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Case Studies in Domestic Violence

Final Japan Post

November 21st, 2008 by lizzyg@stanford.edu 3 comments »

In an earlier blog, I mentioned that I wanted to do some research on the issue of shame in Japan and why Japanese women were so reluctant to report domestic violence. This has been by far the most interesting aspect of the case study. Based on the discussions we have had in class regarding where one begins when trying to promote the rights of women, I came to the conclusion that it is the deeply rooted cultural traditions that are the most difficult to change and are often the primary source of perpetuating the problem. What’s more, they remain mainly unaffected by the legal and economic gains made by women. I knew that Japan was a patriarchal society, run by men with women having limited, if any power, but I wanted to know what it was in their culture that gave the men all of the power. Fortunately, I was able to find an article that gave a bit more information about the reasons why Japan is a patriarchal society and what the issue of shame has to do with the lives of both men and women in Japan. This is a more scientific approach towards looking at social and health ills (no pun intended), and one that I am more accustomed to based on my work in a neurobiology research lab.

Decisions Not to Report Sexual Assault: A Comparative Study Among Women Living in Japan Who Are Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and English-Speaking by John P. J. Dussich which was published in the International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 45(3), 20018.


Japan is a country dominated by male attitudes and decisions. Many of the male traditions existing in Japan today are feudal in origin. One of the time-honored practices that can be traced back to the early eras of Japanese history is that of female deference to males. This includes a significant amount of making allowances for male misbehaviors…(page 278).

I found the words “allowances for male misbehaviors” to be quite offensive to me personally. The author seems to be minimizing the impact of DV. Domestic violence is far more serious and far-reaching than simply calling it “misbehavior”. As we have discussed in class, just because a behavior is culturally acceptable, does not mean that it is right.

A highly regarded value in most East Asian cultures is accepting one’s plight in life; this is especially true in Japan. A well-known psychiatrist and victimologist, Akira Yamagami (1964), notes that the tendency not to complain and to endure with resignation in silence comes from meditative Buddhist teachings, which pervade Japan. He says that these qualities are often identified with the Buddhist path to liberation (p. 9). In The Teaching of Buddha, a book found in many Japanese hotel rooms alongside the Christian Bible, in the section called “The Way of Practice” (1966), it states that people would learn to be patient when abused and scorned (p. 230). It expresses that accepting victimization in silence is a virtue (page 279).

Silence is a virtue; or rather, silence is golden – how long have we heard that statement in our own culture?

A silence reinforced by the threat of personal and family shame and the risk of being shunned by neighbors and relatives. Rather than report a sexual assault and reveal that they were associated with such taboo behavior, many victims would rater suffer in silence or in some cases even commit suicide. Usually, not only do these victimizations not get reported to the police, but also they rarely get reported to even close friends or relatives (page 281).

Japan is a country with a culture deeply vested in the idea of harmony. Their world must be harmonious and they will do whatever is necessary to maintain that harmony even if it means suffering in silence and forcing themselves to endure hardships for the sake of harmony and to avoid shame. They desire to avoid shame on themselves (the victims) and shame on others (the perpetrators of DV as well as others). Well, shame on them for maintaining this idea for so long that it is acceptable for women to beat beaten into submission and controlled by fear by the man of the house. Thankfully, this is slowly starting to change with education and awareness of the fact that DV is a violation of one’s human rights.

Dar es Salaam men’s perception on treatment of women

November 21st, 2008 by jessliu@stanford.edu 2 comments »

[Information and quotes taken from responses to questions sent out in an email to contacts in Dar es Salaam, who gave permission for me to use their responses.]

Since we’ve talked a lot about women and the actions women take for themselves in this class, I wanted to look at men’s perceptions of women in this last post, since I’ve all but ignored the other 50% of the population of Dar in this blog series.

I wanted to explore how men think about women and what they think “women’s place” in society should be. Since men are so much more prominent in Dar society, it will take more than just women demanding respect to change their subordinate position. When I was there, I felt restricted in many of my actions. It may have been a combination of being in a different place, but I heard more gendered comments directed toward me than I had when I was in Peru or Guatemala. (Granted, I was in rural regions of both Peru and Guate, and Dar is the biggest urban center in Tanzania). But I played the part of the naïve tourist and narrow-minded researcher for the first few days. Then I started noticing the women enumerators sticking together, the gendered comments some of the supervisors even made, even if in jest. Talking to the men during tea time and lunch time, they would talk about how strange it was to be eating at the same table as a woman, because in Tanzanian culture, men and women ate separately; men ate first, and women ate at a separate table with the children. It was improper (and still is considered rude) for women to get seconds on food, because it showed that they were selfish, greedy, and didn’t care about whether or not the man in the family, who earned money and supported them monetarily, got enough to eat.

