UN symposium: Levels of violence against women shocking

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, May 13, 2013
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The UN Symposium on Gender-based Violence and Research was held on May 9 in Beijing with leading domestic and international researchers sharing the findings of their recent studies on the subject.

Abhimanyu Singh, Chair of the United Nations Theme Group on Gender, emphasized that gender-based violence is a form of discrimination that seriously violates the human rights of women and girls.

"According to a WHO multi-country study, up to 70 percent of women aged 15-49 years reported having experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lives," said Singh. "Violence against women is universal and prevalent in all countries, affecting people in all walks of life and in every income and status category."

He added: "Continued multidisciplinary research and analysis on [the] prevalence, structural and underlying causes, costs and risk factors for gender-based violence is the basis to achievement of [the] long term goal of [the] elimination of such violence." Singh added that the symposium was a timely follow-up to the recent 57th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

Organized by the UN Theme Group on Gender, the symposium invited representatives from relevant UN agencies and bilateral organizations, as well as national institutions, including the All China Women's Federation, figures from academia and NGOs promoting gender equality.

James Lang, Program Coordinator of Partners for Prevention, presented the essence of methodology used in the study which surveyed more than 10,000 men and 2,000 women and stressed the significance of data validity for selected sites across six Asia Pacific countries including China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Bangladesh.

There were some shocking preliminary findings, including the revelation that one in two men said they had used physical and sexual violence against an intimate partner, with one in four reporting having raped a woman and one in 25 admitting to having participated in gang rape.

"Violence is a complex phenomenon," said Lang. "Much of the research has been focused on women, but when we try to come up with solutions to reduce violence, we have to include men. That's the whole motivation behind the study."

He continued: "To stop violence before it starts, we need to understand the root causes of men's use of violence, why some men are more likely to use different types of violence and also why some men oppose it."

Wang Xiangxian from Tianjin Normal University shared the national findings from "The Masculinities and Gender-based Violence Study in China," which echoed the regional analysis that one in two men reported having used physical or sexual violence against their intimate partner.

Of around 800 male respondents, 52 percent have committed an act of domestic violence against their partners, Wang revealed. The survey interviewed a random sample of around 1,000 men and 1,100 women in a county in South China. Wang added that roughly 90 percent of interviewees were married or divorced when the interview was conducted in 2011.

The research revealed the key elements of perceived masculinity and what constitutes a so-called "real man" in China. Such expectations include the need for men to be tough, use violence to defend their honor, have power in family matters and an entitlement to sex, despite a partner's unwillingness.

The research indicated that domestic violence has a serious impact on women's physical, mental and reproductive health. Among women who had been physically abused by their partners, 40 percent had been injured, resulting in their taking leave from work or having to stay in bed.

The research on gender-based violence and masculinity in China also discovered that many men are involved in unsafe sexual behavior. The results revealed that 85 percent of male respondents who had multiple sexual partners said that, during the 12 months prior to the survey, they had not used a condom. The results were based on questionnaire interviews of about 1,000 men in a Chinese county.

During the same period, the survey found that about one-third of male interviewees had sex with more than one partner, while more than one-fifth had engaged in sex with sex workers. Only 14 percent of women surveyed had ever had an HIV test.

Unequal power and discriminatory relationships between men and women, which are the root causes of gender violence, still prevail in Chinese society. "The value of this research is new knowledge that can be used and shared by looking at the root causes that reflect men's perspectives of violence," emphasized Zeljka Mudrovcic, the United Nations Population Fund's Deputy Representative in China.

Duan Guohui from All China Women's Federation noted the value of research and evidence-based programming towards the achievement of the gender equality goal in China. She praised the UN's role in supporting evidence-based advocacy through working with both academia and civil society to collect reliable data, which contributes towards eradicating violence. Duan added that the joint advocacy efforts have led to the substantial legislative landmark of forming national domestic violence legislation.

Julie Broussard, Country Program Manager of UN Women in China, said that, similar to many countries, China still lacks official national-level data on the prevalence, causes and consequences of various forms of gender-based violence. More research and studies should be supported to further generate reliable data by applying internationally recognized methodologies.

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