The Pandemic of Gender Based Violence & Femicides in the 21st century

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Yusra Abid Shah, a 6th year medical student from the National University of Science and Technology Oman. 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.


A report published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) showed that in 2017 alone 87,000 women and girls were killed intentionally. More than half of them were killed by intimate partners or other family members. Despite the global feminist awakening, women continue to bear the burden of gender inequality.


Gender-based violence (GBV) or violence against women and girls (VAWG) refers to harmful acts directed at an individual based on their gender. Femicide is the extreme form of GBV where women are murdered because they are women. This global pandemic affects every 1 in 3 women in their lifetime and it is fast becoming a true public-health crisis.

I’m a medical student in the middle east and I was devastated reading the statistics from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. A report issued in 2021 by the world bank showed that women in the MENA region are particularly at risk of different forms of GBV. At least 40% of women have experienced some type of violence and forms of violence experienced range from partner violence to femicides. There has also been a huge spike in its prevalence during the COVID-19 pandemic according to amnesty international.

As medical students and prospect health practitioners it is our duty to be in the forefront of the battle against GBV, alongside legislators and law enforcement. We need to advocate for policy changes starting with the recognition that femicide is different from homicide as femicide roots from gender discrimination and stereotypes. We also need to campaign for governments to adopt a global zero tolerance policy and day to mark GBV against women and femicide to draw attention to this silent pandemic.

Furthermore, medical schools and institutions that provide continuing medical education need to provide courses on GBV and give health care workers training on how to approach and recognize its victims early on. Students and doctors should also plan programs in their local communities to spread awareness and help in its prevention. In addition, researchers need to start collecting data to not only understand how widespread the problem is in their localities and its epidemiologic aspects but also to improve GBV services and programmes.

References
https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/socialsustainability/brief/violence-against-women-and-girls
https://www.unhcr.org/gender-based-violence.html
https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/77421/WHO_RHR_12.38_eng.pdf
https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2021/03/mena-gender-based-violence-continues-to-devastate-lives-of-women-across-region/
https://www.worldbank.org/en/region/mena/publication/regional-action-plan-to-address-gender-based-violence-in-the-middle-east-and-north-africa-region

About the author

Yusra Abid Shah is a 6th year medical student from the National University of Science and Technology Oman and is a member of MedSCO Oman, a National Member Organization of the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA). She is particularly interested in improving medical education and research and intends to specialize in surgery.

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