What does peace really mean for women?

By: Indraswari

In March this year, the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) launched its 2009 annual report on violence against women across the country.

The report reveals that in 2009 there were 143,586 reported cases of violence against women, a 263 percent increase from the previous year’s 54,425 cases.

In fact, since 2001 there has been a steady increase in cases of violence against women. The report mentions 3,169 cases in 2001, 5,163 (2002), 7,787 (2003), 14,020 (2004), 20,391 (2005), 22,512 (2006) and 25,522 cases in 2007.

The commission’s report indicates factors that contribute to the increasing number of cases of violence against women, which include improved data collection techniques and media coverage, particularly of domestic violence which involve celebrities and other public figures. The latter may encourage more victims to report violence to authorities.

According to the report, among the 143,586 cases of violence against women in 2009, 95 percent were domestic violence and those with intimate partners. The other 5 percent were community violence, while the percentage of state violence was less than 1 percent with 54 victims.

The Fourth UN World Conference on Women in 1995 defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life”.

The same UN conference defines domestic violence as “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”.

The high increase in the number of cases of violence against women as revealed in the Commission’s report makes me think of the notions of conflict and peace and what they mean for women.

Conflict is often associated with armed conflict through which people live in fear and live a miserable life, while peace is generally defined as the absence of armed conflict, when people are supposed to live free from fear and live harmoniously and peacefully.

The high percentage of domestic violence in non-conflict situations as revealed in the Commission’s report challenges the conventional notion of peace, as it is no longer peaceful for women who become victims of domestic violence. Although there is no armed conflict, for them home is a war zone where they constantly live in fear and live a miserable life.

The meaning of peace becomes even more complicated when it is connected to marriage and the home, which are widely perceived as an institution and a place where everybody is supposed to be safe.

Culturally, being married and having children are still regarded as the main goal of a woman’s life. Wives and mothers are portrayed as “perfect” and “happy” women. Many parents advise their daughters to get married so that they will be “protected”.

From another perspective, the increasing number of cases of violence against women as reported by the National Commission on Violence Against Women can be seen as both a positive and a negative phenomenon.

The increasing number of cases is partly a result of improved public awareness to report violence to authorities, which is a positive development. This awareness relates to widespread dissemination of the 2004 Law on the Elimination of Domestic Violence.

On the other hand, the increasing number of cases of violence against women, mostly occurred at home, is indeed a negative phenomenon. It is worrying and reminds us that a lot of things need to be done to eliminate such cases.

The implementation of the 2004 law needs to be enforced. A campaign on the elimination of domestic violence — targeting both women and men — needs to be intensified as well.

It is also important to raise gender-equality awareness, as the problem of domestic violence originates from women’s subordination and marginalization within the family. Such an awareness program should reach as many people as possible as domestic violence occurs across social and economic classes, educational levels, religions and cultures.

Let us work together to help the victims of domestic violence and make home a peaceful place for all — including women.(the jakartapost.com)

The writer is a lecturer at the School of Social and Political Sciences at Parahyangan Catholic University in Bandung.


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