A research study on violence against lesbian women, female sex workers, and disabled women in three countries in South Asia—Bangladesh, India, and Nepal. The study investigated the hypothesis that women who are outside the mainstream of the South Asian society suffer high rates of violence and are often unable to seek and receive protection from State agencies.
In the three countries, they investigated experiences of violence suffered by women who are marginalised on account of their sexuality (women who have sex with women), their occupation (women who sell sex), or their physical disability (sensory or locomotor disability). Violence was defined as suffering emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, as well as experiencing stigma and discrimination attributable to a woman’s marginalised status. In addition to measuring reports of violence, they also looked at women’s experiences in seeking redress and support, if and when they had suffered violence.
They found that:
“Sex-working women reported high levels of ongoing and past violence from a wide range of perpetrators—sexual partners, clients, pimps, employers, brothel managers, police, family members, and the wider community (neighbours and others). A large number of women reported violence as starting in childhood (particularly sexual violence perpetrated by male family members and neighbours). On occasion, these experiences of abuse acted as a ‘trigger’ for young girls to run away from home, which, in turn, increased their levels of vulnerability and risk of exploitation. Most of the women reported being denied health services at some point in the past. The children of most of these women had been expelled from school.”
They conclude that:
“The very networks and structures that are supposed to support women at all stages of their lives (family and community, social networks, and formal support networks provided by the State, such as education, health, or justice sectors) often fail those women who are most in need.
Addressing such all-pervasive levels of stigma, discrimination, and violence requires a fundamental shift in the ways societies view and address issues of social inclusion and exclusion. The policy interviews have highlighted that there is some risk that in addressing the needs of marginalised women, a “hierarchy of marginalisation” will develop, with some types of marginalisation (for example, disability) carrying greater political capital than others (for example, sex work or sexual orientation). A key recommendation arising from the overall study, and firmly rooted in the concepts of equity and equality, is that all women deserve the right to live a life free of violence and the right to seek redress and support when the need arises.”