the guardian: My view on ending gender violence in developing countries

This is a comment from me that was recently published in the Global Development Voices section of the guardian online. Find it here, together with other excellent commentary and an interesting discussion.

To end violence against women, it may be best to talk less about it and more about other forms of violence. That, at least, is the argument a new report by the Nordic Africa Institute makes about the case of sexual violence against women in eastern Congo, and I would agree.

Violence against women does not exist isolated from other forms of violence in a society. It is part of what Johan Galtung would describe as structural violence, and it can only be fully understood – and hence adequately addressed – if all forms of violence in a society are tackled.

In some cases, like for example in the eastern Congo, sexual violence has become almost an exclusive perspective on ongoing conflicts. While the intent behind this is laudable, it is likely that it actually hurts the interests of women, as any action taken will only be able to mitigate violence against them, not eradicate.

So to end violence against women, it is essential that policymakers, advocacy groups, NGOs and the media start to address the hard questions. It is easy (and right) to condemn the soldier in eastern Congo who rapes a woman, but it is much harder to find a satisfying answer to what made him do it. Only by answering this question will we be able to really abolish violence against women and violence in general.