Dispelling the misconception that women are inferiorAccording to Ms. Ines Alberdi, Executive Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the role of parliamentarians, and especially women parliamentarians, is very important “from the perspective of the level of crimes and the level of prevention, protection and punishment”. Legislators could be very active in organizing plans of action to inform the population about violence against women, because this is a problem which concerns both men and women. It is a societal problem, which affects not only developing countries, but also developed countries.
This universal problem “has to do with the idea that women are inferior and it is difficult to dispel this misconception, which has been with us for centuries. We have to work at the level of education and also to adopt laws, to make it clear that this is a crime. We have to send the message that it is not legitimate, it is not allowed and it should be punished. The fight against impunity is very important. We also have to see relationships between men women differently”.
UNIFEM has been working on an awareness campaign called Say NO to Violence, against Women asking everyone to sign up to it, with actress Nicole Kidman as its Goodwill Ambassador. “Her image and the very strong declaration she made got popular support. In one year we got 5 million signatures. We have to continue, even if it is only a minority of people who still think that women are inferior”, said Ms. Alberdi. “For years violence against women has been a taboo subject and nobody talked about it; even the women who were abused would not admit that they were beaten”.
In order to help the victims, the first step is to recognize that there is a problem and talk openly about it. In that respect, Spain has been dealing recently with this question while the northern countries were the first ones to conduct studies and to have statistics on the scale of violence against women. “But in many countries, there are no statistics and we do not know exactly how many women or girls have been raped or beaten. Sometimes they are not free to go outside the home, to see their friends or to study. Some women who were separated from their husband prefer to be treated badly rather than be alone. Other victims think that it is their fault they are unhappy. “When you talk about it openly, you can help a lot of women”, explained Ms. Alberdi.
It is more difficult to help the women who want to stay with their violent husbands or partners because they feel they cannot live without them. This has to do with the notion that a good wife obeys her husband. There are traditional ideas about the submission of women. Nowadays things are changing within couples. They talk about that, they negotiate and they discuss the questions related to children. “Freedom and autonomy for women, and indeed all persons, were introduced with the development of democracy”, concluded UNIFEM Executive Director.