In a country like Yemen, reframing violence against women is a necessary, but great challenge because it would require a dramatic shift in the culture. In this patriarchal society women are treated much differently than men and are restricted in many ways because men have more power. Yemeni women know that the authorities are reluctant to help when violence is reported, and they are stuck in a vicious cycle because they have not been educated about their rights. The numbers for domestic abuse are inaccurate due to underreporting because women are afraid they will taint the honor of their family (Ba-Obeid and Bijleveld 2002). Violence against women was common in Yemen before the war, but gender-based violence (GBV) has increased by more than 63% from 2015 to 2017 since the war began (UNFPA 2017). Current estimates show that about 3 million women are at risk of GBV, 60,000 women are at risk for sexual violence, and there has been a 36% increase in usage of GBV services (UNFPA 2018).
The current view of violence against women was shaped by the religion and history of Yemen. Nearly the whole population practices Islam, where about 65% are Sunni and 35% are Shia (CIA 2018). In the activity post for this week I addressed why violence against women is so prevalent in this culture. Though it may be a misinterpretation, it is written in the Qur’an that men are able to beat their wives. This segment in the sacred book may have been blown out of proportion throughout history. Since the action of the men is backed by the dominant religion, there is little room to argue against it. Violence intensifies during a war, and men may use external conflict to further justify their abuse towards women (Holt 2013). To study the effect this has on Yemeni women, their concept of honor must be understood. In Arabic there are two forms of honor: “ird” and “sharaf.” Ird relates to sexual honor such has purity or chastity and can only decrease. Sharaf refers to the honor of the individual and the family, both one self and the community. This can increase or decrease according to behavior (Trammell and Morris 2012). Traumatic experience has a great impact on one’s identity, but for the women of Yemen the shame and loss of self they feel is much greater because of their context.
In general, reframing GBV as a health issue gives women a voice in their culture and more control over their health. GBV includes physical, psychological, and sexual abuse that can be very traumatizing. Reframing trauma as a health issue reinforces the importance of mental health and that it should be given at least as much attention as physical health. Reframing these topics challenges the way we view illness, in turn, reframing what it means to be healthy. When a woman is in a heavily GBV culture, how much is too much? The idea of medicine is also challenged because if the cure for these women is to stop GBV then the medicine isn’t a pill but a cultural change. For Yemeni women, reframing GBV will greatly challenge their culture, but they may be more willing to use GBV services and see that there is a way to get out of their situation.
The concept of intergenerational trauma challenges the biochemical health model, because the biomedicine focuses on the short term and is more individual-specific. Intergenerational trauma looks at an issue like GBV in the long term and studies how a traumatic experience affects a person and their community because they are connected (Bombay et al 2009). There are many limitations in the biochemical model and the main obstacle is that not all health issues can be measured by numbers. The mechanical health model categorizes issues to have a direct cause an effect. This reinforces the idea of intergenerational trauma, because trauma can be the direct cause of depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, and even physical ailments. Though the mechanical model is more fitting with the issue of GBV, there are still limitations when simplifying health issues such as these.
Overall, the health models we learn about are not able to address all the health issues we face while considering the cultural context. It is important to establish a health model that captures the entirety of the human experience, because it affects the way people receive treatment. In the Bombay et al article we learned that when groups are exposed to trauma there is a resilience that builds within the community. Though Yemeni women experience a greater level of GBV, they have proven to be able to withstand injustice with an extraordinary strength that comes from within. Since Yemen lack the resources to help women, it is on the international community to bring change and help these women restore their identity.
Ba-Obeid, M., & Bijleveld, C. C. J. H. (2002). Violence against women in Yemen: official statistics and results from an exploratory victim survey. International Review of Victimology, 3, 1-16. DOI: 10.1177/026975800200900306
Bombay, A., Matheson, K., & Anisman, H. (2009). Intergenerational trauma: Convergence of multiple processes among first nations peoples in canada. Journal of Aboriginal Health, 5(3), 6.
Central Intelligence Agency. (2018). The world factbook: Yemen. Retrieved from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ym.html
Holt, M. (2013). Violence against women in the context of war: Experiences of Shi’i women and palestinian refugee women in lebanon. Violence Against Women, 19(3), 316-337. doi:10.1177/1077801213485550
Trammell, R., & Morris, T. (2012). The connection between stigma, power, and life chances: A qualitative examination of gender and sex crime in Yemen. Sociological Focus, 45(2), 159-175.
UNFPA Yemen. (2017). UNFPA humanitarian repose in Yemen – 2017. Retrieved from https://www.unfpa.org/resources/unfpa-humanitarian-response-yemen-2017
UNFPA Yemen. (2018). UNFPA humanitarian repose in Yemen – 2018. Retrieved from http://yemen.unfpa.org/en/publications/unfpa-humanitarian-response-yemen-2018