June 24, 2009
Some thoughts on Gender Violence and Gender Justice
On May 7-8, IDN co-sponsored a conference in "Gender Violence and Gender Justice" held at Emory University. The conference was organized by Women's Studies Professor Pamela Scully, who is also a member of IDN's Academic Advisory Board. Participants from Emory and many parts of the world (Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Kenya and Zambia) raised questions about the categories that are used to address and theorize gender violence, ambivalence associated with relying on the state, and the ways in which gender violence is embedded within other forms of violence.
The conference raised critical questions about gender violence and gender justice at, what I believe, is an important historical moment.
- At this moment, there can be no doubt that gender violence is pervasive. While not everyone agrees on the meaning of gender violence, it has been called, "the most pervasive yet least recognized human rights abuse in the world."
- At this moment addressing gender violence is part of an international peace building agenda that includes but transcends women's organizations or women's movements. UN Security Council resolution 1325 calls for women's equal participation in peace and security issues, and resolution 1820 explicitly links sexual violence with the maintenance of international peace and security. In addition UNIFEM's "Say NO to Violence Against Women" campaign has numerous supporters from Argentina to Ghana and from Denmark to Japan. I could go on, but my point here is that there is broad global awareness about violence against women and its impact on security, economic productivity, health and human rights in communities around the world.
- This is the moment to raise questions about gender violence because we are in a time of profound global transition. The global economic recession is calling into question the unfettered good associated with wealth and market mechanisms. Declining resources, along with global climate change, are serving catalysts for rethinking how we work, how we live and how to bring about social transformation on a global scale. In this time of transition, all manifestations of gender violence must be questioned from fresh perspectives and rethought in ways that will lead to genuine and lasting security for all. This is the moment to question, to reach across institutional boundaries, and to think in new ways about what constitutes violence and security in all our societies.
Director, Institute for Developing Nations,