They are non-existent for the public power, they face prejudices in the work environment, they are victims of physical and moral violence and, often, they’re not accepted within their family. To combat the taboo present in society regarding the homosexual orientation of women, and women in general, I decided to write about this.
Last week I was walking with Camila on the street. We were coming back from a concert holding hands and we stopped to exchange a little kiss. That was when the first provocation came from a bar on the other side of the street. We heard sexual provocations and threats of the same nature. We tried not to show that we were frightened as we walked away, but we were. The aggression was not physical and it was from a distant point, but it scared me. It frightened me by the content of the words and also by the fact that none of the people who were around bothered to help or defend us. It made me think about the small and large violence we suffer in our daily lives, not just as lesbians, but as women. And this is not unique to a culture, as it happens all over the world.
The violence against women is real
US is among the countries with the highest rate of female homicides in the world – a reality that reinforces the urgency of effective responses from the State and society to prevent and punish gender violence.
Feminicide is the murder of a woman by the condition of being a woman. Their most common motivations are hatred, contempt, or the loss of ownership of women in a society marked by gender inequality.
The concern about this matter around the world is in tune with the growing dedication of international organizations to this theme: UN institutions discuss the creation of protocols to investigate and address the problem, while 11 Latin American countries have already created specific laws to punish feminicide.
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Awareness is the first step
For the UN expert, the increased awareness of international institutions – including the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), calling attention to feminicide in the analyzes made from periodic country reports on the situation of violence against women, is an example of the progress made on the international scenario.
Until recently, feminicide was not verbalized, detached or criminalized. It was simply an issue that didn’t exist for most people.
More and more countries are ratifying feminicide as a specific offense. This has been done in different ways, but what is important to us is that the Justice System is addressing the issue in a specific way, which a few years ago was not done. We can think that with better information systems and more time – because the legislation is very recent, the tendency will be to reduce violence against women.
The situation of lesbian women is also extremely complicated
The vast majority of people consider family as the closest group of people, with whom they live on daily basis, have a strong bond of affection and love each other. A “safe harbor”, some say. But this isn’t always the case, especially when it comes to the LGBTQ community.
According to a study released by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association last year, two-thirds of the world's population says they don’t want to have a gay child.
Considering people who as ill according to their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression has historically been one of the main causes behind human rights violations faced by the LGBTQ public.
Stigmatizing medical classifications are used, for example, to justify the subjection of trans people – even at young age – to coercive sterilization, hormonal therapies, surgeries, and psychiatric evaluations.
Forcible or involuntary treatments – considered "reparative" or capable of "converting" individuals – have been described as "abusive, harmful and unethical", with particularly damaging consequences for children and adolescents.
Treating LGBTQs as patients encourages violence and prejudice
Experts have also pointed out that stigmatizing medical classifications are associated with various forms of violence, including sexual violence – including the so-called "corrective rape" of lesbian, bisexual and transgender women, transphobic and homophobic violence, and bullying against the young.
High levels of violence would have significant impacts on the well-being of the LGBTQ population, leading not only to assaults and deaths, but also to episodes of suicide, depression and self-mutilation among the victims.
In addition, the pathologization of the LGBTQ public makes it difficult to overcome stereotypes and negative attitudes towards this population, while maintaining the barriers that still prevent them from having full access to their rights.
Although progress has been made – 26 years ago, the World Health Organization stopped treating homosexuality as a disease and removed it from its International Classification of Diseases – experts pointed out that pathological diagnostic categories continue to be applied by national medical associations.
Legal and policy reforms are needed to eliminate discriminatory laws and to protect LGBTQ people from violence. But these won’t be effective or sufficient on their own, as long as the outdated medical classifications persist.
Many LGBTQ people continue to face enormous daily challenges, sometimes living in fear, in isolation and out of reach of health services. Fear of abuse or discrimination by health professionals prevents people from having access to HIV testing and treatment services.
In addition, a large percentage of LGBTQ people face isolation and discrimination in their closest social environment, negatively affecting their mental health.
We need to expose prejudices and violence
A fundamental question: most people recognize that there is prejudice, but don’t consider themselves prejudiced.
Faced with a scenario of violence and restrictions of rights, experts point out that it’s necessary to give visibility to the most deeply rooted prejudices to deconstruct them, and thus advance in practices more plural and respectful of difference.
LBT women are at greater risk of violence
The association of prejudices results in serious violations of human rights committed on a large scale. Historically, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (OAS) has received information on the vulnerability of the LGBTQ population to acts of sexual or family violence and has found that throughout the Americas , LBT women are at particular risk of violence due to misogyny and gender inequality in society.
