GBV can be as clear and obvious as these harmful practices. However, what I would like to discuss is its existence in today’s parenting styles. Parenting styles that are based on social gender norms where a child’s rights to safety, their physical or emotional wellbeing are withheld based on their gender, is gender based violence. And it is these patriarchal expectations, embedded in upbringing for girls and boys that fuels the imbalance of power between men and women. This inequality is the root cause of violence against women.
Man up! Men don’t cry.”
From grandmother to grandson at a funeral.
When girls are asked not to express themselves, to dissolve their personalities to please society, they are being told they can never say no, or explore their own needs and wants. Girls need to know that they have the right to refuse and to accept. They have the right to defend themselves and to decide their own lives.
Starting with children is the most sustainable solution, but a holistic approach that includes all members of society is essential. Young people are a force of change, and play a very important role in this approach. On a personal level, their responsibility lies in becoming more sensitive to gender based violence by refusing all sorts of injustice and prejudice. More actively, the youth can empower girls and women to be decision makers and to identify risks of violence in the community in order to safely report it. They can also help by opening up discussions about GBV and creating safe spaces for victims of gender stigmatisation. Hand in hand, young people can pave the way to a well-adjusted future where men and women are equal in power, opportunities and rights.
Decision makers must take young people’s lead. As a society we are mirrored by our laws and vice versa. For this reason, laws can no longer remain discriminatory against women and children. One of the most dreadful examples in Lebanon is not having a minimum legal age for marriage. It is decision makers’ responsibility to reform this law and many others like it, if we are serious about combating gender-based violence. Only when our legal systems and our educational programmes work together can we hope to achieve safety for women and children, and make the world a better place!