By Don Paskini
October 4 2012
The largest global study into Violence Against Women has revealed that strong feminist movements were more important for instigating change than the wealth of nations, left wing political parties or the number of women politicians.
The study, published in the latest issue of the American Political Science Review, was conducted over four decades in seventy different countries. It found that feminist movements, autonomous from political parties and the state, were able to organise around top priorities for women without having to answer to wider organisational concerns or men’s needs. Such movements were able to effectively urge governments to debate and approve global and regional agreements on violence.
Autonomous feminist groups would often be the first to articulate the problem of Violence Against Women and were found to be key catalysts for government action. They were able to command public support and the attention of the media, whereas other organisations were found to be more averse to prioritising a ‘women’s issue’.
Mala Htun, co-author of the study, said, “Social movements shape public and government agendas and create the political will to address issues. Government action, in turn, sends a signal about national priorities and the meaning of citizenship. The roots of change of progressive social policies lie in civil society”
The study is unprecedented in its scope and scale- it covers every region of the world, a myriad of world religions and varying degrees of wealth and democracy. Altogether it accounts for 85% of the world’s population. The data took five years to analyse.
Htun’s co-author, S.Laurel Weldon, warned that Violence Against Women was not isolated to individual countries or cultures. “Violence against women is a global problem. Research from North America, Europe, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia has found astonishingly high rates of sexual assault, stalking, trafficking, violence in intimate relationships, and other violations…in Europe it is a bigger danger to women than cancer, with 45 per cent of European women experiencing some form of physical or sexual violence.”
For a limited time, the study can be accessed for free here