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What is it with violence against women?

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high rates of rape, a UN studyHigh numbers of men admit to sexual violence against women: UN study.

A UN report on men and violence has revealed that sexual violence against women is prevalent in the Asia Pacific region, with nearly half of men interviewed admitting to using some form of sexual or physical violence against a female partner.

The report, entitled “Why Do Some Men Use Violence Against Women and How Can We Prevent It?” and released on 10 September, is based on more than 10,000 interviews with men from the Asia-Pacific region aged between 18 and 49 years old, and almost 25 per cent admitted that they had raped a woman.

Close to 75 per cent did not anticipate any legal consequences for the rapes.

The study was conducted in Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Papua New Guinea. The lowest rates were in Bangladesh and the highest in Papua New Guinea.

A large majority of sexual violence in these countries does not result in legal consequences because of severe underreporting as well as problems with the respective legal systems.

Marital rape is either legal, as in the cases of Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, or illegal but the law is not strictly enforced, as in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

Hence, the report argues that “Impunity remains a serious issue in the region.”

It also says that “the absence of legal sanction is important because it reinforces the socialization that a woman’s body belongs to her husband upon marriage.”

The UN based their study on the hypothesis that violence against women results from unequal gender relations and “patriarchal beliefs, institutions and systems.”

 Dr Emma Fulu, one of the authors, said: “I think this study reaffirms perhaps what we have known by interviewing women in the past.”

“What’s new about this study,” she says, “is that it tells us for the first time, by speaking to men, about what some of the underlying causes are of that violence.”

The study reveals strong connections between rape and sexual entitlement.

The most common explanation male interviewees who had perpetrated rape offered was a belief that a man has the right to sex with a woman regardless of consent.

Of the male interviewees 87 per cent believed that to be a man you need to be tough, and those who used violence against an intimate partner were also more likely to also control their partner’s behaviour and appearance.

The story of violence against women in the UK charts female victims rather than male perpetrators.

A January 2013 report released by the UK’s Ministry of Justice, the Office for National Statistics and the Home Office revealed that on average about 85,000 women are raped in England and Wales each year.

And according to the report, “An Overview of Sexual Offending in England and Wales,” over 400,000 women are sexually assaulted every year and 1 in 5 women between the ages of 16 and 59 have experienced some kind of sexual violence since the age of 16.

Programmes to end violence against women in recent years have focused upon male awareness of what constitutes sexual violence rather than placing the burden of responsibility on women to protect themselves.

In March 2012 the UK Home Office launched a provocative campaign about rape aimed at teenagers.

And the London Borough of Lambeth has developed a “Real Men Know the Difference” advertisement.

Organisations such as Men Can Stop Rape, a US-based programme, offers institutions awareness workshops to encourage men to “become role models for healthy masculinity in their communities.”

In Indonesia, Nur Hasyim has established a pro-feminist men’s movement called Alliansi Laki-Laki Baru (New Men Alliance) to help promote alternative ways of being a man.

He says, “the seeds for change have been planted, both at a policy and grassroots level.”

“Around the country I now run workshops for men who have perpetrated violence where they are invited to reflect on the effect violence has on their families, their wives, their children and themselves.”

“Once men understand the true consequences of their attitudes and behaviour, they feel stronger, more respected.”

In the meantime the UN report is not without its detractors.

Stuart Brown in The Guardian argued that the study’s findings do not fairly represent the region or the individual countries because the interviewees are not appropriately sampled.

He also argues that the questions used in the interviews were not consistent across the countries and the differences in wording negatively impacted the findings.

However, the report’s authors say it is not intended to be an authoritative statistical overview of rape in these six countries or of the Asia-Pacific region.

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