Changing gender norms and making sexual violence unacceptable
Deeply rooted gender norms that discriminate against women and girls, and perceive women as being weak and men as being ‘dominant,’ facilitate rape as a weapon of war. Furthermore, years of conflict related sexual violence reinforces the idea that sexual violence is a normal part of life. Communities need to be supported in influencing gender norms positively, and challenging sexual violence as the norm.
Gender norms influenced by history and culture are often the beacons of pride and uphold cultures. Over time, cultures change, as do gender norms. We believe that the transition period following conflict, although difficult, can also be an opportunity for positive change. In rebuilding a society devastated by conflict, there is a chance for women and men to take up more equal roles. They may become able to acknowledge the pain that disrespect and violence has caused as they strive to rise above it. Consequently, they can vow to give their children better futures.
This process can be supported with innovative and community-led programs that engage women, men, girls and boys for gender equality. Gender sensitive education curricula, psychosocial support for survivors and for their partners and relatives, life-skills programmes, activities aimed at gaining socio-economic power, and equal political participation of women will create respect for women in society. These measures will also encourage men and women to stand up against violence and to challenge negative attitudes towards survivors and stop victim- blaming.