Domestic Violence Against Women As An Inequality
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Domestic Violence Against Women As An Inequality

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Domestic Violence Against Women As An Inequality Domestic Violence Against Women As An Inequality Document Transcript

  • Domestic violence against women as an inequality: A case from Ethiopia (on rural women) By Legesse Tigabu Submitted to: Professor Susanne Baer An assignment on Equality: Law and Politics Oct, 2009 CEU, Budapest, Hungary
  • Introduction In rural parts of Ethiopia, there are predominant social and religious norms which declare women inequality with men. Even though rural women’s contribution is significant in agricultural production and domestic food processing, still they have low status in economic, social and political aspects and they are subordinate to men. Especially their economic dependency on men because of social and religious norms dictates them to live in worst situations of domestic violence. This paper will show how the problem is complex because of intersectionality of grounds and then will forward feasible solutions to avert the problem. For better clarity, the paper is divided into seven sections. Under section one, the role of rural women and their social, economic and political status will be addressed. Section two will address the laws and policies about women in Ethiopia. Section three and four will focus on primary factors which are responsible for domestic violence in rural Ethiopia and those factors which aggravate the problem. Section five will address intersectionality of grounds and domestic violence in rural Ethiopia. Lastly, section six and seven will provide conclusion and recommendations. 2
  • Statement of the problem Despite the fact that rural women contribute much in agricultural production and domestic food processing, they are economically dependent on men and such economic dependency exposed them to domestic violence. There are different factors including religious and social norms, illiteracy, poverty and poor law enforcement mechanisms which intersectionally make such problem harsh. The writer will depict how such grounds intersecting each other make domestic violence the worst in rural Ethiopia. I) The role of women and their social, economic and political status in Ethiopia General overview 3
  • In Ethiopia women have the low social, economic and political status and gender inequality, domestic violence and subordination of women are the results of such status. Women constitute 49.8% of the total Ethiopian population according to the national report made by Ethiopia by the women’s affairs sub sector in 20041 and they contribute much in the agricultural production generally and food production for domestic or family use particularly. But they are not enjoying the fruits of their labor equally with men 2 and they are subject to subordination and domestic violence by men which is not well touched by studies until recent times. Under this section, firstly, I will try to show the role of rural women in the agriculture sector and domestic food production and their economic status. Secondly, I will address the social status of rural women in Ethiopia. And thirdly, the political status of women, especially in the federal parliament and state councils and its implications on the political status of rural women will be explored. 1. The role of rural women and their economic status As I explained above, women in Ethiopia play a crucial role in the agricultural sector and food production. Even though there is no recent data on such role, the study conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture in 1992 revealed that 40% of agricultural labor in Ethiopia is covered by women.3 Women are also responsible for the production of domestic food for family consumption. In this regard, the day to day activity of rural women in Ethiopia is tiresome. They have to prepare break fast in the early morning for the whole family and then the will work the whole day on farm land together with men. Specially, in Amhara region, women actively participate in land preparation, weeding, harvesting, threshing and storing crops and they are also responsible for herding, watering animals and milk processing in the livestock production.4 When it gets night, they have to prepare dinner for the family. Here, one can easily understand how the labor contribution of rural women in Ethiopia is significant. 1 A National Report on Progress made in the Implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, Prime Minister Office/Women's Affairs Sub Sector, Ethiopia , March 2004.P.2 2 Ibid p.2 3 Gender, Agricultural Development and Food Security in Amhar, Ethiopia, Emily Frank, 1999, P.3 2 3 4 Ibid p.3 4
