Violence against women (VAW) continues to exist as a pervasive, structural,
systematic, and institutionalized violation of women’s basic human rights (UN
Division of Advancement for Women, 2006). It cuts across the boundaries of age, race, class, education, and religion which affect women of all ages and all backgrounds in every corner of the world. Such violence is used to control and subjugate women by instilling a sense of insecurity that keeps them “bound to the home, economically exploited and socially suppressed” (Mathu, 2008, p. 65). It is estimated that one out of every five women worldwide will be abused during her lifetime with rates reaching up to 70 percent in some countries (WHO, 2005). Whether this abuse is perpetrated by the state and its agents, by family members, or even by strangers, VAW is closely related to the regulation of sexuality in a gender specific (patriarchal) manner. This regulation is, on the one hand, maintained through the implementation of strict cultural, communal, and religious norms, and on the other hand, through particular legal measures that sustain these norms. Therefore, religious institutions, the media, the family/tribe, cultural networks, and the legal system continually discipline
women’s sexuality and punish those women (and in some instances men) who have transgressed or allegedly contravened the social boundaries of ‘appropriateness’ as delineated by each society. Such women/men may include lesbians/gays, women who appear ‘too masculine’ or men who appear ‘too feminine,’ women who try to exercise their rights freely or men who do not assert their rights as ‘real men’ should, women/men who have been sexually assaulted or raped, and women/men who challenge male/older male authority.
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