A lot of the social norms are directed by religious values. As one man said, “even if people will be given education, it will not bring full change to women’s discrimination due to religious beliefs that men are always the head in the society [sic]”. Customary law takes precedence in many situations; women are still not allowed to own any land and can’t take out loans from banks (the loans issue is another problem. Few people take out loans because they’re difficult to obtain and interest rates are as high as 37%). Men generally feel that women don’t have enough education and don’t have the mental acuity to “manage business and lack of [sic] confidence”. Women are starting to fight back and demand their rights, because they’re starting to believe that one day, society will see them as being equal to men. But according to the same respondent, men in Dar don’t think women will ever be considered equal to men.

When asked whether or not the respondent believed that women face discrimination in Dar, one respondent answered: “There are two or three types of discrimination: direct and indirect, which we may call ignorance discrimination.” With direct discrimination, “there aer some cases of violence whereby women are compiling [complaining sic] to the police, court, or magainze that they were beating and thrown outside during night or left naked in front of the children.” With indirect discrimination, “women are left at home with little money for cooking and save for the family, while men spend a lot outside for alcohol and once they return, bring violence at home. The major concern here for women is fear of being assaulted, sexually harassed, mugged, raped, and domestic violence, etc.” Many women who aren’t educated beyond primary years are not speaking out about the injustices against them because they can’t see for themselves that what they go through is wrong. In one statistic I cited before, a surprisingly high percent of women believed that it would be acceptable for a man to beat his wife as punishment. As the same respondent said, “the society in Dar sees woman as the ‘receiver’ and not ‘the giver’.” Women who emerge as leaders or who try to make a better life of themselves are viewed by men as accomplishing things not of her own merit or efforts, but because there is a man behind her, helping her out.

I thought it was crucial for me to get some insight from ground zero, instead of reading just academic articles or WHO reports like I’d been doing, and I’m really glad I did, because hearing them say it (avoiding as much questioner bias as possible) reaffirmed some of the observations I made while there.

Peru Post #7: Continued Attempts to Understand What Makes DV Happen in Peru

November 21st, 2008 by cmccourt@stanford.edu 2 comments »

            Looking around for some material on DV in Peru, I came across an entire book called Too Close to Home: Domestic Violence in the Americas that has been put online in electronic form.  What particularly interested me about the book (edited by Andrew Morrison and María Loreto Biehl) is that it has a whole chapter called “Does Poverty Cause Domestic Violence?: Some Answers from Lima,” by Efraín Gonzales de Olarte and Pilar Gavilano Llosa.  Because I have been looking at the causes of domestic violence in Peru over the last few weeks, and spent last week’s post hypothesizing about what makes some of the risk factors of DV in Peru useful indicators, I found this chapter to be particularly relevant.  (I should mention that the chapter focuses on Lima in particular.  Please recall that, according to a WHO study, rates of DV are typically lower in Lima than in rural Peru).  Moreover, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the chapter looked not only at poverty, but other factors as well.

            The team of de Olarte and Llosa set out in part to provide some insight into the debate about poverty and domestic violence.  Namely, they wanted to know if poverty actually increases the likelihood of DV, if DV is class-blind and affects people of different income levels equally, or if DV is class-blind but more obvious among poorer people because wealthier people lead more private lives.  According to the study, “the percentage of lower-income women who had suffered some type of domestic violence was higher than the percentage of women in the middle-income strata,” suggesting that indeed poverty does affect rates of DV.  While de Olarte and Llanos reported on forms of violence other than physical (“psychological abuse,” “physical harm as a result of abuse,” and “sexual coercion”), they found, for example, that among the poor women in their study, “34 percent reported physical violence,” compared with 21 percent of the middle-class women in the study.  They also found, in fact, that “the prevalence of violence is lower among middle-class than among poor women for all types of violence.”

            In addition to poverty, the authors found that “unemployment and the lack of a social support network” were key factors in determining the likelihood of DV.  These findings are, of course, helpful for my understanding of the situation, but the last study I looked at provided a robust account of correlation between certain factors and DV.  I am still curious as to the routes of causation.  Fortunately, the authors provide some hypotheses.  First, although poverty seems to be a good indicator of the prevalence of DV, the authors point out that “certain poor districts [of Lima] have levels of violence even lower than in Lima’s richest neighborhoods, suggesting that factors other than poverty must be accounted for [i.e. unemployment and the lack of a social support network].”  Second, regarding male unemployment, after finding that men who are employed are more often violent towards their partners than unemployed men, the authors posit that perhaps this situation exists because “unemployed men are dependent on female earnings, and hence less willing to risk alienating or even losing a partner.”  While I found this explanation to be interesting, this overall finding seems to contradict the findings of the last study I looked at, which suggested that unemployed men feel threatened by a partner who brings in more money or has a higher level of education (and thus more likely to act violently toward that partner).