  • Even though women’s labor contribution in rural Ethiopia is significant, they have no equal economic status with men. As it will be explained in the subsequent parts of this paper, in rural Ethiopia, most of the time men are family heads and they are ultimate decision makers on economic and family matters. Usually women have no equal access to the most important economic resources like land. 5 This in turn resulted in women’s subordination to men and exposed them to domestic violence. 2. The social status of rural women in Ethiopia In rural parts of Ethiopia, like their economic status, women have low social status. Especially in a marriage relationship, as the husband is the head of the family traditionally, women owe obedience to the decisions of the husband in all aspects of social life.6 The problem is so grave in cases in which early marriage is concluded because such domination by men will be imposed on women who are not matured enough to challenge such psychological as well as physical harms. There are still regions where girls as young as 8 and 9 years old are wedded and in such cases the marriage is arranged by parents of the couples without the consent of the couples.7 Such early marriage is naturally followed by early child bearing and other household responsibilities which will place women at the lower social status.8 3. The political status of rural women in Ethiopia Women in rural Ethiopia are also politically inferiors. They spend their time at home preparing food for family consumption and keeping their children. Under such circumstances, they have no time to participate in the political affairs. Such gender disparity in Ethiopian politics is clearly visible in the House of People’s Representatives and State Councils.9 Presently, women constitute only 7.6% of seats in the House of Peoples Representatives and 12.9% in the State councils.10 This means that women’s interest in Ethiopia is not well represented in the political institutions and this makes it difficult to address, through policy making, the complex problems faced by rural women as it will be explained subsequently. II) The laws and policies about women in Ethiopia 5 Shadow report, by Ethiopian Women’s Association, 2003, P. 24 6 Ibid p. 29 7 Ibid p. 32 8 Shadow report, by Ethiopian Women’s Association, 2003, P. 32 9 Ibid p. 16 10 A National Report on Progress made in the Implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, Prime Minister Office/Women's Affairs Sub Sector, Ethiopia , March 2004.P.2 5
  • When we see the legal situation about women in Ethiopia, the FDRE (Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia) Constitution sets guidelines for gender equality and specific laws are enacted in line with such guidelines. The constitution declared the principle of equality under Art 25 and it addresses gender equality specificlly in its other provisions. Art 25 which is an open ended provision prohibits all types of discrimination based on any status or ground. It says “All persons shall be equal before the law and shall be entitled to equal protection of the law without any discrimination whatsoever. All persons shall be entitled to equal and adequate guarantees without distinction of any kind such as race, nation, nationality, colour, sex, language, religion, political or social origin, property, birth or other status.”11 To ensure equal participation of women in the political and social life, the constitution confirmed the right of women to full consultation in the formulation and execution of national policies under Art 35.12 This provision also affirmed affirmative action for women, equlty of women with men in their marriage relationship, their equal right to own and transfer land and other properties, and their equal access to social services. The Federal revised Family Code and other laws and policies of Ethiopia follow such constituional guide lines. Ethiopia is also a party to the CEDAW Convention and affirmed International Bill of Rights. Therefore, the legal situasion about women has also such international dimension. III) Gender, culture and religion as primary factors responsible for domestic violence Even though the constituion and subsidisry laws of Ethiopia highly insist on gender equlity, the reality is inequality and subordination of women to men basically because of gender, cultural and religious factors and this ultimately leads to domestic voilence against women. In this regard rural women are exposed to the most serious domestic violence as economic and social domination by men in rural areas is of high intensity. In some circumstances there are also laws which backup discriminatory religious and customary practices. In some regions for example, states’(regions’) constituions and family cods don’t prohibit polygamy and this allows some muslim societies in Ethiopia to use their religious norms so that a man can marry and control so many women as he want.13 This is a big problem, because, the federal family code which prohibits such act is applicable only in Addis Ababa (the capital city) and Diredewa and other 8 states are left free to regulate family matters. State of Oromia for example, has also amened its land use 11 Art 25 of FDRE constitution 12 Shadow report, by Ethiopian Women’s Association, 2003, P. 15 13 Ibid p. 31 6
