San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

When will violence against women stop?

Today is the International Day Against Violence Toward Women.

Exactly one month ago, on Oct. 25, another Costa Rican woman was killed at the hands of her companion. A young mother, with young children. Another lost life.

She is the fifteenth woman this year in Costa Rica to be killed by her partner, husband or compañero sentimental. These women were victims of jealousy, anger and misogyny. Of course, not all victims of spousal aggression die. According to the National Women’s Institute (INAMU), calls to 911 for domestic violence average 10 per day. When feelings run high, so does violence toward women: The 2014 FIFA World Cup brought excitement to Costa Rica, and also more aggression. INAMU received over one thousand calls for help during the tournament. Statistics show that femicide numbers are down from previous years overall, but the crime continues to be prevalent.

Women are victims because they are valued less than men from birth on. In many parts of the world, sons carry on the family name; in too many places, sons are also the offspring who bring honor to the family, and go out into the world to work. Women’s roles rate less status. In the workplace, they receive less pay and advancement than men in the same roles, and are excluded from certain positions because they are  not considered capable. In the media and in advertising, women’s bodies are used to sell, with breasts and legs pictured to sell beer as well as other products.  In sports, men dominate; women athletes are seen as threatening. Older women are seen as worthless, a burden in the social order. All of this makes it easier for certain men to use degradation, insults, name-calling, and isolation to keep women feeling helpless.

On the international scene, crimes against women, rape and sexual assaults go unpunished; women are blamed as provocateurs, and are killed for the honor of the family. They are hidden away or covered up for the sake of modesty. In Nigeria, 250 girls were abducted in April and disappeared. With all the resources in the world they have never been found, never been rescued. In times of war women and girls are booty, the spoils of the conquest. Some churches exclude women from decision-making, even over their own bodies. Militarism glorifies the image of the robust warrior facing danger to protect the small, the weak, the women. Most any international forum is dominated by men.

A lot must change in our world, in our communities and in our minds if we want to put a stop to violence toward women. Women are more than half the world’s population. Women add to the gross national product in every country of the world. Women are as capable as men as workers and thinkers and producers. Women are not the “weaker” sex. Women come in all shapes and colors and cultures and each is valuable as a partner in this world. Let’s show it and put an end to violence toward women.

Olive Branch is the collective name for the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Costa Rican section.  WILPF was founded in the Hague in 1915 to promote peace and human rights, and continues to this day in countries around the world.  Contact the organization at 

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Ken Morris

Is the goal to reduce violence against women or to promote a particular theory of gender that purports to explain that violence?

I ask both because I suspect there are many more people who find violence against women (or anyone for that matter) objectionable than who are willing to accept the explanation for that violence offered here, and because I find the explanation for that violence offered here dubious.

Specifically, your theory seems to be that violence is an extension of patriarchy, and thus part of an overall pattern of male dominance. This theory may well be true in given instances, both situationally and culturally, but I doubt that it’s always true. In fact, there is the opposite theory, namely that violence only erupts when established norms, including institutionalized patterns of authority, break down. The idea is that rather than being an extension of authority, which insofar as it exists doesn’t need to be enforced by violence, violence primarily arises in situations where authority is unknown or disputed.

Yet this article asks the reader to accept only the first theory: Items:

1. “Women are victims because they are valued less than men from birth on.”

They are? This is a whopper of an assertion.

2. “In the media and in advertising, women’s bodies are used to sell, with breasts and legs pictured to sell beer as well as other products.”

Yep, true, and more or less universally. But this isn’t because male models wouldn’t like to be paid to be in beer commercials, but because neither women nor men will buy the products advertised by male models at the same rate they will buy them advertised by female models. If this leads to violence against women (a linkage I doubt), you might want to take the matter up with God or whoever it was who created the genders, since I really don’t think you’re going to change this universal difference between the genders.

3. “[w] omen athletes are seen as threatening.”

By whom? This is an odd accusation, and even if it were true, I’m at a loss to understand how this contributes to violence against women. Are those perpetrating the violence targeting female athletes?

4. “Older women are seen as worthless, a burden in the social order.”

Come on. Maybe people get tired of holding the doors open for them and letting them go to the front of the line at banks etc, but I’ve never heard anyone call older women worthless or a burden.

5. “A lot must change in our world, in our communities and in our minds if we want to put a stop to violence toward women.”

Really? How about just stopping the violence? Changing the world–I assume in ways that include accepting the entire world view advanced in this article (as well as adding male models to beer commercials)–seems a lot tougher and less laudible challenge that simply stopping the violence.

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When the United Nations countries have meetings and the Catholics and Muslims join hands (as a voting block, which is one of the only areas they fully agree on) and block human rights rulings against women and children; when all of us will finally allow all humans to have human rights regardless of gender, nationality, religion or personal beliefs; when we all realize that human rights are the highest order that supersedes man made laws that only superimpose ridiculous laws against certain humans due to our differences; only then will we reach the level of civilization where we all appreciate what it is to be human.

How any single person or group of persons believe they have the right to spell out what it is to be human and have those human rights, then and there is where corruption of spirits and hearts begin. We as humans have to aggressively stand up for what it means to be human and to extend human rights to all, not just who we want to at any given time in history.

It is time for civilization to stop tolerating violations of women, children, gender differences, social differences and the many varieties of bigotry that exist and take a stand for what is truly the higher level of justice and rightness for all humans. Until we grow our minds and beliefs to this level there will always be injustices done to those who are not of the majority appeal based on their differences.

What a travesty we are and have created in this plight for all humans. I beckon my my fellow mankind to take a stand to stop social injustice and allow the social order of the world to allow humans all over to have the same and equal rights without defining differences based on any of our individual beliefs or customs. Help stamp out these social injustices through your proactivity and intolerance of abuse of humans.

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