            A particular disturbing finding of the study was that women with higher levels of access to social support are actually more likely “to suffer violence of all types.”  The authors themselves admit to having difficulty making sense of this result, “since it is not clear if social support networks are used because of violence or if violence occurs because of the networks.”  In their study, indicators used to test the correlation between “social networks” and DV are “woman tells problems to relative or friend” and “woman asks for help from relative or friend.”  I think that the authors are correct that these markers do little to discern the direction of causation between having someone to talk to and being abused.  Additionally, the finding of this study, by being somewhat in tension with the findings of the Flake study (the last major study I looked at), suggest ever-complex interrelationships among DV and social and cultural factors.



Morrison, Andrew R., and María Loreto Biehl, eds. Too Close to Home: Domestic Violence in the Americas. Inter-American Development Bank. From: http://books.google.com/books?id=aJXvZn5RUMcC&pg=PA101&lpg=PA101&dq=Morrison,+Andrew+R.+and+María+Loreto+Biehl,+eds.&source=bl&ots=Xx3PwU2_yA&sig=nW0MZLGe-y8A8t7oZNrUJbTmf_c&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=2&ct=result#PPP5,M1

Unemployment and its casualties

November 13th, 2008 by jessliu@stanford.edu 3 comments »

Since we’re looking at women in the workforce this week, I wanted to look at women and the nature of their work in Dar es Salaam as part of my entry for this week. Arguably economic independence can give a woman more say in household spending, which can give her greater control over her life. High rates of male unemployment could also lead to males feeling inadequate, and frustrations could be taken out on their wives or partners.

I looked at the results from the 2006 Integrated Labor Force Survey, conducted by the Tanzanian government of over 18,000 households in the country. 7,320 urban households were included in the survey, not all from Dar es Salaam, but given that it’s the largest urban center at 3-4 million, it represents a good percentage. (Some of the statistics I cite below are from “urban” statistics, and I overgeneralize it to reflect Dar. Other statistics are Dar-specific). The document included agriculture and household tasks such as fetching water and collecting firewood as employment activities. Even with that broader-than-most definitions of employment, one of the most shocking statistics was that 31.3% of individuals 15 & above in Dar es Salaam were unemployed, compared to a national average of about 5%. Men had lower unemployment rates than females, but depending on the age group, still ranged from 18-60%.

Unemployment being so rampant explains why there were always so many people milling around the streets, sitting staring into nothing… mostly men doing this. It seems like when we visited the slum communities and visited homes to conduct our interviews, it was always only the mother at home caring for the kids, cooking, cleaning, fetching water, etc. The men even joked about how useless they were around the house, specifically, but really revered their mothers for all the work they put into taking care of them. And continuing to care for them; these were grown men of ages 30 and over still huge mama’s boys.

I should give the men some credit; many of them, especially those who live alone, do have to do their own laundry. 1.1% of employed men reported that their main employment activity was “household tasks”. Although this seems like a small percentage, this is comared to just 5% of women. (over 80% of people reported “agricultural activities” as being their main employment, but since women are such a huge part of that as well, I feel that there may be some overlap that was counted only as agriculture.)

Given what we’ve learned in this class about what spawns domestic violence, frustration in other spheres impact a man’s home life. If a man or woman has some trouble in the workplace, it’s easy to see how it can follow them home. If the frustration is something as in-your-face and constant as not having had consistent work for the last year, that pent-up frustration could be spent at a bar (Kilimanjaro beers, or local beers are super cheap), and drinking a ton and then driving home happens frequently enough for it to be disturbing.

I’ll end on a bit of an upswing. Unrelated to what I’ve written in this entry, I found more information about TAMWA, the organization I wrote about a couple weeks ago. Their website doesn’t really do them justice. One of the resources I found reported that in 2004, TAMWA trained 140 women to write media releases and articles, and they try to provide a consolidated media stance on domestic violence (which is tough given that TZ has 210,000 newspapers). Their Crisis Center in Dar also saw 8000 visits in 2003 alone, mostly women seeking legal aid. It sounds like they try to empower and employ only women, so this may be an organization I bring up in class our last week! Keep a look out for more info on them and other quibblings.



Kanck, Sandra. Sutdy Tour Report- Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. 2005.

