During the Breakfast Debate orchestrated by Policy Forum on the final Friday of November 2023, Fundikila Wazambi, Senior Program Researcher at the Legal and Human Rights Centre, delivered a compelling presentation that brought to the fore disconcerting revelations regarding the profound economic and social repercussions of gender-based violence (GBV).
Inspired by the imminent 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, slated to run from November 25 to December 10, the debate underscored the pressing need for concerted efforts in addressing this pervasive societal issue.
Wazambi, in his presentation, delved into the severe economic consequences of violence against women, as highlighted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2021. Women from abusive homes, he emphasized, are likely to endure reduced working hours and diminished productivity.
The Senior Program Researcher further illuminated the multifaceted nature of violence faced by women, encompassing physical, sexual, economic, and psychological abuse. He drew attention to alarming forms of GBV, such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
A stark revelation from the presentation identified physical violence, primarily within domestic settings and intimate relationships, as the most significant threat to women's freedom. In the most tragic instances, this violence escalates to femicide, defined as the intentional killing of women and girls due to their gender, typically perpetrated by men.
The data presented painted a grim picture of femicide as a pervasive issue, with 472 cases reported from January to September 2022, averaging 53 cases each month. Intimate femicide was noted as the most prevalent, followed by non-intimate femicide. The role of social acceptance in perpetuating violence against women (VAW) was highlighted as a significant contributing factor.
An integral aspect emphasized during the debate was the challenge posed by the lack of gender-disaggregated data, impeding the thorough documentation and analysis of femicide incidents. It was underscored that women constitute over two-thirds of GBV victims, with nearly half experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV) in their lifetime.
Maduhu William, Program Officer Advocacy from LHRC, contributed valuable insights by addressing the role of bureaucracy in perpetuating gender-based violence. He shed light on the imperative need for systemic change, emphasizing the importance of evidence-based advocacy and stressing the necessity for collective societal change.
The debate also addressed the rising concern of technology's role in facilitating digital violence, or cyber violence, notably impacting women and children. Additionally, it highlighted the various forms of violence women face in politics, including sexual violence and character assassination.
The overarching theme of the debate extended beyond women, shedding light on the pivotal role of social acceptance in violence against children (VAC). Poverty and parental illiteracy were identified as additional drivers, disproportionately affecting vulnerable groups such as women and children with disabilities and the elderly, who are less likely to report incidents.
The role of bureaucracy, family, religion, and harmful cultural practices in perpetuating gender-based violence were also scrutinized during the debate. Stressing the importance of evidence-based advocacy, William underscored the need for collective societal change, emphasizing that, while good laws and policies are crucial, the true eradication of gender-based violence can only be achieved through a collective commitment to change.