By Marcia Banasko, World YWCA Programme Associate
In this world where women are very much second class citizens in many parts of the world and subject to gender based discrimination, it never ceases to surprise me of the horror stories that continue to be published every day in the media. Recently, I read in the news of the Ukrainian horrific case of Oksana Makar who was raped, strangled and set on fire. Oksana later died from her injuries in hospital with her mother by her side. This case shook me to the core of my being and outraged me. Not only because of the grimiest of the crime but because of the fact that the perpetrators at first walked free of the crime after being arrested due to the fact that they are ‘well connected’. It was only after public protest that the authorities decided to arrest and charge the criminals. Another appalling factor to this tragic story is the common census by some that somehow, Oksana was to blame for what happened to her. This is another global attitude which can be found amongst every human society with regards to rape that somehow as women we ask to be raped either by wearing provocative clothing or hanging out with males alone. All too often society judges women and is quick to point the finger even when all the facts are laid out on the table.
I am British and I know that in the UK, only 9-10% of reported rape charges end in prosecution (CPS, VAW 2010). In England and Wales, two women a week, on average, are killed by a violent partner or ex-partner (Home Office, 2005).Therefore more work needs to done both in improving the justice system and encouraging and supporting rape victims to report the crime. There are many myths surrounding rape for example if a women never ‘struggled’ (fought back) during the sexual violence it wasn’t rape. When in fact, most women are too afraid to ‘struggle’ because of violent threats during the attack and by not ‘struggling’ they may think they have a better chance of coming out of it alive.
The majority of women in society fear rape – no woman is allowed to ignore it. The majority of children are taught to be afraid of ‘strange men’ who offer us sweets, or a ride home etc. We are taught as adults to keep our doors locked, not to be alone, not to look or act in any way that might ‘bring rape upon ourselves’. Perhaps the most obvious situation in which we are taught to be afraid is when walking home alone at night. The threat of violence is a total intrusion into women’s personal space and transforms a routine and / or potential pleasurable activity (for example, a walk in the park, a quiet evening at home, a long train journey) into a potentially upsetting, disturbing and often threatening experience.
This morning when I arrived to work I received an email from a friend from the YWCA of Colombia. In her email she spoke of a rape case of Rosa Elvira Cely, a young woman who was brutally raped in Bogota last Thursday, in a similar attack as Oksana Makar. Just like Oksana she too died later in hospital from the severe fatal injuries caused by the rape. Rosa Elvira Cely was found naked with stab wounds in her back and impalements on her face. While she was still conscious, she managed to tell the police that she was riding a motorbike home with a male friend after going to a bar, when he hit her across the head with his helmet. The rest of the story is history.
In every corner of the globe rape exists and women are left to die or suffer in silence in many cases as there is little or no judicial system to protect them and punish the perpetuators. In this blog I have noted two similar brutal rape cases that happened on opposite sides of the world. These are just two examples of millions of others! Working at the World YWCA has given me greater insight to the global levels of sexual violence. Women aged 15-44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war and malaria, according to World Bank data. Globally, approximately 1 in 3 women will experience violence during her lifetime, often at the hands of an intimate partner (M. Gottemoeller, 1999). We as a society need to take direct action to eliminate the prevalence of all forms of violence and discrimination against women, in the name of Rosa and Oksana and all our other sisters. All violence is a fundamental human rights violation, whether perpetrated against women, girls, men or boys.
The UN Human Rights Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo has just published a report on gender-motivated killings, violence against women and its causes and consequences.
Filed under: Violence Against Women