Feature Story

17 April 2009

‘Dying for Love’—Using Pop Culture to Prevent Violence Among Young Couples in Latin America and the Caribbean

MEXICO CITY — It’s a long way between the glamorous world of pop-stardom and the decidedly unglamorous world of violence against women. Or is it? Gabriela “Gaby” Villalba (24) and Barbara “Barbie” Sepulveda (20), the female half of the Chilean band Kudai, think maybe not.

The band, now based in Mexico City, is hugely popular among teenagers all over Latin America. Its members are determined to show that they are not about ‘fluff’. They want to use their music and videos to focus on issues such as alcoholism, discrimination, and most recently, violence among young couples.

“These are things that our friends and our fans care about. There is a lot of silence on these issues, and we want people to wake up to the fact that it is not OK to scream at your partner, or abuse them in any way—it’s not normal,” says Barbie.

But do teenagers really want to focus on such grim issues? “I don’t think we should underestimate our fans,” said Gaby. “It is important for victims of violence to know that they are not crazy, nor are they alone.”

Teaming up to create a powerful campaign

That is why the band has teamed up with UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, to help young people identify abuse in a relationship and to recognize that it is neither acceptable nor tolerable.

A new regional campaign spearheaded by Kudai and UNFPA is titled ‘Violence Kills Love. Stop It!’ The campaign aims to educate young people about gender-based violence and actually change the cultural norms that tolerate it. Kudai, in cooperation with UNFPA, is setting up a website where young people can obtain information about abuse and take tests which pinpoint telltale signs of an abusive relationship. Another element of the campaign is a series of 30 second TV spots in which band members ask questions to help identify abuse. In the spots, band members ask questions, such as: “Has your partner been jealous of your friends, colleagues or family members?” “Has your partner pressured you to go on a diet?” “Has s/he given you the ‘silent treatment’?”

The band’s newest single, “Dying for Love” (“Morir de amor” in Spanish) is about a relationship plagued by violence. The young musicians will use the song and its message to advocate for prevention of violence both directly with their audiences and during interviews with media while touring the region this year.

A commitment to social causes

The cooperation with UNFPA came about after Kudai’s manager Pablo Vega came in contact with UNFPA Representative in Guatemala, Nadine Gasman. “We [UNFPA and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights] invited Kudai to give a pro bono performance in Guatemala City to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Human Rights Declaration. We sat down and talked about UNFPA’s work, and agreed to start a campaign together,” said Gasman.

“We are not experts in these topics and therefore we need advice on how to go about it,” Vega explained, emphasizing that the band is determined to devote part of its work to social causes.

In Mexico, Kudai and UNFPA have joined forces with the Mexican Youth Institute, a government body that works to improve the situation of young people. The campaign includes awareness raising programmes in public schools in 10 Mexican states, and the establishment of a free hotline where young people can get more information about abusive relationships. They can also send and receive text messages and participate in a virtual forum on the same topic. In addition, there will be an information campaign on abuse in major media outlets.

Promoting zero-tolerance for all forms of violence against women

UNFPA works with adolescents and young people to promote better health, including providing access to sexual and reproductive health Information, education, services and supplies; as well as to uphold the rights of young people, especially girls and marginalized groups, to grow up healthy and safe and to receive a fair share of social investments.

The underlying reason for violence against women is often deep-rooted gender inequalities in societies. Different types of violence experienced by adolescent girls include dating and courtship violence, economically coerced sex, sexual abuse in the workplace, rape, sexual harassment and forced sex work.

In response to these problems, UNFPA advocates for legislative reform and enforcement of laws that protect women's rights and trains health professionals. The Fund promotes zero tolerance of all forms of violence against women.

 

-Trygve Olfarnes

Forms of Violence and Ways to Identify Abuse

Violence may have profound effects – direct and indirect – on a woman's reproductive health, including:

  • Unwanted pregnancies and restricted access to family planning information and contraceptive
  • Unsafe abortion or injuries sustained during a legal abortion after an unwanted pregnancy
  • Complications from frequent, high-risk pregnancies and lack of follow-up care
  • Sexually transmitted infections, including HIV
  • Persistent gynaecological problems
  • Psychological problems

12 keys to identifying abuse in a relationship:

  1. Has your partner been jealous of your friends, colleagues or family members?
  2. Has s/he insisted on knowing who you spent time with?
  3. Has s/he had fits of rage?
  4. Has s/he given you the “silent treatment”?
  5. Has s/he put pressure on you to go on a diet or to exercise?
  6. Has s/he threatened to commit suicide?
  7. Has s/he frightened you with his/her reactions?
  8. Has s/he physically attacked you: pushed, slapped, scratched or hit you?
  9. Has s/he looked at your belongings, your diary or your e-mail in order to find out “the truth”?
  10. Has s/he threatened to leave you?
  11. Has s/he touched you, kissed you or caressed you without your permission?
  12. Has s/he pressured you to have sex?