  • legislation to allow a man with polygamous marriage to have as many land certificates as he has wives with whom he holds the land in common.14 Such legal and religious norms are still working even though they are in clear contradiction with the constituionally declared principle of equality. Women are also discriminated because of their gender in rural areas. The social attitude in Ethiopia is that women are not capable to decide on key roles in social life. In this regard cultural norms are the most responsible factors for gender discrimination agaisnt women. Forinstance, in rural Ethiopia wife beating is culturally accepted practice. Such practie is deep rooted in the society that even women accepted such practice as apprropriate.15 Domestic violence such as beating are justified on grounds like arguing with the husband, going outside without telling him, neglecting the children and refusing sexual relations with him.16 All the above factors together placed rural women in physically and psychologically hazardious life systems. IV) Illiteracy, poverty and poor law enforcement as factors aggravating domestic violence against women in rural Ethiopia Factors like illiteracy, poverty and poor law enforcement mechanism aggravate domestic violence faced by Ethiopian rural women. In rural Ethiopia poverty occurs frequently and women suffer the most as they have no economic decision making power because of cultural and religious norms.17 Illiteracy is also the other factor making the life of rural women worse in Ethiopia. Most of rural women are illiterate. They don’t know their rights and they accept male’s domination in the society.18The other problem is that, law enforcement mechanisms in relation to domestic violence against women are poor. It is only in few cases that domestic violence is reported. Customary practices are still dominant and the supremacy of the constitution over customary rules is not well implemented.19 What is more, the court system in the country is sophistical, unfriendly and inaccessible to the uneducated and poor women who face marital crisis.20 V) Gender inequality, Intersectionality of grounds, and domestic violence in Ethiopia 14 Shadow report, by Ethiopian Women’s Association, 2003, P. 31 15 Ibid p. 30 16 Ibid .p. 30 17 A National Report on Progress made in the Implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, Prime Minister Office/Women's Affairs Sub Sector, Ethiopia , March 2004.P. 4 18 Shadow report, by Ethiopian Women’s Association, 2003, P. 11 19 Ibid p. 32 20 Ibid p. 34 7
  • Now I will try to show how the facts that I have mentioned beforehand can be described as inequality, how grounds intersect each other and what type of discrimination is faced by Ethiopian rural women who are exposed to domestic violence. As I have explained it before, even though there is dejure (legal) gender equality in most cases in Ethiopia, the reality is inequity and despite the fact that gender inequality is a reality any where in the world21, the situation in rural Ethiopia is extreme. Here, gender inequality of Ethiopian rural women has two aspects. Firstly, they are discriminated and placed in the lower position because of gender, culture and religion in rural areas and thus they are not treated equally with men. Secondly, even though they are disadvantaged groups, they are not treated differently and thus government fails to take steps actively to promote greater equality of opportunity for such particular groups of the society.22 Under such circumstances, Ethiopian government is not expected only to ensure the absence of general discrimination from its employment, educational and other functions but also to act positively to promote equality of opportunity between different groups 23 because rural women are exposed to extraordinary or special problems of inequality. Since the government fails to do so, inequality of rural women in Ethiopia is still grave. Here, both types of discrimination (direct and indirect) are occurred in Ethiopia regarding rural women. Firstly, as I explained it before, there are some state (regional) legislations and religious and customary practices which directly discriminate rural women by giving better positions for men. Different treatment of this kind will be direct discrimination since there is no objective and reasonable justification. 24 Secondly, in all other cases, there is indirect discrimination because Ethiopian government while formulating measures and policies for gender equality in general, it failed without objective and reasonable justification, to treat rural women (category of women who faced special problems of gender inequality) differently by providing for an exception to the application of the general rule.25 21 Sex equality Chatarinne.A Mackinnon, 2007, p. 1 22 Human rights and European equality law, Christopher McCRudden and Harris Kountouros, P. 4 23 Ibid p. 4 24 The prohibition of discrimination under the European Human Rights Law, De Schutter, p.16 25 The prohibition of discrimination under the European Human Rights Law, De Schutter, p.16 8
  • Now let me explain how intersectionality of different grounds that I have discussed beforehand resulted in worst domestic violence against rural women in Ethiopia. Rural women of Ethiopia face a set of multiple and crosscutting and interrelated problems.26 As I have explained before, firstly, rural women of Ethiopia are discriminated and they are subordinate to men because of their gender and this is supported by culture. Religious norms then make the problem grave. Rural women who are already exposed to discrimination and subordination because of gender and culture are placed in more serious problems of discrimination and subordination when religious norms become additional factors. Ethiopian rural women faced the worst discrimination and subordination and are exposed to serious domestic violence when factors like poverty, illiteracy and poor law enforcement are added to the above factors. Here, rural women of Ethiopia, opt to live under such difficult situation because they don’t have sufficient access to economic resources as religious and cultural norms give priority for men and they are thus economically dependent. A married woman for example will opt to live with her husband even though there is domestic violence against her because land is usually registered in the husband’s name and this puts her in a weaker position and the culture itself doesn’t allow her to claim such land from her husband. 