Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Women asylum seekers fleeing violence: Challenges, solutions and future hopes

A white ribbon to commemorate the National Day...Image via Wikipedia
Source: Scottish Refugee Council

Ilana Bakal, a clinician at the Medical Foundation for the care of Victims of Torture, has been working with asylum seeking and refugee women for 15 years. In her blog she contemplates obstacles and solutions to ending violence against women seeking asylum, and shares her hopes for future generations.

Findings provided in the 2009 Asylum-Seeking Women Violence and Health report on women going through the asylum process indicated 70 per cent of women reported having experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime.

What one thing would you change to stop violence against women and why?

I would work with communities to educate them about violence against women so that they embrace survivors. Women who have experienced physical or sexual violence need to be supported, not rejected, as their ordeal can be increased through stigmatisation.

Many women who suffer physical or sexual violence are survivors of conflict. Conflicts are the result of so many issues including struggles over power, money or control. In this sense the women victims are not exceptional.  

However, sexual violence is used not only to punish and control a woman, but to punish the entire community connected to her, including through the stigma attached to the violation; parents, siblings, husband, daughters and sons. Women I’ve worked with believe that by sexually attacking women in this very intimate way, the perpetrator aims to breakdown the entire community with the impact of sexual violence extending far beyond the individual.

What obstacles do you see to ending/preventing violence against women, in particular asylum seeking women, and how can these be overcome?

In order to break the circle of violence against asylum seeking women, we should:
  • do as much as we can to support them;
  • reduce the effects of violence they have experienced; and
  • guard against future risks.
For example, women should be financially self sufficient and  live in safe accommodation.  They must not be made homeless and be exposed to predators who may want to exploit or take advantage of them.

What is your hope/wish for the next generation of women?

My wish for the next generation of women is to live in a world free from sexual oriented violence. I hope the next generation will know how to stand up for their rights - that they are educated and can learn about it. I also hope that they do not comply with abuse, seek to control others nor are forced to do anything against their will – they must be in positions were they can and are able to say NO.
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