As negotiations continue to agree on a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will come into force next year, tackling gender inequality remains a priority.
The current draft of the SDGs contains a stand-alone goal on the issue, which includes a specific target to “eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual exploitation and other types of exploitation.
It’s a welcome move – and certainly more impactful than the gender equality demands of the Millennium Development Goals, which saw donor countries target aid to education and health in developing countries, while ignoring other crucial areas for women’s rights, such as the fight against gender. grounded violence.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 35% of women worldwide have suffered gender-based violence, with 38% of femicides worldwide committed by an intimate partner.
However, as with the MDGs that preceded them, any initiative to address gender inequality in the SDGs will come up against harmful social norms that in many societies keep women and girls powerless. .
Indeed, in many societies, violence against women is so common that it could be considered a social norm.
In a country like Brazil, where the situation of women is slowly improving, a woman is still assaulted every 15 seconds and one is murdered every two hours. Over the past three decades, at least 92,000 women have been killed there, many at the hands of their partners, according to map of violence survey in 2012.
In a bid to improve matters, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff in March launched a zero-tolerance policy towards violence against women and girls. The penal code has been amended to include femicide – defined as any crime involving domestic violence, discrimination or disregard of women, resulting in their death.
And tougher sentences have been introduced, ranging from 12 to 30 years in prison for violence charges. Longer prison terms were imposed for crimes committed against pregnant women, girls under 14, women over 60, and women and girls with disabilities.
It was a big step forward for women’s rights advocates in Brazil.
But speaking to people working on the front lines of the fight against violence against women in Brazil last month, it is clear that despite legislative efforts to tackle the problem, there is still much to be done. do at the local level to change entrenched social norms.
Reverend Elineide Ferreira Oliveira runs Casa de Noeli, a shelter for abused women in the northern town of Ariquemes. She warns that reforms such as the new law on femicide and Maria de Penha Law of 2006, which has increased penalties for domestic violence, will not be enough to change the patriarchal mentality that keeps women powerless.
“The new law could improve things, although it will take time to implement,” Oliveira said. “Maybe with tougher sentences they will have to deal more seriously with violence against women. But even in the legal system, there are judges or lawyers who say that when a husband and wife argue, we have no right to intervene, it’s a private matter. Many people think violence is normal – it’s not.
As well as running the shelter, Reverend Oliveira, along with other members of partner Christian Aid Anglican Service on Diakonia and Development (Sadd), which supports her work, has produced leaflets informing abused women of their rights and giving details of where they can get help. The leaflets, available in three languages, are distributed in schools, police stations and churches.
The distribution of literature is a small important step in the fight against violence. The creation of the SDGs, however, presents a unique opportunity to initiate a host of small steps around the world. This is why it is crucial that women’s rights are at the heart of the final SDG framework.
Their inclusion must go hand in hand with countries demonstrating the political will to implement change – and funding must also be made available.
Women’s rights organizations are often underfunded, with money also needed to implement laws and long-term initiatives such as sex and relationship education, and campaigns, in the media and elsewhere that challenge stereotypes.
The return on investment from such an investment would be incalculable – nothing short of a world where gender-based violence is seen as a horror that no society should tolerate.
Melanie Hargreaves is press officer at Christian Aid, which highlights gender inequality during Christian Aid week May 10-16