Outed “locker room talk” is strengthening global movement to stop violence against women

Gender, Violence Against Women and Girls

Oxfam GB’s Director of Women’s Rights and Gender Justice Nikki van de Gaag, explores how the events surrounding the US Presidential campaign can help end violence against women around the world.

Masuma Seper, 15, trains in the gym at The National Stadium in Kabul as part of the Afghan Amateur Women’s Boxing Association. Credit: Abbie Trayler-Smith

Recent events have seen many people loudly expressing concern that after so many years of hard work on women’s rights, and rafts of legislation on gender-based violence, it is still acceptable, even in the world’s richest and most powerful country, for men to treat women not only as second-class citizens, but as legitimate objects for sexist remarks and sexual assault. Case in point: the now infamous recording of Donald Trump and Billy Bush, then of “Access Hollywood”. But could this be a turning point?

We know that violence against women is a daily occurrence around the world. The statistics tell a terrible but well-known story. One in three women has been a victim of physical or sexual violence, mostly by an intimate partner, at some point in her lifetime. Women and girls are still being beaten at home, forced into marriage, subjected to genital mutilation and sexual violence, among many other abuses.

We also know that bankers and billionaires assault their wives, partners, and girlfriends, just as much as marginalized men from the poorest communities.

The US Presidential race has exposed the issue of violence against women and the violent attitudes that underpin gender inequality

We know in addition to violating women’s and girls’ rights to bodily integrity, health and often life itself, violence makes women afraid and prevents them from playing an equal role in society. So if we are to ‘put women’s rights at the heart of all we do’, as Oxfam has committed to, then ending violence needs to be high on our agenda.

Oxfam, together with other international NGOs and thousands of women’s organisations and other movements for social justice large and small throughout the world have been working for many years to stop violence against women.  For example, the We Can campaign to reduce the social acceptance of violence against women across six countries in South Asia that has reached millions of women and men and more than 3,000 organisations.

The different Oxfams around the world are about to launch a major campaign in 30 countries on violence against women. We want to create a global citizen movement that builds on national campaigns.

We know that supporting small women’s rights organisations, who are often increasingly under resourced, is one of the most important ways to counter this violence. We also know that it means working from the grassroots on attitudinal and social norm change to working at the highest levels of government, and with institutions in between like the police and the judiciary.
Many other organisations, like the Men Engage Alliance network, Sonke Gender Justice and Instituto Promundo, are working with men and boys to challenge the kinds of attitudes that lead to this violence and to help us to raise our sons to believe in, and practise, a more gender-equal way of living.The US Presidential race has exposed the issue of violence against women, and the violent attitudes that underpin gender inequality.  It has started a debate that throws a spotlight like never before on the scale of the epidemic of violence. It has spurred leading women and men to the kind of outrage that could catalyse a truly global movement.If we can work together with the millions of women and men around the world who agree that so called “locker room talk” is unacceptable – much less acting on it, then perhaps we can us this moment to get even closer to ending violence against women, and the attitudes that underpin it, once and for all. Let’s make it happen.

Author
Nikki van der Gaag

Nikki van der Gaag

Nikki is Director of Gender Justice and Women’s Rights at Oxfam GB. She brings over 30 years of experience and a proven track record in shaping the debate on women's rights and gender justice in the UK and globally. Nikki has authored many Because I am a Girl reports and co-authored the first State of the World's Fathers.