Sadly, violence against women is nothing new for Ethiopia. Women face gender inequality, extreme violence, and even traditions that are physically harmful. In Ethiopia, there is little to no government or civil involvement in tracking violence against women, and even fewer men are actually brought to justice.
Studies by the WHO multi-country study, it was discovered that a terrifying 59% of Ethiopian women experienced sexual abuse at the hands of an intimate partner. When it comes to healthcare, Ethiopia is already one of the lowest because of the extreme poverty with in the country, even in the larger cities healthcare is only a fraction better than the rural areas. The average Ethiopian has little to no access to healthcare. Only 8% of abused women in health seek medical attention after the event and only 15% of Ethiopia woman seek continuous health care in general.
Violence against women, especially domestic abuse, is most commonly seen as the woman’s fault. Even in the judicial system, women are told that they must have disobeyed their husbands for them to be beaten or rape is blamed on a woman’s clothing or attitude. A hospital in Ethiopia, the Adigrat hospital reported that 60% of their rape victims were under the age of eighteen and 90% of the cases were students.
Unfortunately, in developing countries all data is new and somewhat speculative. Many organizations, like Oxfam, are trying to start more official data collection and data records in developing countries.
As we heard from Jennifer Pacanowski’s speech women seem to suffer from Post Traumatic Stess Disorder more commonly than men. This information, when added to high levels of violence against women, is simply asking for mental health issues. In a slowly developing country, like Ethiopia, psychiatry and therapy are practically unheard of. This means thousands of Ethiopian women are in emotional and mental turmoil and will probably never receive help. In Ethiopia woman who have had sex before marriage are often shunned by the rest of the family; Ethiopia is an incredibly traditional and spiritual country. Even a woman or girl who is raped is viewed as unclean. Woman, especially in rural areas, have very few opportunities to earn their own money, without marriage a woman will generally be on the streets. For this reason, many women will never admit to abuse.
Women in Ethiopia have fairly low standings in society, and, because of these views, women are known for having low self-esteem. Due to low-self esteem levels and a victim-blame society, women in Ethiopia have very warped views of health and medical treatment. Currently, there are organizations forming like Ethiopian Women Legal Services and Women Against Violence are working to change these ideas. With these organizations, they are struggling to make women realize that they do not deserve trauma or abuse and that they are worth more. There is also a large stigma surrounding women who come forward, which makes women very wary about seeking help.
The biomedical system has both advantages and disadvantages when it comes to trauma. The biomedical system is all about fixing one person’s specific ailment, which will be useful because no two cases of posttraumatic stress disorder are the same. Despite that, the biomedical system is a very precise way of looking at health that focus on one broken aspect but not looking at the person’s health as a whole. Biomedicine separates the mind and body and then completely ignores the soul. Biomedicine adapts to new information on an almost daily basis through new information but in order to see emotional trauma as a health issue biomedicine would have to completely transform. In a country where religion rules, there would be no way that biomedicine alone could take on the challenge of trauma and healing abused woman and children. Biomedicine would need to adapt into a holistic system of human health.
Intergenerational trauma is a huge problem in Ethiopia because the strain put on a family by abuse can actually cause physical illness for many members of the family. Many Americans know that stress can cause real physical damage to a person, trauma acts in the same way. An abused woman can also teach her daughters (and sons) warped ways of acting around the opposite sex.
In order to reduce sexual and traumatic abuse in Ethiopia a lot would need to change, including the social structure and biomedical system.
Berhane, Yemane. “Ending Domestic Violence against Women in Ethiopia.” Research Gate. June 7, 2014. Accessed July 31, 2015.
Yibekal, Rediet. “Violence Against Women in Ethiopia: The Case of #JusticeForHanna.” Kweschn. November 25, 2014. Accessed July 31, 2015.