University of Minnesota Human Rights Library. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, Concluding Observations: United Republic of Tanzania (1998) http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/cedaw/tanzania1998.html

Peru Post #6: Correlation to Causation

November 13th, 2008 by cmccourt@stanford.edu 3 comments »

I’ve spent my last two posts discussing the “underlying causes” of domestic violence in Peru. Yet, I feel that I still have a lot to learn about the subject, and at the end of last week’s post I brought in a source that I had just found (a study called “Individual, Family, and Community Risk Factors for Domestic Violence in Peru,” by a researcher named Dallan Flake) that I think is the most robust study I have found to this point regarding domestic violence in Peru. As a result, I’d like to further unpack the findings of this study. In particular, because this study focuses on correlations between independent and dependent variables, I’d like to speculate a little bit about what is actually causing domestic violence (as opposed to what is simply correlated with DV). I won’t discuss every factor, but I will try to touch on most of them.

To recap, the study showed (using logistic regressions models, apparently) that:

“at the individual level, low educational attainment, early union formation, and a violent family background increase a woman’s likelihood of abuse. Family-level risk markers include cohabitation, large family size, partner alcohol consumption, employment, and a woman’s having higher status than her husband. At the community level, living in a noncoastal area and having an urban residence increase the likelihood of abuse.”

We’ve talked time and time again during this class about education and its correlation with outcomes later in life, but I wonder what actually creates the link between low educational attainment and likelihood of abuse in Peru. First, I would venture that low educational attainment is correlated with a number of other factors. For instance, educational attainment is probably correlated with the stability of one’s family situation and with one’s job (or lack thereof) later on in life. (Given our recent discussions in class, however, my attention has been called to the idea that one can provide meaningful, valuable services that wouldn’t formally be considered a “job)”. Apart from employment and family, women that go through more education may also be, for whatever reason, less likely to tolerate being taken advantage of by a spouse (of course, if this increase in education leads to an increase in status, a male spouse may feel increasingly threatened, as Flake points out).

Early union formation, similarly, is probably associated with a number of other factors. For instance, if someone gets married exceptionally early, there may be a higher likelihood that that person had fewer options educationally or in terms of employment than other. Certainly, some of the “best-off” (financially, educationally, etc.) Peruvians probably get married earlier than most, but in general, one could imagine that early union formation is associated with a lack of options. Moreover early union formation may be associated with an exaggerated differential of power between husband and wife. For instance, early union formation may suggest less educational attainment, and increased pressure to bear children, both of which are factors that may lead to increased hardship for the woman in the union.

Regarding “family-level” risk markers, beginning with cohabitation, as Flake mentions, “cohabitors are more likely to experience violence than are married women. This relationship has been attributed to the temporary and informal nature of cohabitation and the notion that cohabitors experience poorer relationship quality and lower levels of commitment than do married couples.” I get the sense that another risk marker, large family size, may be correlated with socio-economic status, based on some of the reading we’ve done for this class. I would imagine that partner alcohol consumption, too, may be correlated with socio-economic status. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I would posit that employment is also associated with socio-economic status and that, the “less” employed someone is, the more time that person has to spend at home. This factor alone increases the time window within which a man might act violently toward his female partner. This factor may work in conjunction with the fact that, as discussed in a previous post, employment (or unemployment, more accurately) may be associated with increased frustration on the part of the male partner. A frustrated partner at home more than he would be if he were employed certainly seems more likely to abuse. A woman’s having higher status than her husband requires only a little imagination: a man who feels threatened by the status of his partner, already feeling insecure about his job situation (if unemployed) hits his partner. Flake brings up an interesting point that, for the reason just mentioned, simply increasing women’s status may not be a cure-all of domestic violence in Peru.

Regarding community-level markers, living in a non-coastal area seems like it would be, per se, a non-factor. One might imagine, however, that living in a non-coastal area may be associated with lower socio-economic status. Coastal real-estate is often more sought after (not just in Peru but all over), with much economic and social activity taking place on the coast. The second and last community-level factor, living in an urban residence, similarly may be associated with SES, as rural communities are often poorer than urban ones. Moreover, this study isn’t the only one that has found the urban-rural correlation (with domestic violence). One of the first studies I found (a WHO study) seemed to demonstrate that rates of domestic violence (by a couple different measures) were worse in rural Peru than urban Peru (although both urban and rural Peru had worse rates than almost anywhere else on the globe—rural Peru than everywhere else).

A pattern that seems to have emerged is that many of these factors seem to be associated with socio-economic status which, in turn, seems to lend itself to conditions within relationships and within the home that increase the risk of domestic violence. Much of this post has been speculative on my part, but I wanted to try to really understand what makes factors that are correlated with domestic violence engage in a chain of events that actually results in the act itself. Flake mentions a couple more factors that I’d like to briefly bring up: specifically “attitudes toward violence, and machismo.” What I wonder about these factors is the extent to which they, like the other factors discussed above, are two of many other factors that contribute to (or are correlated with) DV in Peru and the extent to which these two factors (and others like them) are distinct from the others discussed above and distinguish the story of DV in Peru from the story in other countries.

