidence of such phenomena as
Injuries, depression, and femicide (World Bank, 1993).
Violence also inhibits women from playing a role in decision-making within the
household, at work and in the political, economic and social spheres, and therefore
directly influences their participation in public activities and, hence, the exercise of
their citizenship. The social costs of gender-based violence also include the inaction
Of society when it fails to take measures to defend the human rights of women, since
society is then ignoring events that take place on a daily basis and is denying a
public discussion of these crimes, their political significance and societal means of
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