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Saturday, November 26, 2005


Violence Against Women, A Worldwide Problem

A report in USA Today , 11/24/05, by Dan Vergano makes dismal reading. Physical violence against women is continuing unabated in many countries. Mr. Vergano's article is based on a study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • "Wife beating and sexual violence against women are "common, widespread and far-reaching," says a World Health Organization report released Thursday.
  • "The "WHO Multi-country Study on Women's Health and Domestic Violence Against Women" is based on a survey of 24,000 women in 10 nations It says the percentage of women reporting having been physically or sexually assaulted, or both, in their lifetime ranges from 15% in Japan to 71% in rural Ethiopia. The violence has severe health and economic consequences, the report says.
  • "Domestic violence, in particular, continues to be frighteningly common and to be accepted as 'normal' within too many societies," says the report, the first global look at these kinds of assaults. All of the women surveyed had had a male partner at some point.
  • "In the USA, about 1.5 million women a year are assaulted by a husband or boyfriend; about one in six women have been sexually assaulted at some time in their life, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."It is a problem here, one that many communities face," says Diane Stuart, director of the Office on Violence Against Women at the Justice Department. "This is a crime committed behind closed doors." Stuart says the isolation reported by domestic violence victims in the WHO report is also experienced by American women."
Commenting on the WHO study, Alertnet.org states: "It paints a harrowing picture of broken bones, bruises, burns, cracked skulls, dislocated jaws, rape and fear. Often the cycle is repeated from one generation to the next. A child that is brought up in an environment where there is domestic violence tends to accept it as the norm and they will then practise it," said Phumaphi." (Joy Phumaphi is assistant director-general of Family and Community Health at the WHO.)

My post dated October 30, 2005, about "Bride Burning", based on a Washington Post article, brought me a number of messages from India. The writers (assumed to be men) pointed out the flip side of the Dowry Act (Sec. 498A of the Indian Penal Code)--"widespread misuse of dowry laws by Indian daughters-in-law". Many instances of abuse of women in India are related to payment of dowry. When I asked the writer (one of them didn't leave a valid reply-to address) to provide specific instances of husbands being physically abused and tortured to death by their wives, I received no response. I do not dispute that there could be instances of women taking unfair advantage of Sec.498A.

Here in the San Francisco Bay area the number of South Asian immigrants has grown exponentially in the past eight years and with it the number of cases of abused women in the community.

Maitri is a non-profit organization run by volunteers to assist South Asian women who need help. From legal assistance to medical care, job search, and shelters, the volunteers of Maitri spend long hours to provide much-needed service to rehabilitate abused women who find themselves without money and a roof over their heads.

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