Gender-based violence (GBV) is both a cause and a consequence of gender inequality. It expresses a relationship of power, and is used to enforce and maintain power of some groups over others. Laws and policies frequently do not adequately address GBV, but even when laws on paper are good, they are often not well implemented or enforced. Moreover, changing law and policy is not sufficient to end GBV.
Society’s role in GBV
As long as social norms tolerate violence to police women’s behaviour, to punish those who do not conform to gender and sexuality norms, and support the agenda of keeping women subordinate, formal laws and policies will not succeed in deterring violence. For example, there are increased efforts to codify religion in public policy and push back against progressive legislative changes. This is taking place both at the national level as well as in the undermining of standards in the international system.
Less recognised violence
In addition, some forms of violence are less recognised as violence, and these less visible forms are more tolerated. Structurally excluded women – for instance, Indigenous women, women from groups targeted by racism, working-class women, lesbians and bisexual women, disabled women, sex workers, HIV-positive women, girls and young women, and trans people – have a lower status in society. While women’s rights movements have made progress globally in positioning GBV as a human rights violation, violence remains widespread and tolerated, particularly against these women who are not ‘counted in’.
Violence against women human rights defenders
In addition, the past decade has seen increases in the violence targeting the very women who would seek to change this status quo – women human rights defenders (WHRDs)– for their political activism and as a technique to intimidate and to silence dissent. These WHRDs are attacked because of their political work, but also because of their gender; the nature of the attacks is often gendered (e.g., actual or threatened sexual violence, threats again family members). These types of threats and attacks often result in burnout or force women to relocate or discontinue their justice work.
CMI! activities to stop gender based violence
Members of the CMI! consortium will develop and strengthen the capacity of structurally excluded women, girls, and trans and intersex people to effectively prevent and counter gender-based violence. They will combat GBV by working to change the social norms that tolerate violence, as well as to secure and press for the implementation of law and policy that address violence.
Economic justice: In societies around the world, women and girls are more likely to live in poverty than men and boys. Their enjoyment and control of economic resources is limited. And the work that they do tends to be paid poorly and done in conditions that are often unsafe. Moreover, much of the work that they do – for example, domestic work, migrant work, sex work and work in the informal sector – is not recognised as work and not protected by labour law.
Uneven distribution of wealth
In addition, non-state, often less visible, actors are very powerful in influencing the economic policies that determine how resources in societies are allocated. An emphasis on deregulation, as part of neo-liberal economic policies worldwide, favours and facilitates corporate power and state capture by corporate interests. These interests are generally counter to those of women, girls and trans people. In this context, women’s labour rights are frequently not recognised (including by unions) or are violated, and local women’s access to the land and natural resources upon which their families and communities depend is severely constrained. Activism by women workers and rural and indigenous women to secure economic justice is frequently met with violence and repression by both private corporate and state forces. Women workers frequently face sexual and other harassment and violence on the job.
CMI! activities to advance economic justice
In order to advance economic justice and a fairer and more equitable distribution of resources, CMI! members will work in the specific areas of labour rights and land and natural resource rights. CMI! partners will support structurally excluded women, girls and trans and intersex people to organise to address immediate factors of poverty and inequality, secure labour rights (such as adequate wages and safe and decent working conditions) and protect access to and control over land/property and natural resources. The criminalisation of certain forms of work – such as sex work and migrant work – will also receive focus, as well as attention to the safety and protection of women human rights defenders.