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Ending Widespread Violence Against Women

Gender-based violence (GBV) is a term describing any harm that is perpetrated against a person's will, and is the result of power inequities that are based on gender roles. According to the United Nations, GBV encompasses, but is not limited to physical, sexual and psychological violence, including threats of violence, coercion, or arbitrary deprivation of liberty. Though GBV may take many forms, it almost always and across all cultures disparately impacts women. There has been increasing concern in recent years among humanitarian aid organisations about the extent and effects of GBV in refugee, internally displaced, and post-conflict settings. There has also been increasing recognition that GBV is an affront to public health, universally accepted human rights guarantees, and the restoration of refugee and internally displaced (IDP) families and communities.

The root factors of the transition period and poverty make the violence and other negative phenomena on women an evident reality. In unequal power situations some women become exploited and women's interests and needs become marginalized. A feminist view of gender, as an issue of power, is needed to focus on post-war situations to understand the mechanisms of this gendered exploitation and marginalisation. The continuum of such post-conflict exploitation runs from the non election or selection of women politicians, to under-resourcing women's needs, the lack of listening/hearing about women's interests, to women forcibly removed into prostitution. Gender-based violence is defined by the politics and workings of gender identity and rooted in motivations and behaviors related to power and powerlessness. Connected to the discourses of masculinity and femininity and how women and men are positioned vis-a-vis one another, it is framed with the notion that men are entitled to certain types of power which women are not.

Yet, gender-based violence is predominantly men's violence towards women and girls: wife beating, incest, sexual assault, prostitution, women's trafficking, pornography, war rape, sexism, restricted freedoms, political and economic exclusion.

In Kosovo, interventions designed to assist victims of sexual violence have often been met with resistance because of the harsh stigma surrounding rape. While rape as a weapon of war has been documented in the ethnic conflict in Kosovo, data on the incidence, attitudes, and knowledge about gender-based violence within the ethnic-Albanian community is virtually rare.

Cultural beliefs that contribute to the denial of human rights to women were also identified. Despite existing traditional beliefs, a significant majority of the population is highly motivated to expose the issue of violence in their society. Findings suggest that involving young people in violence awareness and prevention campaigns may provide a platform for change in a once-silent society.