The world should address the root causes of Gender Based Violence for women to be safer and more likely to have food, and if done so, the women are likely to produce more food so everyone is less hungry, according to a new report from CARE.
“Without addressing inequality, women will continue to be both hungry and at risk of violence, the new report, GBV & Food Insecurity, said.
CARE points out that Gender-based violence increased dramatically during COVID-19 pandemic, and is compounded by ongoing global hunger catastrophe fuelled by climate change, resource scarcity, and increased commodity costs.
GENDER INEQUALITY; HUNGER AND VIOLENCE
CARE said that their analysis estimated 150 million more women were hungry than men in 2021. The situation is expected to worsen, and trends indicate that 44.7 million more women than men could miss meals in the next 6 months. GBV is also rooted in gender inequality, which reinforces unequal power relations between women and men, gender roles, and social norms that lead to the acceptance of violence. Women and girls who are most at risk of going hungry are also more likely to experience violence.
IMPACT OF HARMFUL GENDER NORMS
Women and girls around the globe are feeling the effects of these increased risks, which are leading to exponential increases in GBV, the report said. “In Somalia, for example, reports from those displaced by drought indicate a 200% rise in GBV cases, particularly intimate partner violence and rape, compared to the same period in 2021,” CARE said.
They also mention that access to food aid and search for food heightened the risk of exposure to different forms of GBV for women and girls when they are outside their homes, particularly in conflict and crisis settings. The risk of being sexually harassed, assaulted, or even coerced into exchanging sex for food when going to emergency food distributions can prevent women and girls from accessing food. Drought is forcing women and girls to walk further to obtain basic resources including water, making them more vulnerable to sexual violence.
CHILD, EARLY & FORCED MARRIAGE
When families are unable to meet their basic needs, the risk of child marriage increases significantly for girls.20 Girls married early in exchange for money, food or other assets, or simply to reduce the number of mouths to feed, is not new or uncommon as a coping strategy,21 but is currently on the rise across numerous regions.
Women in violent partnerships may be food insecure because their partners control access to food. In Bangladesh and India, women reported that they ate less (and often last) to avoid IPV. Women and girls in a 2019 assessment in Syria reported that denial of resources, including food, is an increasingly prevalent form of violence that women are facing a decade into the conflict.
ADDRESSING THE ISSUE
Reducing Risks Helps Women And Girls Access Food;
The report says that the risk of being sexually harassed, assaulted, or even coerced into exchanging sex for food can prevent women and girls from accessing basic necessities when they need them most. “One of the best ways to reduce these risks is to make sure women have a voice and are supported to speak out about the challenges they face,” the report said.
“In Uganda, women in a refugee in a settlement had to walk nearly six miles to the nearest food distribution point, placing them at increased risk of sexual harassment and abuse along the way,” CARE said.
Addressing Root Causes Of Violence Within Homes;
The power dynamics which result in women eating less than men are the same which lead to violence within homes, so addressing the root causes of violence helps ensure women and girls have equal access to whatever food is available.
The Abdiboru project, which aimed to reduce the vulnerability of adolescent girls, encouraged communities to reflect on biases and cultural taboos that discriminate against them.
Violence From Partners;
The CARE report said that when the risk of violence from partners decreases, families become less hungry and increase their odds of having cash income. In Rwanda, engaging couples in dialogue on power and gender led to a 55% reduction in women’s risk of intimate partner violence.
When men work with their wives as equal partners, they are less likely to view violence as acceptable. Their household is also more likely to produce more food.