Ending gender-based violence is everyone’s business
Saturday November 27, 2021, By Janani Sampath
Gender-based violence has multiple bearings – physical, psychological, and emotional. The impact also ranges from loss in productivity to the economic costs attached to it. So, it is everyone’s business to come up with measures to end gender-based violence.
Gender-based violence is defined by the United Nations as ‘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 deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.’
One of the efforts to end it is the awareness campaign held every year called ‘16 Days of Activism against Gender-Violence’ observed between November 25 and December 10.
Economic costs and productivity loss
Concerns about the violence peaked when more cases were reported during the initial outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020. A report titled Understanding Domestic Violence in India During COVID-19: A Routine Activity Approach published in the Asian Journal of Criminology noted that in India, the National Commission for Women saw a record rise in DV complaints– by almost double—during the 21-day lockdown. The study discussed the lack of safety nets and access to help during the time. It cited the premise that changes in our routine activities provide an opportunity to commit more crimes—with three components like a motivated offender, a suitable target, and the absence of a capable guardian.
With or without Covid, gender-based violence has an innumerable impact. Gender-based violence is estimated to cost 3.7% of Gross Domestic Product.
A study in New South Wales found that women bear a significant share of the economic costs of domestic violence. The federal government bears a significant proportion of costs like income support, housing, and medical expenditure. Another study in Fiji found that it had ramifications on businesses because high rates of domestic and sexual violence translate into lost staff time and reduced productivity—- almost ten days of work per employee each year.
India is no exception
In India, gender-based violence is associated with several factors- alcoholism, dowry-harassment, gender hierarchical relations, and economical stress.
As per the recently-released National Family Health Survey-5, around 29% of married women in the age group of 18-49 years have reported having faced partner violence.
While a 15-year-old The Protection of Women From Domestic Violence Act, 2005, offers legal recourse, ending domestic or gender violence needs a multi-pronged approach.
One of them is the grassroots approach, which looks at sensitizing boys. MITR, a project by Avtar Human Capital Trust, aims to develop a rich brigade of the young male population of the country with age-appropriate information. It looks at sensitizing them empathetically understanding the female community, thus reducing the crime against women in the country. The intervention enables school-going boys to understand, accept, respect, and give space to the female gender. It also aims to empower the school-going boys as friendly associates of the female gender who will extend an empathetic hand towards their peer girls with the right amount of understanding required for their age.
What businesses can do?
Gender-based violence can make women leave jobs and impede their career advancement and progress.
Businesses can begin by committing to address it. While The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013, or the POSH Act, looks at tackling harassment at the workplace, many may wonder if companies can extend their efforts beyond it. Research says companies can address it outside as well. They can support the staff affected by gender-based violence and come up with policies to mitigate it. Globally, organizations are coming together to end gender-based violence. A network called OneInThree, which brings together MNCs, has CEOs committing to address it at their respective organizations. A few companies in this network have released a paper with policies, training programs, and tools adopted.
A luxury group like Kering has extended its reach to tackle the issue in society by offering support to NGOs, social entrepreneurs, and is working to dispel stereotypes. The group also trains employees in understanding the impact it can have on the workplace.
Gender-based violence is complex and has to be addressed by every group, government, civil society, and business. It requires a concerted and multi-pronged approach to end it.
- With close to 15 years of experience in journalism across beats in multiple mediums, Janani Sampath is senior content writer and assistant editor, Diversity Digest.