Every March 8, International Women’s Day is commemorated, a date that was marked by gender violence and the struggle of women to make their voices heard, and although the road traveled for many years has some roses, it still has many thorns.
Despite the difficulties, women have managed to excel in many fields that were previously exclusive to men and in this progress, contrary to what might be believed, is when more situations of violence occur against them.
And the question arises: do you think that the more women excel, the more they are silenced with violence? In this regard, the expert political scientist, Angélica Bernal Olarte (*), describes the phenomenon:
“The conservative reaction is not only in the family sphere or in couple relationships. In politics, more and more studies show that, as women advance in their careers, physical aggression, harassment and sexual abuse increase, among other forms of violence that violate women’s right to exercise political power.”
In 2022, DANE reported the birth of approximately 3,500 babies to mother-girls between the ages of 10 and 14. According to Medicina Legal, in 2022, every 8 hours a woman was murdered in Colombia and 8 of them, every hour, were victims of domestic or sexual violence.
The agency also reveals that, between January and October last year, 827 women were murdered, while 58,117 suffered domestic violence or were sexually abused. So far in 2023, 10 femicides have been registered.
However, silence continues to be the constant of the victims, many do not report the aggressions out of fear, lack of information or because they believe that violence is not a behavior that should be denounced. On the contrary, they consider that it is a shameful situation and that they should hide it because they provoked it and even believe that they deserve to suffer and be punished.
The expert affirms that, faced with this situation, the term gender violence makes sense: “Many victims are not even able to identify that they are victims, because we are part of a culture that normalizes the control over women, their bodies, their decisions and their sexuality by the men in their families and their partners.”
Other experts confirm that violence originates from power relations, based on the concept of male superiority romanticized with “the myth of romantic love,” which translates into the notion of misogyny and patriarchy.
The good news is that the new generations of women feel free, empowered and autonomous when they compare their lives with the ones their grandmothers’ and even their mothers’ led. But, on the other hand, when speaking of discrimination, oppression or marginalization due to gender, this empowerment is overshadowed by the cruel reality that is a constant in the way women relate to men.
The political scientist explains that women’s progress has been extraordinary but even if there is no violence to silence them, detractors use discriminatory formulas to prevent them from moving forward: “If a woman faces difficulties in exercising a public function, it should be judged precisely on her capacity and not on the fact that she is a woman. To think that the reason for her mistakes is because she is a woman is discrimination.”
No situation justifies women being raped, tortured or murdered: “A woman may have been unfaithful, committed crimes, made a mistake in the exercise of public office or accepted an unwanted sexual contact to gain access to a job, but none of the above is a reason to harm them in any way.”
In this regard, the expert explains: “Women have human dignity and the punishments imposed for our crimes must be established by the judicial authorities in a process with guarantees and without sexist biases. Women’s faults are not excuses to attack their integrity and even less to take their lives.”
As Angélica Bernal rightly points out: “Violence against women, for being women, continues to occur in Colombian society, despite the legal recognition of their rights. A cultural change is urgent.”
Our fight is still not over, let’s keep moving forward. Remember to enjoy, honor and commemorate this day and, every day, feel proud to be a woman.
(*) Political scientist from the Universidad Nacional; Master in Political Studies from the Institute of Political Studies and International Relations at the same university; PhD in Philosophy from the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona; and professor at the Escuela Superior de Administración Pública (ESAP).
Traducción del español: Catalina Oviedo Brugés