What is Violence Against Women (V.A.W.)?

Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread violations of human rights. It can include physical, sexual, psychological and economic abuse, and it cuts across boundaries of age, race, culture, wealth and geography. It takes place in the home, on the streets, in schools, the workplace, in farm fields, refugee camps, during conflicts and crises. It has many manifestations — from the most universally prevalent forms of domestic and sexual violence, to harmful practices, abuse during pregnancy, so-called honour killings and other types of femicide.

  • 35 percent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime.

  • Globally, 47 percent of murders of women are committed by an intimate partner or family member, compared to less than 6 percent of murders of men.

  • Women represent 55 percent of victims of forced labor, 98 percent of the victims of sexual exploitation.

  • Globally, an estimated 200 million women and girls have undergone FGM in 30 countries and 700 million were married as children (250 million before the age of 15).

"Violence against women stands in direct contradiction to the promise of the United Nations Charter to “promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom." The consequences go beyond the visible and immediate. Death, injury, medical costs, and lost employment are but the tip of an iceberg. The impact on women and girls, their families, their communities, and their societies in terms of shattered lives and livelihoods is beyond calculation. Far too often, crimes go unpunished, and perpetrators walk free. No country, no culture, no woman, young or old, is immune."

(UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on International Women's Day 2009.

Gender-Based Violence

Gender-based violence is a phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality, and continues to be one of the most notable human rights violations within all societies. Gender-based violence is violence directed against a person because of their gender. Both women and men experience gender-based violence but the majority of victims are women and girls.

Gender-based violence and violence against women are terms that are often used interchangeably as it has been widely acknowledged that most gender-based violence is inflicted on women and girls, by men. However, using the ‘gender-based’ aspect is important as it highlights the fact that many forms of violence against women are rooted in power inequalities between women and men. The terms are used interchangeably throughout EIGE’s work,  reflecting the disproportionate number of these particular crimes against women.

Psychological and emotional abuse involves trauma to the victim caused by acts, threats of acts, or coercive tactics.

Domestic violence is behavior used by one person to control the other. This includes emotional, physical, sexual, and financial abuse. Victims and perpetrators may be married or not married; heterosexual, gay, or lesbian; related, not related, living together, separated, or dating. Some examples of domestic violence include: physical assault or the threat of physical assault, name-calling, forced social isolation, withholding money or jobs, stalking, and name-calling, among others.

Rape is the crime of forcing somebody into sexual activity against his or her will through use of physical force, threat of injury, or other duress.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is the name for procedures that intentionally alter, cut, or injury female genital organs for non-medical reasons. The practice has no health benefits. FGM is practiced in many places as a coming-of-age-tradition and is usually performed on girls between infancy and 14 years old.

Early marriage is the marriage of children under the age of 18, while forced marriage occurs when one or both of the parties do not willingly enter into the marital relationship. Both are forms of violence against girls.

Rape and abuse that occurs within marriage often goes unreported and sometimes isn’t recognized by the victim as abuse. In many places around the world, it is assumed by women that enduring sexual abuse within marriage is a spousal obligation and a part of “normal” life. Marriage is often used by perpetrators to legitimize abuse often creates confusion for the victim around issues love, responsibility, and matrimony but is none-the-less a crime.

Son preference is the strong partiality to boys over girls by parents. Son preference often results in the neglect of daughters’ basic needs such as health care, sufficient nutrition, and education. Son preference can lead parents to abort female fetuses or commit female infanticide.

An honor killing is the murder of a family or clan member justified by a failure to comply with the expectations of the culture, religion, or tradition. In many cases, the victim is a woman who has been raped, engaged in premarital sex, sought a divorce, or refused to marry the man chosen for her, all of which might bring perceived dishonor to their family. Although accusations may not be based on strict, tangible evidence, they often result in violent retaliation and death.

Sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual attention or advancement that may affect one’s ability to function in every day life. Qualifying behavior can be as subtle as an implied comment, but is still considered gender discrimination and often leads to more serious criminal offenses. Situations can vary from involving implied to direct behavior, from targeting one to a group of individuals, or from involving a pattern of behavior to a single incident.

Human trafficking is the use of fraud, force, or coercion to exploit a person for profit.

Violence against women in armed conflict is the intentional abuse of women in order to achieve military objectives. These may include breaking the resistance of a community or spreading political terror.

Violence against women in armed conflict is the intentional abuse of women in order to achieve military objectives. These may include breaking the resistance of a community or spreading political terror.

Online violence

These are just a few examples of the many forms of online harassment that women face everywhere around the world. Women are regularly subject to online rape threats, online harassment, cyberstalking, blackmail, and more.

As the internet becomes an increasingly important part of human existence and a critical space for marginalized populations to make their voices heard, a woman’s inability to feel safe online is an impediment to her freedom, as well as to her basic human rights. Yet the problem of online violence and harassment is often overlooked in discussions of violence against women.

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