Japan Post #6

November 13th, 2008 by lizzyg@stanford.edu 3 comments »

Resources Available to Victims of Domestic Violence in Japan

In last week’s blog, I mentioned two organizations working for women: UNIFEM and Japan’s The Cabinet Office for the Support of Victims of Spousal Violence Information Site. This week, I have uncovered more organizations that are either directly helping DV victims via counseling or indirectly working to achieve Japanese women’s rights via communication, education, advocacy, watch dog, and legal efforts to name a few. While I was able to find quite a few organizations and information about them, there were many more organizations who had websites listed that I was unable to visit because either the page no longer existed or it was completely in Japanese with no translation option, so I skipped those and went with what did have English sections. Such is the life of an internet researcher.

Asian Women’s Center
Has a brochure which lists examples of DV and lets the victims know that DV is a crime and an infringement of human rights. It provides a phone number to call them for help and to know that they are not alone in their struggles. This is a free, confidential resource that will help the victims get in contact with and receive help from public/government agencies.

YWACN The Yokohama Women’s Association for Communication and Networking
This association runs three centers for promoting gender equality in the City of Yokohama. Their focus is “to provide bases for activities and exchange in the prosperous and vivacious civil society, where women and men enjoy their rights to live without restrictions caused by their gender and participate equally in every social aspect.” Essentially what they do is to provide activities and programs which will help women to become the best they can be. Programs offered are: information exchange, employment support, cooperation with civil society, health-related, self-development, violence against women, counseling, childcare, and gender discrimination complaint procedures.

Tokyo Rape Crisis Center
This is a center begun in 1983 and which relies on contributions for its operations. The center will provide medical, legal, and psychological counseling services to those victims of rape. Its main activity is via phone counseling for the victims. First and foremost on the phone, their goal is to let the woman know that the rape was not her fault. Rape by a spouse or partner is still considered to be rape if it is against the woman’s will and it will be treated as a crime.

Asia/Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO (ACCU)
This is a non-profit organization promoting the exchange of information among its member countries as well as others for the purpose of education and to realize and sustain a peaceful society in which everyone is treated equally and can participate equally.

Federation of Japanese Women’s Organisations
Campaigns for cooperation among the various women’s organizations to achieve real gender equity, and improve the status of women with regards to women’s rights and welfare.

Asia-Japan Women’s Resource Center
The banner on their home page says it all. AJWRC is a feminist organization working to end all forms of violence and discrimination against women, promote human rights and social justice, and explore alternative politics and empowerment of women. In order to achieve their goals, they are involved in three areas: 1. Information sharing and networking – they publish and produce and disseminate women’s movement information. 2. Gender education and training – they provide educational and training opportunities for women to improve their effectiveness. 3. Advocacy and campaigns – they monitor cases and policies that may affect and or violate women’s rights, conduct research and surveys, and run both short and long campaigns championing women’s rights and other feminist issues.

PeaceWomen – Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Under the United Nations umbrella and it is working to achieve full implementation of the UN Security Council’s Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.

It seems like Japan, and Asia in general for that matter, is making strides in the right direction in addressing the health and safety concerns of women. Unfortunately, the information on the websites was for the most part nonspecific as to how the organizations operate on the ground. On a related note, very sparse information was available on the women’s shelters and safe houses in Japan that women can flee to if they feel endangered. I am curious as to their condition, the sort of environment/culture that is fostered there, and whether it is really an asset for women to be there or whether it only makes them feel more desolate and alone. On the bright side, as evidenced by the organizations listed above, there are things being done on the community and international level to rectify the injustices. The next challenge is to bring these changes to the scene of the crime – the home.

Peru Post #5: More on the Underlying Causes of DV in Peru

November 6th, 2008 by cmccourt@stanford.edu 2 comments »

This week, I’d like to continue to investigate the social and cultural roots of domestic violence in rural and urban Peru.  To this point, some of the potentially contributing factors identified include high unemployment (and consequent male frustration), corruption of the justice system (although we may also include this factor in the discussion of legal boundaries to overcoming DV), and a “cultural acceptance of violence against women.”  I’d like to delve deeper into these factors, and begin discussion of some others.

