Gender violence in education a “policy vacuum” says think tank
Summary of story from Girl.com.au, April 6, 2011
Gender violence towards women causes more deaths and injury in women aged 15-44 than malaria and traffic accidents combined, according to the London-based think tank the Panos Institute.
The most shocking news reported by author Judith Mirsky, however, was how much of this violence was taking place in schools and other educational institutions which are generally thought of as “safe” environments.
The report, entitled “Beyond victims and villains – addressing sexual violence in the education sector” cited numerous case studies from around the world in which girls and women had been subjected to sexual violence, bullying, harrassment and rape by peers and sometimes by teachers, educators or other staff members.
The report says there is a policy vaccum surrounding gender violence in education, and that this needs to be addressed urgently for numerous reasons.
Not only are these acts unlawful, and violations of women’s rights, but also the physical and psychological harm associated with such acts of violence makes it more difficult for the global community to achieve public health targets such as reducing unintended pregnancies and STIs including HIV.
And then there is “The Girl Effect” – driving women out of education causes social and economic development to regress and undermines personal and institutional development.
The concern is that if gender violence continues unabated within educational establishments, it will continue and spread into the wider world.
“Schools may be training grounds for the insidious cycle of domestic violence” says one US researcher.
“Girls are taught that they are on their own… Boys, on the other hand, receive permission, even training, to become batterers.”
The report’s author, Judith Mirsky, said that “addressing sexual violence in the education sector lies at the heart of human rights, public health and education agendas.”
The report contains a section on the advances being made within educational circles to combat this behaviour.
Global initiatives stretch from teacher training in South Africa to a “Girls’ Power” campaign in Nigeria, anti-bullying strategies in the US, legislation in the UK and a schoolgirl guardians programme in Tanzania.
“Education institutions” said Judith Mirsky, “are places where students learn values, as well as the information and skills they need to pass exams.
“As such, they need to set standards of conduct that will continue into the wider world, and help to make it a safer place.”