27 That means, to divorce without having access to economic resources will be more difficult for her and she will opt to live with a man who inflicts domestic violence against her. When all grounds that I have discussed intersect, poor and uneducated women will be the most vulnerable to domestic violence as justice will be economically unaffordable to them or since they may not know at all that they have rights. Generally, rural women in Ethiopia are differently situated in economic, social and political aspects and when reform efforts are taken on behalf of women, they ignore such peculiar situation.28 As long as Ethiopian government doesn’t give special emphasis for rural women, it is impossible to achieve the objectives of gender mainstreaming and the CEDAW convention to which Ethiopia is a party. Since Ethiopian government fails to assess the implications of its legislations and actions towards rural women who are in special need, it fails to pursue the objectives of gender mainstreaming.29 The government by ignoring such particular situation also fails to achieve the obligation under the CEDAW convention which obliges member states to give special consideration for rural women. The government 26 Shadow report, by Ethiopian Women’s Association, 2003, P. 8 27 Ibid p. 24 28 Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex, 1989, p. 83 29 Not waving but drowning, Charles , 2005, p.4 9
  • also didn’t formulate and implement gender budgeting policies to achieve objectives of gender mainstreaming. Rural women are not treated differently and there is no gender budgeting policy which gives due consideration for them. Here I am not discussing the issues gender mainstreaming and gender budgeting in detail, but I am saying little just to show how domestic violence against rural women in Ethiopia (which is the basic concern of my paper) is left unexplored and without being addressed because of the government’s failure to pursue those objectives of gender mainstreaming and gender budgeting towards rural women. Therefore, even though rural women of Ethiopia are in a different situation than other women and even though they face peculiar type of domestic violence which is the result of intersectionality of grounds, such problem is not differently treated. VI) Conclusion Generally, even though Ethiopian rural women are playing crucial role in the agricultural production and domestic food processing, they are left behind having low economic, social and political status. Equality principles in the FDRE Constitution and the Federal Revised Family Code which insist on gender equality are not implemented to benefit Ethiopian rural women. Rural women in Ethiopia are still the most vulnerable groups to domestic violence as they are dependent economically because of social, religious, and legal factors. Added to this, factors like illiteracy, poverty and poor law enforcement mechanisms aggravate the problem faced by rural Ethiopian women. Then those factors intersect each other and make domestic violence the worst. As religious and social norms which give lower status for women are prevalent in rural Ethiopia, women are placed at the bottom and the fact that most rural women are illiterate and poor and the poor law enforcement mechanisms force them to live in a harsh and violent situation. It means that a rural Ethiopian woman who has already been discriminated because of religious and social norms which are in some cases supported by law, will face the most serious domestic violence in the country because of her lack of knowledge as she is illiterate and low financial resources because of her poorness and she then will opt to live in hard situations where domestic violence is prevalent and such special problem is not treated by the government differently even though the situation needs special treatment to eliminate domestic violence in rural Ethiopia. VII) Recommendations 10
  • The writer highly recommends the following five points to avert the special and serious domestic violence faced by rural Ethiopian women. 1) Firstly, Ethiopian government has to devise a mechanism to treat the situation of rural Ethiopian women differently. As it is explained before, rural women in Ethiopia live under worst domestic violence compared to other women. So, to eliminate such serious domestic violence faced by rural women, the government has to set up special institutions to work efficiently to ward elimination of such domestic violence against women in rural Ethiopia. 2) Secondly, government has to educate the rural society to change the attitudes and social norms which discriminate women and it has to educate women so that they can be active participants in all aspects of social, economic and political life. 3) Regional governments which have laws which support discriminatory social and religious norms have to repeal or amend their laws. 4) The government has to improve the economic status of rural women by creating better work opportunity to avoid their economic dependency. 5) Lastly, the government has to make judicial institutions (courts) easily accessible to rural women and has to educate them about the legal rights which they can claim to get remedy when they are violated. 11