Gender, Violence, and Politics

By Dr. Elizabeth Frazer
Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford UK and New College, Oxford.

The Paper was prepared for the 4th Annual Conference in Gender Studies, Center for Social Sciences

6 December, 2012


The significance of violence against women, as such, needs no emphasis in this forum. It determines how boys and girls develop, it regulates our conduct as sexed beings – as men, as women – and it interacts with unequal distributions of benefits and burdens between the two sexes. It needs no emphasis here, but that is not to say that it needs no emphasis in universities and research centres in general, in social and political institutions like law and medicine, and in the agencies of government at state, city, and global levels. The last few decades have seen widespread acceptance of the insights that rape as a weapon of war, first really is a weapon of war, and second is not just any ‘ordinary’ weapon. There has also been wide acceptance, throughout societies, and states, that sexual harassment at work is serious. First, because of its pervasive psychological and emotional effects on recipients and on perpetrators; second because the joke or the flirtation is underpinned by and is liable to turn into aggression or assault. It is recognised, by scientists, by lawyers, by policy makers, governors and managers, that domestic violence is a public health issue. All of these impact on understanding of the complexities of rape and sexual assault as criminal. All of these underline how sex and gender, and the enforcement of particular standards of sexual conduct, are matters of the first political and legal, as well as cultural and social, importance.

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