Cultural History of Violence Against Women

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If we think back to our school years, and those history class lessons we all endured, we might recall teachers telling us about ancient cultures and their varied practices. The majority of these cultures were very male-dominated, reaching all the way back to when written text began, thousands of years BC. Patriarchal cultures aren’t something that lives in the past, though, and in today’s societies, there are still places where men treat women as second (or even third) class citizens, and these women are regularly on the receiving end of abusive behaviour.

Take for example, many of the current middle-eastern cultures. In Saudi Arabia, women cannot do some of the tasks that men do – things that in the Western world we take for granted, such as driving a car, playing sports, or even going outside without a male chaperone in certain scenarios. For societies where men dominate and are considered to “outrank” women, it’s not difficult to see how that repression can lead to a form of slavery, and in turn, violence towards those females.

In many cultures, such as India, Pakistan, and a few others, marriage is usually pre-arranged. Girls and women automatically become the “property” of their husbands and fiancés, and there is very little these women can do about it. They are often forced to work long hours, clean, wash, and bear children; these women are not thought of as “people” in their own culture. Since they are considered property they have no rights, thus the physical and sexual abuse many of them endure is sadly, simply expected.

In the Western world, we look upon these “backwards” ways as heinous crimes to humanity, which they are! However, in many countries, this is the way of life, it has been for thousands of years, and is considered an integral part of the culture. However, you would think, that in the 21st Century, humanity would have put aside such old-fashioned customs that do not value women.

However, the Western world isn’t without its problems in how women are treated. In countries such as the UK, Australia, Canada, and the USA, you observe violence towards women virtually everywhere you look. In the UK, not a day goes by without a news story covering situations where a woman or young girl has been raped or abused. In Australia, statistics report that one in three women have experienced physical violence, and a fifth have endured some form of sexual assault. These figures are extraordinary to comprehend, considering we are supposed to be part of an enlightened, modern culture.

Unfortunately, a large blot on the copybook of many first world countries is the rise of “rape culture”. The term “rape culture” started in the 1970’s, in the USA, to describe the practice of criminals using rape as a form of intimidation. This terminology was also an attempt to highlight the fact that rape and sexual abuse of girls and women in a domestic setting was far too commonplace, even if many were denying that fact.

Researchers have continuously highlighted the issue of how rape culture has continued to perpetuate in places such as Canada, the UK, and the USA, particularly with women on college and university campuses. There’s evidence going back to the early 20th century to support this, and even more evidence showing the crimes continue to occur today. While the mitigating factors are always a controversial subject, many experts state that the widespread availability of cheap alcohol, the availability of pornography on the Internet, and the plethora of easy-to-use dating websites and apps directly contribute to today’s rape culture.

In conclusion, we can see that violence towards women has been a problem throughout history, and is something that continues to permeate the world today. Given the sheer volume of cases that are reported, which is thought to be only the tip of the iceberg regarding the actual scope of the number of assaults that occur, it’s clear we must do more to change how our cultures perceive, and interact with, women and girls.

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