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Inquiring gaps, discrepancies and contradictions in response to domestic gender-based violence. Gender relationships, practical norms and public services in Senegal.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - INRES (Inquiring gaps, discrepancies and contradictions in response to domestic gender-based violence. Gender relationships, practical norms and public services in Senegal.)

Reporting period: 2018-11-01 to 2020-10-31

Why, on the global scale, gender mainstreaming and public policies against gender-based violence are still weak and defective? Why, despite the several awareness-raising campaigns, the reporting rates of partner and domestic violence continue to be low ? Particularly for countries which are the target of development aid, these questions are generally addressed by demographic investigation and by an applied research funded by transnational stakeholders. Yet, these studies often propose traditionalist explanations of gender-based violence, using notions of culture and gender which are not adequate to reflect the reality of local social dynamics. Moreover, these kinds of inquiry privilege survey and quantitative data and do not elaborate in-depth understanding of the implementation gaps in the everyday life of public policies. Further, these approaches do not discuss that the institutions do not have the monopoly in responding to gender-based violence. Other unformalised patterns for giving repair for gender violence exist in the local settings and survivors do operate an evaluation on which kind of help seeking.
Under these presumptions, the INRES research project proposed to understand the socio-political stakes in responding gender-based violence through a grounded-based research able to account for the multiple ways through which domestic gender-based violence is tackled in the Senegalese urban life. INRES consisted in an anthropological ethnography drawn on an original articulation of theoretical questions pertaining to the anthropology of kinship, development and law, combined with the suggestions of gender studies.
In spite of taking for granted the institutional and transnational explication for gender-based violence, INRES wanted to identify and analyse the multiple situated definition of this phenomenon, by understanding the multiplicity of voices on this subject and their frictions in the interpretation of the violence. Accordingly to the anthropological literature on public policies, INRES intended to ethnographically understand the conditions of access to legal assistance and welfare support in cases of gender-based violence, by considering those practical norms that are deployed in divergence from official ones. Finally, INRES was aimed at understanding how, outside the institutions and within households, kinship webs and neighbourhoods, the situations of injustice and violence against women have been discussed and mastered by the past generations, and are discussed and mastered nowadays.
The research work performed under this MSCA-IF action consisted in a ten-months fieldwork in Senegal, an archive research and an online ethnography on the discourses and practices about domestic gender-based violence. The research participants have been Senegalese women and men, care professionals, members of NGOs, jurists, social activists and researchers.
Firstly, INRES grasped the multiple ways in which, in Senegal, domestic gender-based violence is thought and defined by local stakeholders, both by professionals within public services and by people who are their potential targets. This task led the researcher to interrogate upon which bases the interpretation diverge, considering their historicity. Secondly, INRES inquired which are the professional practices deployed within the public services that tackle cases of gender-based violence, particularly in the field of the law. Analysing the overall social life of the complaint of domestic and sexual violence, INRES studied: when and under which premises different forms of gender-based violence are considered as a law-breaking; how structural violence impacts the field of access to the trial; if and how professionals reproduce gender discrimination and social suffering in responding to this kind of violence. Thirdly, the project investigated the patterns and the practices for managing situations of domestic gender-based violence in the households and neighbourhoods, which do not imply the interpellation of police or do not pursue law enforcement. Accordingly, the overall social goal of INRES research project has been to understand which are the factors that prevent people from addressing the institutions when seeking repair in case of domestic gender-based violence, by avoiding culturalisation, ethnicisation and victimisation in the elaboration of the explanations.
So far, the main outputs of INRES have been the publication of two articles in peer-reviewed journal; the initial writing of a monographic book on the response to gender-based violence in Senegal and of an article on the political stakes of women’s silence; the presentation of INRES findings to six conferences; the elaboration of dissemination events and contents within and outside academia; one website and social network account.
INRES offers a pioneering contribution to the anthropology of public policies that had not previously engaged with family legal disputes and services tackling domestic gender-based violence in Senegal. The project broadened the comprehension of how the gaps and discrepancies occur in this field, by disclosing how social norms related to gender and generation, incorporated in kinship and alliance relationships, are enhanced and challenged in the public services' everyday life.
Moreover, INRES allowed to understand the reasons why people do not search, or even avoid, penal law in seeking redress for the violence. Thus, INRES advanced the interdisciplinary reflection on the field of access to legal justice and on the situatedness of the definition of justice and injustice in cases of gender violence. More generally, INRES elaborated an innovative understanding of how moral economies work, particularly in relation with gender inequality.
The project elaborated a novel research method that gained an empirical-grounded understanding of the multiple competing ways of designating domestic gender-based violence and of the situated thresholds of social (in)tolerability about domestic violence and rape in the local social arenas. By questioning the ‘developmentalist’ explanation that reads the lack of allegations as the sign of survivors’ submissiveness and backwardness, INRES contributed to the state of art which explores the nexus between silence, gender and agency.
Moreover, INRES findings constitute a unique advancement for the anthropological understanding of kinship, age inscriptions, social conflicts and gender relationships in Western Africa.
The fresh and rigorous study on the domestic gender-based violence in Senegal that has been carried out could be to the advantage of exploited policy makers, NGOs personnel, European Commission and other agencies.