Gender-based violence is a thing. We have the headlines to prove it: “Woman found stuffed in suitcase“ or “Man charged with murder of woman found dead in house fire.” Violence against women like Miya Marcano and Gabby Petito. Stories of women beaten, raped, and murdered simply for being women make me want to vomit. For trans women, the risk is even greater, and if they’re Black, it’s worse still; the Human Rights Campaign, which tracks violence against trans and gender-nonconforming individuals, states, “While the details of these cases differ, it is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color — particularly Black transgender women.”
While some of these cases of violence against women aren’t even covered by the media, others articles do not even attempt to call the murdered woman by her name; there is a disregard for her even in death. This is a worldwide problem, and there is a term for it: femicide. It’s an epidemic that no one wants to talk about, but we must.
An organization called Women for Women International has an entire toolkit on its website to educate us all about gender-based violence. They report that “Women are disproportionately harmed by gender-based violence. That is why hundreds of organizations focus on ending violence against women. According to the United Nations Population Fund, 1 in 3 women have experienced physical or sexualized violence in their lifetime. That is not including emotional, financial, or verbal abuse. Despite being so prevalent, gender-based violence is largely underreported because of stigma and lack of access to resources and support systems.” Gender-based violence is defined as physical, sexual, financial, emotional, educational, psychological, and every shade in between — from threatening, to coercion, to deprivation, whether done in public or in private.
If society continues to live in fear, and keeps brushing something so inhumane, so unjust under the proverbial rug, we will lose thousands of more lives: mothers, daughters, aunts, friends, sisters, wives, partners, and people who meant something to someone, due to senseless violence. Gender-based violence has existed in our society since the beginning of time; even in the Bible, some narratives speak to this present-day epidemic.
It happens on continents across oceans (like Africa and Europe), proving that gender-based violence has no geographical barriers, but looks the same no matter where it shows up (and that’s everywhere). In Europe, 31% of women have one or more physically violent stories to tell by the age of 15, reports the European Commission.
What’s worse, when gender-based violence occurs, cases that involve women of color are reported on less and receive less media attention. The stories of Black women like Blessing Olusegun, Native American women like Jessica Alva, and Vanessa Guillén, a Mexican American military servicewoman, are deemed invaluable by our media, and less attention goes to finding these women alive.
The fact that racial disparities exist is not news — but what may be more shocking to fully comprehend is that when a woman of color goes missing, it’s activism largely done on social media that gets these women’s cases any attention, not national media. Hashtags like #SayHerName and #JusticeFor flood the internet.
A mere 30% of murdered Indigenous women receive media coverage. Lynnette Grey Bull, an advocate for missing and murdered indigenous women tells NPR, “It should be the same if an African American person goes missing, or a Hispanic person goes missing, a Native American … we should have the same type of equal efforts that are being done in these cases.”
The work being done by organizations like Women for Women International helps to keep us informed and educated. The organization runs programs that teach women about their rights and programs to educate men about the issue of gender-based violence.
Her life matters — no matter who she is. It’s as simple as that. Society makes it more complicated than it ever should be. Gender-based violence has no place in our society, whether here in the United States, Africa, or South America. Every life needs to be valued and every death investigated until justice is served. Every human being deserves to feel safe without the threat of violence every single day of their life, don’t you think? Let’s start (and keep) talking about gender-based violence, because that is the only way forward.
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