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New knives are out against women

Need to reimagine contours of violence to ensure effective interventions
There is a strong case to be made for reimagining the contours of violence against girls and women
There is a strong case to be made for reimagining the contours of violence against girls and women
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The Editorial Board   |   Published 08.03.20, 06:45 PM

Women — girls included — have been at the receiving end of violence of all kinds. The pervasiveness of violence in their lives can mitigate the progress that they have achieved in some other spheres. This was demonstrated recently in the findings of a new Unicef report, which revealed that while remarkable gains have been made by girls in the sphere of education, violence against women and girls remain commonplace and is considered acceptable. The link between these two seemingly conflicting findings warrants a closer investigation. For one, the heartening ways in which girls’ lives have changed since the fourth world conference on women’s rights and girls in 1995 cannot be overlooked: the number of girls who dropped out of school globally has fallen by a significant 79 million in the last two decades. This is no small achievement, especially in the context of developing countries, where girls who drop out are at a higher risk of being forced into child labour or marriage.

But the progress is, evidently, incremental. Most of the findings of the report are dispiriting: poor mental health among girls is rapidly increasing, with suicide being the second leading cause of death among girls between the ages of 15 and 19. But the report is also a valuable document. It is not only useful in identifying the kinds of violence girls and women suffer but also serves as a register of the mutations that this violence undergoes. It would not be unreasonable, for instance, to view mental ailments or, for that matter, even a reduced drop out rate, as an assault since ill-health or illiteracy prevents women from leading fuller, productive lives. The violence can also be moral. Figures from a World Bank study in 2018 found that advertisements for jobs requiring experience usually prefer men over women. There then is a strong case to be made for reimagining the contours of violence against girls and women. Only then can newer interventions be devised to prevent it, bringing about a concomitant paradigm shift in the understanding of the rights of girls and women.



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