Nowadays, gender-based violence is not new to our younger generations, it is continuously becoming a problem that need to be addressed effectively. Youngsters have various experiences of school-related gender based violence depending on their sexuality and gender. It happens in and around the school, as well as on the way to or from school. Additionally, the emergence of new mediums such as social media and the internet are also now used to perpetrate violence.
However, not many of the Malaysia community are aware that this is happening around us. Some adults don’t even take it seriously when young people approach them and seek for help when they are facing violence in schools. The grown-ups generally view it as a quarrel between children and they don’t really pay attention to it.
We must not ignore the fact that school-related gender based violence does really affect the life of a child, and action must be taken towards preventing it from happening before it is too late.
So, I will briefly elaborate on the topic of school-related gender-based violence in the hope that more people would have a better understanding on this topic.
What is school-related gender based violence ?
School-related gender-based violence (SRGBV) can be defined as acts or threats of sexual, physical or psychological violence happening in and around education contexts.
This type of violence is due to gender norms and stereotypes. It can include verbal abuse, bullying, sexual abuse, harassment and other types of violence. (UNESCO/UNGEI 2015)
Why does it matter ?
School-related gender based violence is a phenomenon that affects millions of children, families and communities and occurs in all countries in the world (UNESCO). Approximately 246 million school children are harassed and abused in and around school every year (plan-international.org, 2017).
SRGBV is complex and multifaceted. It includes different manifestations of physical, sexual and/or psychological violence, such as verbal abuse, bullying, sexual abuse and harassment, coercion and assault, and rape. These different forms of SRGBV often overlap and reinforce each other. (UNESCO/ UN WOMEN)
SRGBV is one important and pervasive form of school violence; gender is a key driving factor behind many forms of violence and using a gender lens to look at violence can help when developing prevention and response approaches. (UNESCO/ UN WOMEN)
What are the root causes?
Violence against children occurs in every region and country, and in almost every context. The root causes does not lie in any one culture, tradition or institution, but in the wider structural issues, social norms and deep-rooted beliefs and behaviours that shape gender and authority:
• Patriarchy and gender discriminatory norms that shape the dominance of men and the subservience of women and the right to preserve that dominance through violence are found in almost every culture. The pressure to conform to dominant gender norms is high. Young people who do not choose to or cannot conform, can be sanctioned through violence. (UNGEI, 2018; UNESCO, 2014)
• Social norms are socially-agreed expectations of behaviour that are defined by differences of power. It shapes authority, traditionally by a male adult, which usually include the legitimacy to teach, discipline and control, and use violence to maintain that authority. These norms support the authority of adults over children, often using some form of violence to maintain that authority and reinforce social and gender norms. (UNGEI, 2018; UNESCO, 2014)
• Wider structural and contextual factors including conflict, income inequality, deprivation or marginalization and weak systems. In addition, the borderless nature of social media enables violence in spaces that are hard to police and regulate. This contributes to SRGBV. (UNGEI, 2018; UNESCO, 2014)
• Discriminatory or non-existent institutional frameworks, laws, and policies reinforce harmful social norms and fails to protect girls and boys against different forms of gender-based violence within the school context, and society more broadly (UNESCO & UN Women, 2016).
How can we prevent it from happening ?
Although education has a vital role in challenging the negative social norms that drive gender-based violence, schools are the most likely of places for this kind of violence to prevail (plan-international.org 2017). It is significant for everyone’s cooperation to generate a sense of shared ownership and responsibility in keeping the learning environment safe and secure (UNESCO,2017b). We must be aware that SRGBV is a major obstacle to the achievement of quality education for all (UN, 2017).
Therefore, we need to ensure all stakeholders understand how inadequate the consequences of SRGBV are.
Here are some ways we can prevent SRGBV from happening:
- In a national scale, government and institutions can establish and strengthen law enforcement of gender-based violence, particularly in schools. Besides, a national campaign should be held to raise public awareness on the issue of gender based violence.
- Additionally, teachers play a huge role in the cases of SRGBV. Proper professional training should be provided to teachers to respond to violence in schools (plan-international.org) more efficiently. They must be made aware of the violence happening in the school and among students as well as the right way to handle it.
- On the other hand, parents must also pay attention to their child. Parents should take notice of their child’s situation and hold the responsibility of being parents seriously.
- Children are vulnerable, both boys and girls are affected equally when there are cases of school-related gender-based violence. Adults should give proper guidance to them, correcting their behaviour when they are doing something wrong as well as showing them what needs to be done when they are exposed to SRGBV. Children must be taught to protect their rights and to defend themselves from a young age. Starting this early can help to prevent and curb SRGBV in their future.