The Political Economy of Violence Against Women


Gender based violence is a global phenomenon prevalent in all societies, the degree and form of violence may vary depending on the economic development and the extent of patriarchy in the society. Activists, academics, researches, feminists etc. have all tried to theorise the root causes of violence against women. However, as most of them tend to advance single-factor theories, these theories neither capture nor reflect the intricacies and chaos of reality.

Refreshingly, Jacqui True in her book ‘The Political Economy of Violence against Women’ uses a multidisciplinary approach to attempt to explain and offer possible solutions to the issue of violence against women. She uses the political economy framework and theorises violence against women as a multidimensional phenomenon, produced and reproduced in the interplay of political, social and economical factors.

The book’s central argument is that gendered inequalities caused by the structures and processes of the globalised political economy perpetuate violence against women. It is argued that while it may be men who perpetuate violence against women, it is the economic and social inequalities in terms of property ownership, income, employment etc. between women and men that leave women vulnerable to violence. Throughout the book the author uses case studies to illustrate and emphases the central arguments. For instance, in one of the chapters, she draws on evidences to argue that the increased access of women to gainful employment in South Asia facilitated by neoliberal policies, have resulted in increased incidences of acid attacks on these women.

The author concludes by submitting that the current practices, which focus on protecting women from violence by persecuting the perpetrators of violence are just a part of the solution to the issue. She also submits that for complete emancipation of women from violence, concerted efforts must be made to address the roots of the violence. According to True, women’s emancipation should be tied down to human rights and economic empowerment for both genders. She appeals to the nations to provide economic development that will enhance the livelihood of the people and to the international institutions for the creation of conditions that supports such development.

Personally, I like that the author does not focus on discrediting others’ work, but instead builds on the existing thesis which recognises violence against women as a continuum that exist from domestic to global spheres, and from war to peace times. The other positive about the book for me is its nuanced narrative; it presents the compulsive issue of violence against women to the reader without stereotyping all women as helpless victims or all men as perpetrators of violence against women. However, I did feel that the author does not engage sufficiently with how different cultures shape the agency, outlook and desire of women, which would in turn shape how the changing structures of global political economy affect them.

Reviewed by on July 12th, 2018