BY NELSON ONYIMBI
Social apathy towards addressing some prevalent root causes of sexual and gender-based violence such as rape and intimate partner violence has facilitated their progress into a systemic problem. Perpetrators continue to thrive in the absence of punishment despite several intervening legislations.
Despite the different socio-economic levels, most interventions against sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) face systemic hurdles because certain harmful actions and words have been normalized.
Sexual and gender-based violence is “any act perpetrated against a person’s will based on gender norms and unequal power relationships including physical, emotional, or psychological and sexual violence, and denial of resources or access to services” (UN).
Generally, young girls and women make up most of the statistics of SGBV victims as boys and men constitute most of the perpetrators. However, young boys and men also face proportionate violence, but report less due to the stigma around power dynamics in society.
In low-income communities such as informal settlements, weak reporting systems and the normalization of rape and verbal abuse have continued the vice. This has erected barriers to effectively punishing perpetrators. In higher socioeconomic ladders, delayed justice and dodging the law through bribery and out-of-court settlement empowers victims.
In order to make our cities and settlements safer, the fight against SGBV has to be collectively taken up and centered on educating ourselves. We need to recognize how gender roles play out and educate society on the root causes including male dominance and socialization.
We must break the chain of sexist remarks and inflammatory language such as gender name-calling which have more effect in societies with power imbalances. The society also needs to understand and respect rights and freedoms that apply equally, as well as the segregated gender rights to discontinue victim blaming.
Gender wars should be discouraged, as they give the impression of inferior genders and propagate disrespect and violence.
Youth also need to play a role in using social media as a safe space to spread positive messages that deconstruct stereotyping and promote consent, interrupt, and report abuse. In order to win against SGBV, being empowered is fundamental.