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Violence Against Women and Girls

Gender-Based Violence is an umbrella term used to describe any harmful act that is perpetrated against a person’s will and is based on socially ascribed (gender) differences between males and females. GBV is a gross violation of human rights and a significant public health issue. Acts of GBV violate a number of universal human rights protected by international law and many—but not all—forms of GBV are illegal and criminal acts under domestic law.

Around the world, GBV has a greater impact on women and girls than on men and boys. The term “gender-based violence,” often used interchangeably with the term “violence against women,” highlights the gender dimension of these types of acts; in other words, the relationship between females’ subordinate status in society and their increased vulnerability to violence.

The term gender-based violence is used to distinguish common violence from violence that targets individuals or groups of individuals on the basis of their gender. It includes acts that inflict physical, mental or sexual harm or suffering, threat of such acts, coercion and deprivations of liberty.

UN Definition of Gender-Based Violence (based on Articles 1 and 2 of the UN General Assembly Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993) and Recommendation 19, paragraph 6 of the 11th Session of the CEDAW Committee)

“… gender-based violence is violence that is directed against a person on the basis of gender or sex. It includes acts that inflict physical, mental or sexual harm or suffering, threats of such acts, coercion and other deprivations of liberty…. While women, men, boys and girls can be victims of gender-based violence, women and girls are the main victims.”

GBV shall be understood to encompass, but not be limited to the following:

  1. Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family, including battering, sexual exploitation, sexual abuse of children in the household, dowry-related violence, marital rape, female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, non-spousal violence and violence related to exploitation.
  2. Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring within the general community, including rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere, trafficking in women and forced prostitution.
  3. Physical, sexual and psychological violence perpetrated or condoned by the State and institutions, wherever it occurs.

Domestic violence is the physical, sexual, and/or psychological abuse to an individual perpetrated by a current or former intimate partner, adult household members or adult children and a parent. Abused persons and perpetrators could be of either sex.

Rape is non-consensual sexual intercourse that is committed by physical force, threat of injury, or other duress. Rape can occur when the offender and victim have a pre-existing relationship or even when the offender is the victim's spouse

Dowry related violence occurs when persistent demands for dowry against a woman or her kin lead to oppressive conduct by the spouse and/or in-laws toward the woman resulting in her harassment, death or act of suicide.

Child marriage is any form of marriage that takes place before a child is 18 years old. Most early marriages are arranged and based on the consent of parents.

Child Abuse the physical, psychological or sexual maltreatment of a child.

Sexual harassment is an unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature.

Trafficking of women and girls is the recruitment, transportation, harboring or receipt of people for the purposes of slavery, forced labor (including bonded labor or debt bondage) and servitude.

Harmful traditional practices refer to types of violence that have been committed against women in certain communities and societies for so long that these abuses are considered a part of accepted cultural practice

Female infanticide is the intentional killing of baby girls due to the preference for male babies and from the low value associated with the birth of females

Forced marriage is as any marriage conducted without the full consent of both parties and where duress is a factor. Early marriages often include some element of force

Marital rape is non-consensual sexual assault in which the perpetrator is the victim's spouse.

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is the physical, verbal, emotional, psychological and/or sexual abuse of a woman or girl by her partner or spouse. This type of GBV can involve the use of threatening or intimidating words and acts, hitting, use of a weapon, rape, imprisonment, financial control, cruelty towards her or other people and things she cares about and abusive and/or demeaning language.

An act of GBV is referred to as an incident. The person who experienced the violence is called a survivor. While some agencies use the term victim, the term survivor recognizes an individual’s agency and ability to cope with the traumatic events experienced. The term client identifies an individual by the services they receive instead of by the violence they have survived. The alleged attacker in an incident of GBV is referred to as the perpetrator.

Examples of non-GBV cases might include:

  • Child abuse (physical or psychological abuse that is not gender-based);
  • Family disputes, such as arguments over ration cards or non-food items;
  • Domestic arguments and problems (for example, polygamy-related problems, children with behavioral or developmental problems);
  • Husbands or boyfriends who are sexually dissatisfied with their partners;
  • Reproductive health problems, including impotency, infertility, STIs, or unwanted pregnancy.

Contributing factors

  • Collapse of traditional society and family and community support systems
  • Legal/justice system/laws silently condone violence against women and girls,
  • Insufficient knowledge of laws against GBV
  • Climate of lawlessness, human rights violation and impunity
  • Alcohol/drug abuse
  • Separation of families
  • Institutions like health facilities and police are under-staffed or non-existent
  • Vulnerable situations like during crises wherein displaced populations are dependent on aid and vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, temporary shelters may not be safe, may be over crowded, may be in isolated areas or could lack sufficient services and facilities


  • Health: injury, disability or death. Physical, psychological, symptoms of Sexually Transmitted Infections and reproductive health problem.
  • Emotional, Social and Psychological: Emotional damage including anger, fear, resentment and self hate. Feeling of shame, insecurity, loss of ability to function and carry out daily activities, depression and isolation. Mental illness and thoughts of hopelessness and suicide.
  • Legal/Justice system: lack of access to legal system due to lack of knowledge of existing laws. Victim reluctant to report due to heavy stigma attached to sexual abuse. Lack of sensitivity to the issues on the part of some judges and legal officers
  • Community and physical safety and security: Victims feel insecure, threatened, afraid, climate of fear and insecurity impacting women’s freedom and perception of personal safety. Lack of female participation in the public life, fear of traveling to the school or work, market etc..

Gender-based violence violates universal and fundamental human rights, such as:

  • The right to life
  • The right to personal security
  • The right to equal protection under the law
  • The right to freedom from torture and other cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment