The pandemic of violence against women and femicides

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Sadia Khalid, Junior researcher, and a PhD candidate at Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech), Estonia. She 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 has been a constant throughout history, whether that be in domestic or wider social dynamics, and by and large, this violence disproportionately affected women. This is evident today more than ever as we have access to global data where we see that 30 percent of women aged 15 or over have been subjected to physical and/or sexual violence at least once in their life and this does not even take into account harassment or other psychological violence and most of this violence takes place in their own home by an intimate partner or family member. The sad state of affairs where one in three of half our human population have been assaulted is something that needs to be corrected once and for all so future generations may look upon their past as nothing but a memory, not as a continuation of trends.


At the early stages of this new millennium, we have an opportune time to differentiate ourselves from our past. The principles of gender equality, diversity, and pacifism are well known throughout most cultures, if not accepted. Building upon this is the highest priority of reaching a state where violence based on gender, perceived or physiological, is eradicated. The state of inequality in earning capabilities, decision making, and political power has a direct correlation in the perception of gender as weak or submissive or in extreme cases dehumanized. Historically men have held significantly more power in society, whether monetary or cultural, and this has resulted in a biased view of worth, even as the situation has improved in general, still there is an air of differentiation, jobs that are only for women or men, opinions that are more valid when they come from men, decisions that are more trustworthy as they come from men.

Promoting equality in pay, gender-neutral hiring standards, or in the case of existing inequality hiring standards that aim to strive for equality before reaching a state of neutrality, empowered female political speech will all help redesign the image of women in our society thus removing the mental differentiation one victory at a time. As society has yet to reach enlightenment and equality, we must in the meanwhile be able to recognize the problems we are forced to live with. There are many avenues where one can focus but one of the main ones to identify the abuse and violence is through the healthcare system and healthcare professionals.


Developing guidelines and implementation tools based on the research is pivotal in preparing our healthcare system for violence prevention and intervention. This will also expand our research to further test and identify what works best to prevent Gender-based violence which will strengthen our healthcare system. Gender has largely been ignored in medicine and medical science. Advancing medical science education also calls for the promotion of egalitarian gender norms not only among medical school students but for youth in all educational institutes as well. Gender studies and general sociology should be taught in sex education curricula as a part of life skills.


Medicine was considered to be ‘male biased’ and ‘gender blind’. Efforts should be made to disseminate literature and education material and structural submergence of gender studies into the medical curricula; clinical cases focusing on psychosocial issues along with biomedical ones, staff education are characteristics for successful implementation. Gender awareness in young doctors will contribute to gender equity and inequality will reduce the gender biases in our healthcare system.
Moreover, training doctors how to provide ‘tailored support’ to meet people’s needs and appropriately responding to the needs of the survivors empathetically and holistically is essential when the patient took the first brave step of disclosing violence.


Prevention of violence comes from early identification of the violence and appropriate referral and support for the survivors. Where doctors need to understand important factors such as cultural and religious elements behind survivor attitude and if the survivor migration status depends on that abuser and there is financial dependency/abuse involved then in such cases, healthcare staff should be trained to ensure the appropriate utilization of systems in place to provide the diverse legal, emotional and financial support. Doctors are the first line of defense against abuse, they are trained to recognize and treat it, but the avenue that they lack is the capability of ending it.

Doctors of course may ask about a patient as they see something amiss and have a duty to report these cases in many parts of the world, but the psychological intervention of patients suspected of being a victim of violence could be crucial in empowering them to remove themselves or the aggressor from their lives. There is a problem where for various reasons a lot of victims refuse to either come forward or press charges where addressing gender-based violence through the healthcare system if done properly can be socially acceptable and inoffensive even to women living in conservative societies.

More people trust their physicians more than their neighbors and these victims could use this trust to help themselves. Even a single act of violence can be a sign of future abuse so identifying the sign of abuse and assisting patients in these situations as early as possible is essential before we reach a point of no irreversibility.


The world has never been as aware and as developed to recognize these problems for what they are, gender equality is not just an issue for women, it is a problem for our entire society. We cannot call ourselves a developed culture as long as we have very clearly chosen one half of our society to suffer at the hands of the other. Equality comes in many forms, power, money, recognition, but in the end, no matter what path is chosen the end result needs to be clear, no person on this Earth is less than any other and none deserves to live their life in fear of any kind.

Reference:

Violence against women Prevalence Estimates, 2018. Global, regional and national prevalence estimates for intimate partner violence against women and global and regional prevalence estimates for non-partner sexual violence against women. WHO: Geneva, 2021

About the author

Sadia Khalid, Junior researcher, and a PhD candidate at Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech), Estonia. She has been working on her research project “The role of Helicobacter pylori intestinal microbiota in the development of liver diseases. under supervision of Dr. Pirjo Spuul at Faculty of Science, Institute of Chemistry and Biotechnology.,TalTech. Previously, she has worked as a research specialist in biomedicine and translational medicine department in the university of Tartu, Estonia. She obtained her MD in emergency medicine in 2017 from the Dalian Medical university, China and MBChB in 2013 from the Weifang Medical university, China. Her current research interests include infectious diseases, bacteriology, hepatology, and gastroenterology.

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