So what are the drivers of violence against women?

People often say to me that violence against women is caused by abuse of drugs and alcohol. The evidence shows however, that almost even numbers of sober and drunken people are violent. Where studies do show more drinkers are violent to their partners, the studies are not able to explain why many drunken men (80% of heavy and binge drinkers) did not abuse their wives. Alcohol and other addictive substances are used by abusers to give themselves permission to be violent.

While there is no single cause of violence against women, justifications for using violence are frequently based on gender norms – that is, social norms about the proper roles and responsibilities of men and women. These cultural and social norms socialise some males to be aggressive, powerful, unemotional, and controlling, and contribute to a social acceptance of men as dominant. Similarly, expectations of females as passive, nurturing, submissive, and emotional also reinforce women’s roles as weak, powerless, and dependent upon men. The socialisation of both men and women has resulted in an unequal power relationship between men and women.

According to the International Labor Organisation, ‘…in general, the orientation of a culture, or the shared beliefs within a sub-culture, helps define the limits of tolerable behaviour. To the extent that a society values violence, attaches prestige to violent conduct, or defines violence as normal or legitimate or functional behaviour, the values of individuals within that society will develop accordingly. Attitudes of gender inequality are deeply embedded in many cultures and rape, domestic assault and sexual harassment can all be viewed as a violent expression of the cultural norm.’ Source: Chapell D. and Di Martino V., 1998. Violence at Work , Geneva, ILO


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