The Pandemic of Gender Based Violence & Femicides: How can medical students and health practitioners support victims and advocate for gender empowerment

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Iftekhar Ahmed Sakib, currently studying at Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College, Dhaka, Bangladesh. 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.


“Boys will be boys.” – let me start by asking you to take a critical look at what masculinity means to you and how you embody it. We do acknowledge that all genders play an equal role for a healthy society. But we fail to acknowledge that medical students can play a better role to shake the persisting GBV culture.

Why Medical Students Should Care About GBV
• Because they know survivors. In every medical student’s life, at some point, someone may likely disclose the violence happened to them. Ignorance on the part of them can only hinder the healing process and may even contribute to the survivor feeling even more victimized. A supportive health practitioner’s presence during a survivor’s recovery can be invaluable. Medical students must be prepared to respond with sensitivity, compassion and understanding.

•   Because GBV does not have gender. Studies show that a staggering 10-20% of males are sexually violated at some point in their lives. Men are not immune to the epidemic of sexual violence. Same goes lur ignorance towards the transgender community. Nor are the survivors safe from the stigma that society attaches to survivors of rape. When reporting the assault, trans or male survivors are often doubted, called gay, or blamed for their own victimization. Frequently, they respond, as do many female survivors, by remaining silent and suffering alone. So as health practitioners, we can create the safe space by normalizing talking about GBV with everyone. 

How Medical Students Can Act to Prevent Violence :
• Understand the ability to consent. We should prioritize equally on how men should respect ‘No’. We need to understand the cases where a female can not give consent and act accordingly.

•   Be aware of what you see. We are surrounded daily by TV shows, music, magazines, video games, and movies that communicate messages about masculinity and relationships. Don't let images dictate your behavior. 

•   Choose words carefully. When you are gossiping in your circle or talking to a patient, rather than objectifying another gender, encourage healthy discussions. Use pronouns appropriately. Avoid words which may judge the victim. Absolutely maintain professional secrecy. 

•   Speak out. You will see behaviors that degrade women and promote a culture of violence as you will deal with the lives of mass people. For example - when anyone tells a joke about rape, say you don't find it funny. Violence is never a funny punchline. 

•   Learn an intersectional approach. GBV affects us all, regardless of gender identity, sexuality, economic status, race, religion or age. Rooting it out means leaving behind restrictive definitions of gender and sexuality that limit a person’s right to define and express themselves.

•   Listen to survivors. In the era of #MeToo, #TimesUp, do not scroll down or simply ignore someone sharing their experience. While you listen to survivors, don’t say, “Why did she dress like this?” Say: “We hear you. We see you. We believe you.”

•   Advocate against the root causes. Rape culture is allowed to continue when we buy into ideas of masculinity that see violence and dominance as “strong” and “male”, and when other genders are less valued. It is also underpinned by victim-blaming and finding 100 more causes justifying violence. Advocate to deconstruct violent masculinity. 

To all the medical students reading this article, let us define our own masculinity. Let us choose what kind of health practitioners we want to be – that tough toxic alpha or that compassionate caring support.

About the author

Iftekhar Ahmed Sakib is currently studying at Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College, Dhaka, Bangladesh. He was awarded ‘The Emerging Young Leader’ by South Asia Partnership-Nepal in 2018. He has attended many esteemed conferences worldwide. He is a proud member of IFMSA and working relentlessly in his NMO BMSS-Bangladesh to create an impact. He has numerous newspaper articles and published renowned magazines. He has served as the Judge of many esteemed MUNs, public speaking competitions, debates, article competitions and so forth. He loves volunteerism, he loves to serve humanity.

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