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GBV & the Humanitarian Community - PART 1
by
Dr. Linda Wagener
on
January 26, 2012
| Gender Concerns |

Although there is plenty of information available about the subject of gender-based violence (GBV), most does not take into account the unique problems faced by humanitarian workers. These difficulties include the complexities of working on multicultural teams, the absence of counseling/healthcare options, and failures in the legal system to ensure that victims will be treated respectfully and perpetrators are brought to justice. Most of the information designed for humanitarian workers is on the topic of how to work with beneficiaries who are the victims of GBV. However, humanitarian and relief workers are increasingly at risk themselves for becoming victims of GBV. The socially defined gender context is both powerful and subtle. Often it is difficult for a woman to articulate her concerns about safety and security. Often it is difficult for men to understand and take the increased risk exposure of women seriously. There are several ways that organizations increase the risk for women through direct or indirect communication of cultural norms. One common example is when risk taking is admired. Another is the message that self-care is not valued. When the leaders of an organization are uncomfortable with topics related to sex and violence they increase the likelihood that problems will go unrecognized or unreported. An organization that does not treat men and women equally in regard to power and authority also sets up a system that increases the risk for GBV. When someone dies or is robbed, a community knows the importance of presence, words of sympathy, and justice.  In the case of rape or other forms of GBV, it is harder to know how to be helpful or even to acknowledge what has happened. We hope that this brief introduction will answer some basic questions about how to respond.

What is Gender Based Violence?

  • Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is any harmful act that is done against someone’s will and is based on gender differences between men and women.
  • GBV is an aggressive act motivated by power and control.
  • Gender-based violence can take many forms.  It is often sexual in nature. It can include non-consensual sex such as rape and sexual assault, sexual harassment, genital mutilation, trafficking for sexual exploitation, and child sexual abuse. It also includes other practices that cause harm such as domestic violence, forced and early marriage, forced pregnancy or sterilization, honor killings, etc.
  • Most victims are female and most perpetrators are male. Because of this, males play an important role in prevention of GBV.
  • In most cases, the perpetrator is someone the victim knows and perhaps knows well, such as a current or former intimate partner, co-worker, or relative. These cases can be the most difficult for a woman to report. It is important to remember that even when a woman knows her attacker she is not at fault for the outcome.
  • GBV has both short- and long-term physical, psychological, and spiritual effects on health and well-being. These effects vary markedly depending upon the person, the cultural context, and the circumstances of the event.
  • The majority of GBV incidents go unreported. Women may experience it as a mark of disgrace, find it difficult to discuss something so personal in a work context, or worry that drawing attention to the situation will make their life or job situation worse. In many cases women may feel that reporting the incident will bring more harm than good, due to the lack of health or legal services.

 

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