According to the OAS, lesbian or otherwise identified women are victims of "corrective rape" or rape to punish them, with the intention of "changing" their sexual orientation. From collective beatings because of public manifestation of affection to forced delivery of these women to centers that offer to "convert" their sexual orientation.
As other forms of sexual violence, in addition to this crime, that affects the physical and mental health of the victims, it also indirectly affects all LBT women by placing the fear of rape as a present element in their existence – which may limit their decisions and inhibit the free demonstration of affectivity in public places.
In addition to ensuring adequate reception of those who have been victims of sexual violence, efforts must be made to hold the rapist accountable so that he doesn’t make new victims.
Unfortunately, violence against women remains commonplace. There are several issues involved here: the cultural one, which still thinks it’s the woman's fault when violence happens; physical, because women are less strong than men; among others. These and other reasons make women perceived as easy prey for violence, and public safety is not in our favor. Therefore, self-defense seems to be a good option and many gyms already offer classes made specifically for women.
It’s worth remembering that there are some martial arts that are great for women's personal defense
Self-defense: what to look for in martial arts?
When choosing a martial art for a woman to defend herself, the person must consider the various aspects involved, both physical and psychological.
- Extra Skills
Self-defense asks more of you than simply knowing some techniques to take down your opponent. In an attack situation, you will need flexibility, agility, balance, and endurance to escape the situation.
- Female physique
Women generally have little muscle mass and their height is less than that of men. It’s here that choosing the right martial art makes a big difference: some martial arts are more geared towards attack than defense.
- Corporal conscience
Women often are not aware of their body as a weapon for defense. Throughout their lives they were not encouraged to play fighting or anything like that. Therefore, it’s essential that the martial art that she chooses to defend herself emphasizes this body awareness and discipline.
Below is an overview of some martial arts recommended for self-defense.
Muay Thai is a martial art of Thai origin, considered by many to be violent, as it involves all parts of the body and almost everything is allowed. As this martial art focuses on perfecting the punches, kicks, ribs, knees and elbows, it provides a great toning and muscular development and increase the flexibility and strength of the whole body. It also helps to lose weight, because the training is intense and demanding for the body.
In addition, due to the physical exertion required, Muay Thai training involves a great physical preparation, including physical conditioning exercises such as running, push-ups, sit-ups and stretching to increase elasticity.
Kickboxing is a type of fighting that mixes some martial arts techniques with boxing, involving all parts of the body. In this fight you learn punches, kicks, the use of knees and elbows, which provides a comprehensive view of the art of fighting.
This is a method of fighting that also requires a lot of physical exertion, spending an average of 600 calories in an hour of training. This activity provides fat loss, defines muscles and improves endurance and physical strength.
The Krav Maga is a technique that originated in Israel, and its main focus is to use one's own body for defense in any situation of danger. In this art the whole body is used, and techniques of personal defense are developed that allow to prevent the attacks of simple forms, using in an intelligent way the weight and force of the attacker.
This is a technique that develops the physical preparation, as well as the speed and balance, because the movements used are short, simple and fast. In addition, it stimulates concentration, as attacks always simulate danger and surprise, and can be prevented in different ways.
Aikido is an interesting art quickly recognized by its movements. It has a few blows, but it’s mainly based on the fact that when an attacker strikes, he leaves some part of his body vulnerable. The person who doesn’t attack remains defensively invulnerable. The Aikido practitioner does nothing to stop the attack, but uses the attacker's moment against it.
The most universal style on this list is a true hybrid, incorporating gripping elements, strong blows, fingers into the eyes, bottlenecks, bites, joint locking, as well as control of the defender's center of gravity versus that of the attacker.
If the attacker moves forward and grabs your shirt, don’t go backward, but forward: lower yourself, project your hip against the middle of his body, grab one of his shoulders with one hand and the other fasten his back, over his shoulder. A 45 kg woman can easily do this against a 110 kg man. And when he's on the ground, you can twist the attacker's arm.
For those who want to defend themselves and don’t have time to learn a fight, a good option are non-lethal weapons. Good alternatives are the shock absorber and pepper spray, which are easy to use and it’s possible to learn quickly how to use them to neutralize a effective way.
The need for direct combat or the act of avoiding violence by various personal mechanisms that are not external can also start from a disbelief on the institutional and judicial system. As well as a disbelief in the support movements, which at times seems very theoretical and impractical, for an effective defense against violence, as something necessary in the short term. So do what you can to protect yourself and the ones you love, don’t put up with verbal or physical violence and always say when someone does something like this to you. We’re in this together.