Combating Gender Based Violence

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Daniel Gizaw, a 22-year-old 5th year medical student at Addis Ababa University and resides in Ethiopia. He is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

Gender based violence (GBV) is still very prevalent in our society. Despite widespread push and reform to ensure gender equality and protection, millions of women face violence based on their gender every year. According to WHO, 1 in 3 women experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, mostly by an intimate partner. Such violence has short term and long-term consequences on women’s physical, social, sexual and reproductive, and mental health.

Victims of GBV require great support in order for them to overcome the trauma they faced and continue on with their lives. The responsibility to support them falls on every part of society as the main reason for the violence itself is the underlying gender inequality which is upheld by most of the society: either by actively participating in it or by passively accepting it. We all have roles to play and medical students and health professionals can play an important part in supporting victims and empowering women.

The first thing that can be worked on is screening for the history of GBV. Whenever a woman comes to a health facility, the health practitioner is responsible to inquire if she has any history of physical or sexual abuse. For this system to be effective, the health practitioners must take proper training and protocols must be put in place to ensure uniform standard of care.

This will make health practitioners more understanding of the victim’s plight and will decrease the instances of victim blaming, which can be particularly devastating when it comes from a health professional whom a victim trusted enough to talk to about that experience. Current and upcoming health practitioners must lobby for enactment of these protocols and trainings.

Another thing on which medical students can specifically work on and bring change is community outreach. Among most communities, there is the misguided notion that a man beats and abuses his wife because he loves her. By dispelling this myth and showing them the realities of GBV and how it’s damaging to the victims both in short and long-term, medical students can shift the narrative and show that GBV is just cruel abuse.

Student- led programs in the community using different mediums to communicate this message and including involvement of respected members of communities in these discussions will go a long way. Students can also include helpful guides for women on what to do after physical or sexual abuse and which organizations they can contact for assistance.

Finally, health practitioners can work on creating a better reporting system with the relevant authorities when cases of GBV and femicide are suspected. Efficient reporting and documenting of evidence can result in the swift apprehension of the culprits responsible and can deter future abusers from committing such acts for fear of being caught.

These efforts can result in drastic reduction of incidences of violence as such efforts have a domino effect and inspire others to do their part and fight GBV. No one deserves to live in fear because of their gender.

About the author

Daniel Gizaw is a 22-year-old 5th year medical student at Addis Ababa University and resides in Ethiopia. He is passionate about Public Health and SRHR Topics. He likes to spend his free time volunteering at different youth organizations and reading Sci-Fi fictions.

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