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Constance Newman, IntraHealth International’s senior team leader for gender equality and health, is helping to lead a new study on gender-based violence in Mongolia. The 15-month, $1.5 million research project is led by the Asia Foundation and the United Nations Population Fund.
Four teams led by the Asia Foundation are conducting this in-depth research study to find out just how prevalent gender-based violence is in Mongolia. They will work to identify its causes as well as the country’s existing policies and legal environment related to gender-based violence. The teams will also assess the services available for victims—a part of the project for which the Asia Foundation sought Newman’s expertise.
As part of her contract, Newman will design an assessment of the country’s services for victims of gender-based violence, particularly to determine quality, accessibility, and availability. “We’ll develop a map of the services available,” she says. “Where are they? Who’s offering them? And what kind of services are they?”
Mongolia has laws against intimate partner violence and services available for victims, but the health sector is not yet formally involved in responding to gender-based violence. The Mongolian Ministry of Health hopes to institute one-stop service centers—a multisector approach whereby victims can get services from social workers, police, judges, and health workers all in one place.
The study focuses on intimate partner violence, which may include battery as well as sexual, emotional, psychological, and economic violence. One in five women faces some sort of violence in her lifetime. Gender-based violence can lead not only to injury or death but to higher rates of physical and mental health problems, such as sexually transmitted infections, HIV infection, unintended pregnancies, abortions, depression, and anxiety disorders.
This new project will help to inform policy-makers in Mongolia and to shape the national response to gender-based violence. Newman and her colleagues will work hand in hand with local researchers to build their skills and enable them to continue future research on their own.
To really understand their client’s needs and provide high-quality care, health service providers must understand how violence affects patients’ lives.
“In the last ten years, there has been a lot of work done to make the health system responsive to gender-based violence, and to making health workers aware of it,” Newman says, especially in screening for HIV/AIDS.
But screening and services for gender-based violence must also be integrated into reproductive health and family planning. Health workers should understand, for instance, that clients who live with intimate partner violence can’t always control their sex lives, and that violence can make it difficult for clients to comply with contraceptive or medication schedules.
In fact, many women hide their contraceptive or medication use in hopes of avoiding a partner’s displeasure, a family’s anger, or the possibility of violence.
In the Human Rights Watch report “Hidden in the Mealie Meal,” one woman who takes antiretroviral therapy drugs for HIV said:
“I started [HIV] medication in 2006. [My husband] does not know. I take the medicine out of a bottle and put it in a plastic [bag] or in a paracetamol box… Sometimes I would miss a dose; he comes back at 18:00 hrs, drunk… He locks [me] in, he beats me up and locks me out of the house… I go to the neighbors, if they have mercy they will let [me] in, if not, [I] sleep under a tree until tomorrow. As a result of that I miss doses sometimes. I feel very bad. I don’t even feel like taking the medicine.” —Berta K., Lusaka, February 3, 2007
This is IntraHealth’s first work in Mongolia. Newman is scheduled to work with the Asia Foundation through December 2013. This project is funded by the United Nations Population Fund, the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, and the United Nations Development Programme.