According to the CIA World Factbook, 44.5% of the Peruvian population is below the national poverty line.  While around half the country’s population, then, qualifies as poor, poverty is more concentrated in rural areas than in urban areas, as (in 1997, according to ruralpovertyportal.org) around 65% of rural Peruvians (or just below 5 million people) were below the poverty line.  Furthermore, the unemployment rate in metropolitan Lima (the country’s capital) is 6.9% (in addition to “widespread underemployment”).  Given that poverty is rampant and that the un- and under-employment are major problems in Peru, the question of how poverty and joblessness contribute to domestic violence arises.

In an article called “The Mental Health Situation in Peru,” the International Society for Health and Human Rights argues that “poverty is basically a severe product of inequality.”  While I would argue that this statement is an overgeneralization, the article continues to state that “poverty is sharply manifested in the quality of life of the population: mortality, malnutrition, illness, low quality of health services and depredation of the environment.”  I would agree with this argument, and with the article’s elaboration on this point, that “social inequalities [act as] psychosocial stressors and cause several mental health problems.”  Domestic violence, according to this article, is one of these mental health problems.  While social inequality has more than one dimension, I would like to focus momentarily on economic equality, as this dimension is more easily measurable than other dimensions of social inequality.  For example, according to the Human Development Reports website, Peru has a GINI index of 52.0, 87th internationally (i.e. by this measure, Peru is the 87th-most economically equitable country, looking at individuals).  Also telling of the country’s economic inequality, the ratio of wealth held by the country’s richest 20% to the poorest 20% is 15.2 (compare this figure with 8.4 in the U.S. or 3.9 in Norway).

Nevertheless, how does the social and economic inequality of Peru lead to domestic violence?  What is the link between the two phenomena?  In “Individual, Family, and Community Risk Factors for Domestic Violence in Peru,” Dallan Flake argues “that at the individual level, low educational attainment, early union formation, and a violent family background increase a woman’s likelihood of abuse.”  At the family level, however, cohabitation, large family size, partner alcohol consumption, employment, and woman’s having higher status than her husband” are all factors that increase a woman’s (and a family’s) risk of abuse.  Finally, “at the community level, living in a noncoastal area and having an urban residence increase the likelihood of abuse.”  The article notes that the established “patriarchal perspective” would suggest “that when men are unable to maintain culturally sanctioned dominance over women, they may resort to violence to reestablish control.”  This framework seems very salient in the case of Peru.  Another interesting point made in this article relates to a paradox between women’s status and domestic violence.  “On one hand,” the article notes, “these data indicate that women should increase their status to reduce the likelihood of being abused,” but “on the other hand, these data also suggest that whereas high status protects women from abuse, it can also have the opposite effect—it can increase the likelihood of partner violence—if their status exceeds that of their partners.”  Given this paradox, it seems that any measure that aims to improve the situation of domestic violence in Peru must also take into account unintended additions to intra-family or intra-couple tension.









Tanzanian Legal System & Sexual Violence

November 6th, 2008 by jessliu@stanford.edu 3 comments »

After looking at the civil society last week, I wanted to examine how the public sector deals with violence against women. I wasn’t able to find any court cases in particular, and on the internet, was only able to find superficial indicators, such as Tanzania having signed CEDAW in August 1985, and in March 1992, launched the Policy on Women and Development in Tanzania. They also sent a delegation to the Fourth World Conference in Beijing and made a commitment to promote programs aimed at women’s economic empowerment and poverty eradication.

However, the more I looked into the issue, the more I found that although the government has instated laws that are meant to protect women’s legal status, they are still treated as second-class citizens. One analysis I found particularly moving was that after the 1998 Sexual Offences (Special Provisions) Act was passed by the Tanzanian government, sexual violence against women has since increased. The article in the book Voices of African Women goes on to explore reasons for why this is.

From the outside, implementation of the Act has received resistance from law enforcement, who fail to recognize sexual violence as a violation of human rights in such a male-dominated society. In the law force and in the health field, there is a dire shortage of personnel who have expertise with sexual violence. Discriminatory attitudes against women prevail at every level; under the traditional system of Tanzania during pre-colonial times, the purpose of the justice system was to restore conflicting parties to a mutually agreeable position. This often occurred informally and included active or indirect participation by community members. If found guilty of sexual violence, a man would pay the victim or her family cows or goats. As compensation. One HUGE red flag was the note that women were not allowed to speak in traditional courts. She was not allowed to defend herself; it must have been a family member or a close male relative who spoke on her behalf. Even under British rule, the Courts Ordinance still had mostly native courts holding jurisdiction.

The Act seems to me like a step backward and made it even more difficult to prove that a person was raped. The proof necessary includes:

- Prove slight penetration of vagina by a penis. This excludes insertion of objects, anal rape, “fallatio, cunninligus”

- Prove victim physically resisted sexual intercourse. Most courts require proof such as scars, bruises, injury to victim or offender

- Submission to a medical examination at a government hospital. Problem with this is that medical evidence is sometimes collected incorrectly, and forensic doctors, who are so necessary to justice being served in the courtroom, are themselves biased against women.

If the fact that perpetrators are innocent until proven guilty isn’t incensing enough, other definitions in the Act are completely unjust. To begin with, it states that the victim MUST be a woman; in a highly Muslim / Christian society, there is no such thing as a man having sex with a man. Thus, rape must always be committed against a woman, never a man. The Act also mentions certain groups of people who can commit rape: “persons in position of authority: staffs of homes, doctors and hospital staff, traditional healers for ‘healing purposes’, and religious leaders ‘under pretense of blessing them’.”

The second part goes against the fact that many women are raped by loved ones, specifically partners or husbands. The Act exempts husbands from rape prosecution. Marital rape is not recognized under the courts of law because husbands, “ by virtue of paying bride price, have legal right to have unlimited sexual access to their wives”. Brides are told upon marriage that when a husband enters the bedroom, the wife must obey him.

It’s no surprise that the refugee women in Tanzania have also faced higher rates of rape and disgustingly low prosecution and thus, reporting rates. Tanzania has a history of being one of the leading countries in the world for hosting refugees, perhaps given its geographic proximity to countries such as Rwanda, Burundi, DRC, Uganda, Mozambique, Angola, and South Africa; or also perhaps because of its relatively peaceful history in the post-colonial period. In May 2002, over half a million refugees lived in Tanzanian refugee camps, mostly located in the north-western region. Despite the government’s attempts at returning these individuals to their respective countries, return rates are far below entrance rates. Given the rate of urbanization, it’s fair to say that many families relocate to urban center such as Dar es Salaam. Several of the individuals I met in Dar this past summer were children of refugees from Uganda.

Rates of sexual violence are significantly higher in refugee and conflict situations (as we learned this past week) than in non-conflict environments. But given that the Tanzanian government has made provisions for equal treatment between refugee children living in Tanzania and civilian Tanzanian children, why should there not be equal treatment regarding women as well? Part of the problem, as stated above, are the faults in the legal system in addressing Tanzanian women’s rights as well; reform regarding the legal rights of sexually violated refugee women must run parallel to the reform necessary to address the issue of sexual violence in Tanzania proper.

Sources: Gopal G, Salim M. (1998). Gender and Law: Eastern Africa Speaks. Quest & Insight Publishers, Nairobi, Kenya.

Bond J. (2003). Voices of African Women: Women’s Rights in Ghana, Uganda, and Tanzania. Carolina Academic Press, North Carolina.

Japan Update #5

November 6th, 2008 by lizzyg@stanford.edu 3 comments »

While researching to find out if there are any organizations working on the problem of domestic violence in Japan, I came across two interesting pieces of information. The first is a profile of domestic violence in Japan done by the United Nations Development Fund for Women under the specific umbrella of the EVAW (Elimination of Violence Against Women) network. It is a sort of summary status report of what is going on in Japan with respect to what is considered DV, how much DV is going on and what Japan is doing to curb it and to protect those women who are victims of DV and what is being done to the perpetrators of DV. Unfortunately, it is not dated, but based on the statistics and information given in the profile I would guess that it was done in 2002 – 2003.


One of the most important things I discovered in this information is the United Nations has decided that …”every year, the two weeks from 12-25 November, the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, are designated as the period for the Movement to Eliminate Violence Against Women.”(page 4) Obviously the United Nations recognized that DV is a human rights violation and therefore they are working to eradicate DV in the world.

The second bit of information that I uncovered was buried in a link on a blog for Japanese men talking about domestic violence. It was very enlightening to read some of the entries as some of them were incredibly traditional in their thinking that the man should have ultimate power over the women while others took a more universal human rights viewpoint and recognized that DV is wrong – end of discussion. As some of the men were commenting back and forth, one posted a link link to a brochure put out by the government of Japan’s Gender Equality Bureau, The Cabinet Office.


As the link reveals, the title of the brochure is STOP THE VIOLENCE, and it is targeted towards individuals tormented by spousal violence. The brochure is very informative, a sort of primer and reference manual for what domestic violence is, what to do if you are a victim of DV, where you can go for help, what can be done about it and the possible consequences for the abuser. Japan has, as part of the effort to help the victims, set up in the districts (prefects) places for the women to obtain assistance. As outlined on page 4 of the brochure, a variety of counseling is available to the victims of DV to help them through the process of recognizing DV, reporting DV, dealing with the fact that they were violated, and if needed, temporary shelter and ultimately, improving the quality of their lives.

Prefectural women’s consultation offices and other appropriate facilities fulfill the functions of Spousal Violence Counseling and Support Centers (SV Centers). Moreover, some municipalities establish SV Centers.

1) Consultation and introductions to institutions that offer counseling
2) Counseling
3) Temporary protection of victims and accompanying individuals
4) Provision of information and other forms of support that will promote the self-reliance of victims
5) Provision of information pertaining to the use of the protection order system, and other forms of support
6) Provision of information pertaining to the use of facilities that accommodate and protect victims, and other forms of support

The fact that this brochure even exists is a step in the right direction; however, I wonder how effective the government is at disseminating this information, and whether a brochure is the proper vehicle through which to reach Japanese women. Sometimes written modalities of communication are not the best way, sometimes it’s billboards on the way to the market or TV commercials, or sports teams having a DV awareness game, or ads in magazines, or pop culture taking a stand against DV, or announcements at community meetings – that sort of variety to reach all possible audiences might be that the doctor ordered. Rather than women asserting their rights being the taboo, the goal of the campaign should be to make DV the taboo and have the feelings of injustice be so pervasive in Japan that their mindset as a society is forced to change because they encounter opposition to DV everywhere – eventually the defenses of tradition must wear down, right?

Peru Post #4: Underlying Causes of Domestic Violence

October 30th, 2008 by cmccourt@stanford.edu 5 comments »

        This week I’d like to start looking more closely at some of the underlying social and cultural factors that may lead to such high rates of domestic violence in Peru.  The U.N. defines domestic violence as “the use of force or threats of force by a husband or boyfriend for the purpose of coercing and intimidating a woman into submission.”  One might define domestic violence differently to include acts of violence committed toward men by women, or toward children by parents, etc., but if we accept this as a working definition, or rather if we focus on this particular type of DV, then really we are asking, “what drives Peruvian men to act in this manner?”  More specifically, why do men in a Peru feel the need to coerce and intimidate, and what in their environment may be conspiring with their personalities to result in violent action toward women?

        An article, “Battling Domestic Violence in Peru,” on an independent online magazine called Salon.com alludes to one theory, namely that “male frustration about high unemployment” as well as “a corrupt justice system” have contributed largely to the rates of domestic violence seen in Peru.  Male frustration about unemployment strikes me as a legitimate, or at least feasible, catalyst for much of the domestic violence, given that “half of the country’s 13 million workers are underemployed.”  Furthermore, Peruvian women corroborate this sentiment: “more than 60 percent of women who report themselves victims of domestic violence say that the attacks were triggered by economic stress at home.” (I would argue that economic stress goes hand in hand with unemployment and under-employment).  According to the article, Peru’s women’s minister has said that ‘the violence is a direct consequence of poverty’ and that the pervasiveness of violence in Peruvian regions goes hand in hand with those regions’ respective levels of poverty.  As an example of this trend, the WHO “ranks Peru’s southern province of Huancavelica, where 90 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty, as having one of the world’s worst rates of sexual and physical violence.”

        Regarding the “corrupt justice system,” I blogged a couple weeks ago on the legal infrastructure that Peru has for dealing with DV.  Peru has recently instituted laws to address domestic violence that are more in line with related international laws, such as those laws declared by the U.N. and signed at international conventions.  Such laws “impose higher sentences on rapists, especially those who prey on young girls.”  Of course, cases of men who rape young girls only represent a small portion of sexual or domestic violence cases.  Furthermore, as discussed a couple weeks ago, the legal system seems to favor reconciliation between an abusive man and his wife to punishment of the abusive husband.  As a result of these and other characteristics of the legal system, these new laws often lack the teeth to successfully counteract DV in Peru.  The same article points out that “women who claim to be raped in Peru must prove their innocence before their alleged attackers can be prosecuted [and]…are asked to answer questions like ‘Were you dressing sexy?’ and ‘Why you were walking alone so late at night?’”  Additionally, in Peru, prosecuting someone for rape can “take years,” and as a result, “doctors often decline to testify or confirm that a woman has been sexually attacked.”  While the necessary legal framework is starting to take shape, then, much work remains to be done.

        The article also points to a “cultural acceptance of violence against women.”  Throughout this class, we have consistently taken note of the idea that a country’s laws have much less power if the cultures within that country do not espouse values consistent with those laws.  While I haven’t come upon Peruvian men’s explicit views on DV—and one might imagine that, depending on the nature of the survey given, not all abusive men would be readily willing to say that domestic violence is okay (although some might)—the prevalence of domestic violence in the country certainly does suggest some cultural acceptance, at least among those committing these acts.