In Brazil, there is unfortunately a very large amount of violence against women. In 2013, Brazil had the highest female homicide rate in the world (Garcia-Navarro 2016). In a survey conducted in 2017, 1/3 of girls and women in Brazil reported that they had suffered various types of violence at the hands of men, yet only 1/4 of the attacks were reported (Maria 2018). In 2016 alone, there was a reported 4,606 women murdered, most of them being killed in their homes by current or former male partners (Maria 2018). Governmental and police response to this problem has not been adequate, as well. There have been new laws enacted in order to deter this type of violence, however they “have not deterred violent crime, with police and the courts failing to follow through… a lack of budget and facilities to protect women only make things worse” (Garcia-Navarro 2016). There is a lack of response from police and there are also a very limited amount of women’s shelters in Brazil, making it almost impossible for women to get away from their abusers. Reframing violence against women and trauma as health issues would be incredibly beneficial for many countries in which domestic violence is commonplace or seen as normal. In Brazil, there is a pervasive idea among men that if they are with a woman “they own her” (Garcia-Navarro 2016). This results in situations in which men feel they are entitled to a woman and can do whatever they want with her. There is also an idea in Brazil that “it is better to have a man, even a bad one, than not… people see domestic violence as normal” (Garcia-Navarro 2016).
This reframing reinforces our understandings of health, illness, and medicine, especially in regards to ideas about “epidemics”. In the week 1 reading “Recognizing Biological, Social, and Cultural Interconnections”, Joralemon argues that epidemics are “vivid demonstrations of the interconnections between biological, social, and cultural components in the human experience of disease” (Joralemon 1999). This is exactly what we see when we look at violence against women. In biological terms, this violence can manifest in physical ways, such as bruises, broken bones or serious health issues, or it can manifest in psychological ways, such as with PTSD. In both social and cultural terms, countries and communities that have issues with violence against women often have social and cultural values that reflect a view that women are inferior to men and that abuse against women is normal and will be tolerated without any repercussions either from the community or from the government. In thinking about reframing this issue, it is also important to look at Feminist Theory that was discussed in week 1. This theory looks at how gender can impact medical situations and if there is inequality in certain medical situations due to gender. Both of these questions are relevant in discussion violence towards women. Due to the gender of women in high-risk countries and the way that gender is viewed among the population, they are more likely to encounter violence. Reframing violence against women as a health issue also seems obvious to do based on the health repercussions women who experience violence face later in life. This can especially be seen in pregnant women who re-experience parts of their past trauma due to the changes in their body because of their pregnancy (Sperlich, et al. 2008). Women that also face violence not based in domestic trauma, but face violence in situations such as war, can also face PTSD later in life, again linking violence against women as a health issue to be solved (Kasinof 2013). As mentioned in the “Deconstruction Biomedicine” lecture in week 1, Biomedicine is not a science in itself, but instead is a medicine that is science-based. That means that these issues that women face, such as violence, do not necessarily have to be biological issues, but since there is an obvious cause and result in these cases, should be considered biomedicine.
We can also see similar patterns when looking at intergenerational trauma. Although the intergenerational trauma itself is not biomedical or strictly “scientific”, we can see biological effects of trauma later in life. In fact, people exposed to trauma have higher risks of depression, substance abuse, PTSD, and higher rates of biological illnesses (Bombay, et al. 2009). This reinforces mechanical models of health because there is a direct cause and effect in these circumstances of violence. As a result, trauma is one mechanism that results in several health issues later in life, which can be treated.
In looking at these issues, the reframing of violence and trauma against women as health issues is an important step in order to solve these issues. By reframing the conversation, there can be more action done to reduce violence towards women.
Bombay, Amy, et al. “Intergenerational Trauma: Convergence of Multiple Processes among First Nations Peoples in Canada.” National Aboriginal Health Organization, Nov. 2009.
Canineu, Maria. “For Brazil’s Women, Violence Begins at Home.” Human Rights Watch, 1 Feb. 2018, www.hrw.org/news/2018/01/31/brazils-women-violence-begins-home.
Garcia-Navarro, Lulu. “For Brazil’s Women, Laws Are Not Enough To Deter Rampant Violence.” NPR, NPR, 24 July 2016, www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2016/07/24/487043309/for-brazils-women-laws-are-not-enough-to-deter-rampant-violence.
Joralemon, Donald. Exploring Medical Anthropology. Routledge, an Imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, 2017.
Kasinof, Laura. “Women, War, and PTSD.” Washington Monthly, 2013, washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/november_december_2013/features/women_war_and_ptsd047354.php?page=all.
Sperlich, Mickey, and Julia Seng. Survivor Moms: Womens Stories of Birthing, Mothering and Healing after Sexual Abuse. Motherbaby Press, 2008.