Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is a blanket term that refers to the epidemic of abuse faced by vulnerable people on the basis of gender inequality.
We are currently in the 16 Days of Activism against GBV campaign – time set aside by the United Nations to raise awareness about and take action towards discriminatory attitudes and laws.
GBV is an international issue, but has a large movement in our own country, where the realities around violence are seen all the time.
When GBV is spoken about in the context of our country, it is often referred to as the type of violence that women and children specifically suffer from.
People tend to leave out another group that majorly suffers from gender-specific violence: transgender people.
Gender-Based Violence was given that name because of the fact that this type of violence stems from a place of gender-based power inequalities. And that is directly applicable to transgender people.
What does it mean to be transgender?
Transgender is the term given to people whose gender (internal sense of identity) does not align with the sex they were assigned at birth (based on biology).
That means that although someone may “look like a woman” to you because of what you have learnt biologically, that is not necessarily what their gender identity is.
In a more personal sense, to be transgender differs based on person to person, as everyone’s identity means something different to them.
How are transgender people a part of GBV?
Transgender identities actively oppose gender roles. Being transgender, which in some places is still legally punishable by death, is a refusal of conforming to social norms.
This refusal exposes transgender people to stigma and harassment, which often ends up in sexual and physical violence. This violence increases their risk for HIV, mental health issues and poverty.
I’ve never heard or thought about this…
Part of the complex violence that transgender people face is the silence surrounding what they go through.
Transgender people often do not report the crimes they fall victim to, and when they do report them, they are further abused by people in power who ignore them or subject them to more criticism regarding their identity.
It is difficult to gather statistics about violence against transgender people because of how often the crimes go unreported.
Where can I learn more?
Opening up your conversations about GBV to include transgender people is important, but where can you get information to further these discussions?
Gender DynamiX is a South African NPO that offers information, resources, and training for both transgender people and allies wanting to learn and help. Visit their website here.
There are South African transgender activists and authors who have written books gracefully covering what you need to know. Here are some recommendations:
Transgender Refugees and the Imagined South Africa – B Camminga
Becoming Him: A Trans Memoir of Triumph – Landa Mabenge
- Always Anastacia: A Transgender Life in South Africa – Anastacia Tomson
- Robert: A Queer & Crooked Memoir for the not so Straight & Narrow – Robert Hamblin
Including transgender people in the conversations about GBV will help advance the movement as a whole, and contribute in the overall goal to protect all vulnerable groups.
Siv Greyson is “seriously begging” healthcare professionals to do better