Why does the beginning of the marriage matter? Women’s marital transitions, empowerment and abuse in Myanmar

By Stephanie Spaid MiedemaSan Shwe, and Aye Thiri Kyaw

Relationships are all about power.

Family sociologists find that broader social systems of gender inequality affect women’s power within marriage. That is, when women are not valued in society as equal to men, they are similarly not valued in marriage as equal to their husbands.* There are consequences to this inequality. When women hold relatively less power within their relationships, they are at higher risk of experiencing adversity, such as intimate partner violence. This effect is particularly pronounced in countries with high gender inequality. When we think about gender, power and violence, we tend to focus, not surprisingly, on relationships that already exist.  We measure indicators of women’s empowerment, such as decision-making or gendered attitudes, within existing marriages.

But relationships do not form out of thin air. Rather, we transaugust_miedema_myanmar-map_flatition into relationships.

When we marry, we shift from single individuals to a two-person unit within the social institution of marriage. So, what happens to power during that transition? What if the beginning of the relationship is a pivotal moment in which the distribution of power is coded onto the future marital relationship? How does this change our thinking around women’s empowerment in marriage and risk of experiencing partner violence?  The long-isolated country of Myanmar (formerly Burma), nestled between China, India and Thailand, served as a unique site to test these questions. Continue reading “Why does the beginning of the marriage matter? Women’s marital transitions, empowerment and abuse in Myanmar”

A Cornerstone for Equality: Focusing on Women’s Global Political Empowerment

By Amy Alexander, Catherine Bolzendahl, & Farida Jalalzai

Since the mid-1990s, nations’ adoption of some form of quotas for women’s representation in national parliaments has swept the globe; more than 100 countries have a constitutional, legislative or party policy commitment to this. This is a powerful sign of the dramatic change in global formal commitments to gains in women’s political empowerment. Yet, simultaneously, nowhere do women hold equal power to men in influencing and exercising political authority worldwide. This story of recent gains and resilient barriers plays out daily in our news, and for good reason. These are all threads of a compelling story of women’s global political empowerment, a story that nearly universally begins with profound discrimination against women. Thus the recent world transformation, at least in formal commitments to women’s global political empowerment, can no longer be ignored and at the same time demands deeper inquiry into its promise and limits.

The UN has declared women’s empowerment as the third of its Millennium Development Goals. Within this broad charter, political empowerment is one of a variety of areas, often less fully articulated and studied in comparison to economic indicators. Yet, gains in women’s political empowerment directly decrease the role of gender inequality as an obstacle to incorporation as social and economic equals, and open, rather than close, the political domain to all members of society. Continue reading “A Cornerstone for Equality: Focusing on Women’s Global Political Empowerment”

What’s Wrong with the CDC’s Public Health Model for Rape Prevention

By Jill Cermele & Martha McCaughey 

Rape pic_2.16.16

The 2014 White House Task Force on Sexual Assault on College Campuses has mandated that in order to continue to receive federal funding, colleges and universities must step up their game, including providing rape prevention education.  The 2014 “Not Alone” report outlines the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) public health model of sexual assault prevention, and reiterates the need for evidenced-based programming to combat rape and sexual assault.  The CDC’s public health model defines the terms and levels of prevention, and articulates what “counts” as primary prevention – namely, bystander intervention training and psychoeducation to shift rape-supportive attitudes.  As we describe in detail elsewhere (see McCaughey & Cermele, 2015), despite the overwhelming evidence that self-defense (training and enacting it) works both to stop rape and to shift rape-supportive attitudes, the CDC does not discuss or recommend self-defense training in its public health model. On the surface, the omission of self-defense training from the category of primary prevention is perplexing, considering the CDC’s own definition.  Primary prevention is defined as thwarting violence before it happens, while secondary prevention includes strategies and responses that immediately follow victimization, such as counseling or medical care, to address the short-term effects.  The CDC has consistently and openly argued that while teaching (often male) bystanders to intervene in and thwart sexual assault is an established primary prevention tactic, teaching women to intervene in and thwart sexual assault targeted against themselves is not. Continue reading “What’s Wrong with the CDC’s Public Health Model for Rape Prevention”