All forms of violence against woman are a violation of human rights. It’s shocking to know that it is still a common practice in 2019, as more than 70% of women and girls suffer some form of gender-based violence at least once in their lives. The law that grants women access to a life without violence defines gender-based violence as any action or omission that causes pain or suffering to women in public or private domains. The most common types of violence against women are physical, psychological, sexual and economic. Any given case may include several of these types of violence.
Today I’d like to write about a type of violence that is invisible: the small every day actions based on cultural prejudices that are perpetrated by archaic ideas and passed on from generation to generation. This sort of violence may seem part of our normal lives, nevertheless it isn’t in any way less hurtful to women, as it is the core of other types of violence. We all perform brutally offensive attitudes that women face at home or in the workplace every day. This structural behaviour has allowed gender violence to become a way of life.
Small daily discriminatory actions are so solidified into our culture that we perform them mindlessly. We judge working mothers, we educate our sons to leave the dishes for the women to wash, we say that pink is a “girly color”. We divide university degrees, labor and tasks according to rigid gender roles. How many times a woman has been told to shut up, either through a straightforward statement, or by being interrupted? How many times have we read the phrase, she was asking for it with those clothes on, when a note about rape is published on social media?
All these attitudes are a form of mistreatment, and they aren’t right. Physical violence leaves body marks, but this type of violence marks the soul. The Trojan war was all Helen’s fault, and humanity is damned because of Eve’s disobedience. Attitudes that result from these ancient female religious or historical archetypes might seem normal, but they are not and it is our responsibility to identify them and end them. Let us raise our voice against those silent forms of violence.
Violence against women can be prevented. It is in our hands to make a step towards true change. We can contribute through small actions in our communities and in our work places. The great Gabriela Mistral — the first Latin American woman poet to win the Nobel Prize — said it best: “Sé tú el que aparta la piedra del camino.” Wherever there is an obstacle, be the one who clears the way. No action, as small as it might seem, is insignificant. Everything counts, and the real change starts within ourselves.