VAW in myriad forms: Combatting financial abuse and privacy violations

8 March 2011

Friday was quiet in comparison to other days. I went for two 6pm sessions - one by the Bahrain Women's Association (pretty interesting, took on cultural justifications of discrimination against women and responded through progressive interpretation of the Quran), which took place in a chapel (hmmm.. actually lots of buildings for the side events are quite "churchy" - church building, salvation army... :) ), and the other by an EU headed association called WAVE (women against violence in europe - which is, funnily, almost the name of the failed VAW campaign the Malaysian minister for women and family launched a few years back).

The WAVE-led session shared the incredible work that the organisations were doing on training medical health professionals on the various dimensions of domestic violence and training banking institutions and also survivors of VAW on financial abuse - an aspect of VAW that is usually given less attention. The initiative is called The Haven, based in Wolverhampton UK. I raised the point of identity theft as a dimension of financial abuse (where partners steal passwords to banking accounts or threaten till the details are handed over), which had not been included or considered as yet, but the concept reverberated in the room and the organisers were very open and enthusiastic about taking it on. Great!

The WAVE initiative has a training module for teachers and educators to adapt and use on training young people on intimate violence. They ran surveys in three countries - Austria, Belgium and... I'm not sure which the third country is, but the findings were revealing. 88% of respondents (who were students) said that training/education on intimate partner abuse is important and needed in schools. 32% said they either faced violence or used violence in their relationship. Another 30+% (have to check tweets) said that they think it's okay to check on their boyfriend/girlfriend's mobile phones, and a similar percentage thought it was okay to know where they're partner is at at all times. Seems like surveillance is part of everyday dating culture among young people! But the training addresses these issues by talking about control, mobility, surveillance and healthy relationships. And also about desires and emotions. I was especially impressed that the initiative acknowledged desires in young people's relationships as a normal and healthy thing, and focussed on how to recognise and address potentially violent relationships instead.

I asked if they had looked at privacy issues amongst young people, especially in relation to how technology can be used in abuse, as well as become a site for control and violence. The speaker responded that the training module is wide and is intended to be adapted and used by the teachers. not sure if this means it is covered or not, but since the survey looked at this dimension, i'm guessing it does.

The conversation then moved on to the lack of funding available for preventative measures on VAW in the EU region, which included funding to support training and education measures such as the two presented. Not sure I heard everything correctly - questions from the floor were not on mike and I was seated quite far behind in the room - but the sense I got was that this was because prevention was not prioritised in the previous CSW outcomes. which then raised the whole discussion on the political efficacy of CSW - since the outcomes are not binding documents, but more like progress reports and plans for the future. Some of the participants seemed like experienced advocates in this field, and they made the link between resource mobilisation - the availability of funding - and different strategies or agendas that were agreed upon. they also raised CEDAW as an important advocacy platform for women's rights, since it is a binding document with specific processes for recommendations which states are obliged to take into account and take action before their next hearing - although, the US is still one of the few countries that has not ratified CEDAW - a point raised by many in different spaces throughout this conference.

One of the participants also shared her experience at a CEDAW committee hearing, where she witnessed CEDAW committee members dismissing young lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people and behaved frankly, pretty rude, to them, at a session that was discussing on homophobia issues! Which brings to point that even though they are CEDAW committee members, they are not necessarily all clear on all issues related to women's rights, especially those which can be a little more tricky to navigate on, like sexuality and sexual reproductive health issues. but at least it's an opportunity, and a process that we can take part in, and it's binding on countries which have ratified CEDAW, bar reservations.

By the end of the day, I was completely exhausted, but definitely a productive day in sharing and learning from all the amazing women's rights advocates and activists present!

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