Gender equality shouldn't lead to more violence

Unfortunately, levels of violence against women have increased as they are more empowered.

Women have fought to achieve equality, benefits in health, finance and political participation but gender violence shouldn't become another preoccupation in the 21st century. Whether it is because they are more likely to report abuse or simply men feel more threatened, violence against women has increased.

In the last 20 years, statistics haven't changed much, they might be even getting worse. According to UN data one in three women will be subjected to violence during her lifetime and one in four are physically or sexually abused during pregnancy.

Some experts say it is simplistic to say increasing empowerment would lead to more gender based violence but it is true men are boys have been left out of this battle. If their masculinity is being threatened by their wife, sister or daughter it is necessary to work with them in order to stabilize the notion of both men and women in society and prevent the tension and violence this is creating nowadays.

Rigid gender norms will always be an obstacle for equality and violence is becoming the common reaction when these norms meet new gender realities.

In March a United Nations Population Fund report highlighted the importance of engaging boys and young men in gender equality movements. Their participation would positively affect their attitudes, behaviors and perceptions towards women and improve their emotional and sexual relationships overall.

But women need to engage and protect themselves as well, this doesn't mean to become a feminist but to stop reinforcing imaginaries and prejudices.

Colombia was shocked by the death of Rosa Elvira Cely. The 35 year old was attacked, raped and beaten by Javier Velasco on 24 May 2012. They studied in the same place and went out together that night, she died in the ICU 29 May 2012. In 2014 her family sued the Colombian Police, DA's Office and the Government and Health Secretaries of Bogota because of possible negligence in their duties to prevent the crime from happening.

Her death was followed by national outrage, protests demanding for justice lead to the proclamation of a feminicide law known as the Rosa Elvira Cely law on July 2015. Despite this, in their response to the sue, the Secretary of Government  said "the victim has the exclusive guilt," worse, the lawyer saying this was a woman.

Indignation brought by this response, brought up her case again and resulted in the lawyer's resignation. The Secretary of Government of Bogota then committed to stop re-victimizing victims.

What's concerning about this case is how Colombian society, as far as I can tell, has blamed women for being attacked because of how they look, what they wear and who they go out with. Women and men can have liberties on what they think and express as well as how they act.

Being empowered shouldn't be a reason to become a target. But changing this perception is something that demands work from the insides of our societies. Yes, lawmakers have taken good steps by proclaiming feminicide laws but the fact that women are being killed for being women shows how twisted our reality has become.

Efforts as the ones proposed by the UN, to empower men in the equality battle may be a suitable solution or at least a preventive measure. From our homes an inner circles, we must learn why violence isn't the answer.

Men need to realize women empowerment instead of a threat is an opportunity of development for all of us. Women, we need to stop blaming ourselves and other women for what's happening, all what's been done to make us have the same rights and opportunities than men shouldn't become our newest concern, it shouldn't make us victims.  

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