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Focal Theme 5


The need to map the nature and intensity of ‘violence’ experienced by segments of our societies and women in particular, has never been more urgent than now. Societies, communities, families and states have a long history of violating rights of their people, through their norms, policies and practices. Militarization, combined with anti-immigration policies, exclude segments of population in the name of defending borders and securing the homeland, subjecting those affected to marginalization, trafficking and subordination. The most important and immediate manifestation of such policies is the manner in which these institutions control women’s mobility, reproduction, sexuality, physical and mental well being as well as access to resources and to decision-making.

Violence against women and girl children at the household and community levels has deep impacts on their survival, dignity, self-esteem, and overall health. Research evidences signify that globally, one of the major contributor to women’s mortality and morbidities is violence, domestic violence in particular, cutting across classes and countries [whether of the North or the South]. Honor-killing of one’s own daughters on the hand and rape or brutal murders of women from ‘other’ communities is also gaining legitimacy all over the world.

Apart from violence in the private realm, that is, domestic/familial violence, women in countries of the South in particular have to contend with the anti-poor policies in the name of ‘development’. The steady erosion of livelihoods; alienation of indigenous people from the forests; forced migration, internal displacement of the poor, changing cropping patterns and land use patterns to suit commercial and corporate agriculture; threats to bio-diversity and food security are some of the processes in an array of violations in the name of development.

The mobility and opportunities that development has provided has also simultaneously unleashed newer forms of violence. The overburdening of women with roles and responsibilities while at the same time reducing investment in basic infrastructure has greatly reduced women’s capacities to access remunerative work and has contributed to their ill-being. Poor legislative framework to protect women’s rights at the workplace [inside or outside the home], lack of recognition and unionizing of women as workers and increasing vulnerability due to loss of sustenance and survival in the period of globalization further compound matters. Evidence of increasing commercial sex work among women for the survival of households, their vulnerability to HIV infection which threatens their own survival, is a telling indicator of the development of contemporary times. Examining women’s wage and non-wage work, not only questions the divide of ‘production’ and ‘reproduction’ at a conceptual level, but also captures the effects of macroeconomic and environment-related factors at empirical and policy levels.

Another dimension of ‘development’ or’ non-development’ is the need to grapple with issues of migration and trafficking. The restriction of women’s mobility in the name of curbing trafficking is an issue further complicated by stigmatizing women rather than addressing the manner in which many women are compelled to sell their labor and bodies within and across borders. Wars, militarization, civil strife, communal and ethnic conflicts, demonizing certain ethnic groups, ‘invasions’ in the name of establishing peace, to name a few, unleash different forms of violence against people and their livelihoods. The resurgence of several communicable diseases and the increase of non-communicable disease doubly burden the poor classes; and largely unrecognized mental health and work related morbidities compound the ill-health of poor women. The 10th IWHM will attempt to address these multiple forms of violence as a health issue and also highlight women’s countervailing struggles against these.

In different ways the above five focal themes attempt to chart the multiple ways in which the rights to life and livelihood of large numbers of people, across the globe, are being violated on a continuing basis. These in turn impinge on women’s ability and capacity to access health and health care facilities. The 10th IWHM will provide a platform for women across the world to articulate the above concerns as well as to share and learn from each other the creative struggles waged by people, especially by women, against injustice and inequality. Together we can strategise for a better world that is founded on social justice, non-discrimination and equal opportunity for all people.

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