Gender-based violence is an urgent global problem. None in Three exists to prevent gender-based violence in its many forms. Through our research we aim to educate and influence policy makers to help make one in three, none in three. This hub provides information about gender-based violence across the globe and steps taken to reduce it.
Gender-based violence against women, especially intimate partner violence, is one of the most widespread and costly, but least recognised human rights violations in the world (Arias & Corso, 2005; Heise, Ellsberg, & Gottmoeller, 2002). Violence against women can take many forms, including physical, sexual, and psychological/emotional violence. United Nations (UN) Women prepared an interactive infographic with facts that everyone should know about violence against women.
According to a WHO ten-country investigation, lifetime prevalence of physical or sexual partner violence oscillates between 15% and 71% suggesting considerable differences across regions.
Children exposed to domestic violence are 15 times more likely to suffer from physical abuse and neglect.
Nearly 750 million women and girls alive today were married before they reached 18 years of age.
Research evidence indicates that violence against women is a widespread problem, affecting all world regions. Women who have been physically or sexually abused are more likely to have an abortion, experience depression, and, in some regions, acquire HIV, than women without abuse experiences (Campbell, 2002; Glander, Moore, Michielutte, & Parsons, 1998).
Intimate partner violence is also detrimental to children. Youth living with domestic violence can develop emotional and behavioural problems (Holt, Buckley, & Whelan, 2008). Domestic violence and child abuse are likely to occur together, therefore programmes aimed at reducing the rates of intimate partner violence, can also help to prevent child abuse.
Health consequences of intimate partner violence is a review of research on the mental and physical health consequences of intimate partner violence (IPV), published in the Lancet. Evidence shows that abused women have increased health problems, including injury, chronic pain, gastrointestinal, sexually-transmitted diseases, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Prevalence of intimate partner violence: Findings from the WHO multi-country study on women’s health and domestic violence, published in the Lancet, presents the results of a standardised population-based household survey conducted in 10 countries (Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia, Japan, Namibia, Peru, Samoa, Serbia and Montenegro, Thailand, and the United Republic of Tanzania) among 24,097 women (age range: 15-49 years) on the topic of IPV. Findings suggest that lifetime prevalence of physical or sexual partner violence oscillates between 15% and 71%, indicating considerable differences across regions. Between 4% and 54% of respondents admitted to having experienced physical and/or sexual partner violence in the past year. Additionally, men who were more controlling were found to be more likely to use violence against their partners.
Global and regional estimates of violence against women: Prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence is a global systematic review and synthesis of existing evidence on the prevalence of IPV and non-partner sexual violence, developed by the World Health Organization (WHO), the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the South African Medical Research Council. Findings demonstrate that 35% of women experienced physical and/or sexual IPV or non-partner sexual violence. Globally, 7% of women were sexually assaulted by someone other than a partner and those women were significantly more likely to develop alcohol use disorders, as well as experience depression and anxiety, compared with women who did not experience such violence. The report indicates that 38% of all murders of women are committed by an intimate partner.
Violence against women: an EU-wide survey is a report prepared by the European Union (EU) Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA). For the purpose of the study, 42,000 women across 28 EU member states aged between 18-74 years were randomly selected and interviewed about their experiences of physical, sexual, and psychological violence, including IPV. Results indicated that 33% of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15, whereas 22% of respondents experienced these types of violence at the hands of their partners. Experiences of psychological violence were reported by 43% of women. Additionally, 33% of women reported childhood experiences of physical or sexual violence by an adult. The survey reveals how prevalent violence against women is across Europe.
Global status report on violence prevention was jointly prepared by the WHO, the United Nations Development Programme, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. It contains data from 133 countries on national efforts to address different forms of violence, including intimate partner and sexual violence. The report calls for stronger legislation and enforcement of laws for violence prevention, better services for victims of violence, and a scaling up of violence prevention programmes.
Risk factors for men’s lifetime perpetration of physical violence against intimate partners is a multi-country (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Chile, Croatia, Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Mexico, and Rwanda) study examining the prevalence and risk factors for men’s lifetime physical IPV perpetration. Data were collected among 7,806 men (age range: 18-59 years) as part of the International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES). Self-reported lifetime physical IPV perpetration was found to oscillate between 17% (Mexico) and 45% (Democratic Republic of Congo). Across the sample, 31% of men admitted to having engaged in physical IPV perpetration. The strongest risk factor for this form of violence was witnessing parental violence, providing empirical evidence for the inter-generational transmission of violence. Other risk factors for engaging in physical violence in an intimate relationship were being involved in fights (not specifically with an intimate partner), violence against women accepting attitudes, inequitable gender attitudes, and older age.
International documents addressing gender based violence (GBV)
In recognising that GBV is rampant across world regions and that such violence constitutes women’s rights violation, important international organisations, including the United Nations (UN) and various non-governmental organisations (NGOs), have developed strategies to end violence against women. Appropriate international laws are a crucial component in safeguarding women’s rights within the global community. Although international treaties face enforcement problems, they often provide a basis and serve as reference points for designing appropriate national laws aimed at addressing violence against women (see Ulrich, 2000).
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948. The document consists of a preamble and 30 articles which set out fundamental human rights to be universally protected. The Declaration has been translated into over 500 languages. Although not specifically devoted to women’s rights, the document reaffirms the equal rights of men and women. It specifically guarantees equal rights to marriage, during marriage, and at dissolution of marriage to men and women (article 16). In 2006, the UN established the Human Rights Council (UNHRC), which is an inter-governmental body whose purpose is to promote and protect human rights, as well as review human rights violations. The UNHRC replaced the 60-year old UN Commission on Human Rights (established in 1946). Although the UNHRC has no executive powers, it can make recommendations for action and use its persuasive power to address human rights violations.
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) was adopted on 18 September 1979 by the UN General Assembly. The document, consisting of a preamble and 30 articles, is often depicted as an international bill of rights for women. CEDAW defines discrimination against women as “any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field”. The Convention provides an agenda for national action to eliminate such discrimination. In 1992, CEDAW made a recommendation regarding GBV, defined as “violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately. It includes acts that inflict physical, mental or sexual harm or suffering, threats of such acts, coercion and other deprivations of liberty” (General Recommendation Number 19). By ratifying the treaty, countries commit themselves to undertake specific measures (primarily legislation) to ensure gender equality across life domains, including the legal, political, economic, social, cultural, and civil spheres. The Convention recognises culture and tradition as crucial factors shaping gender roles and relations between family members. Of the 193 UN member nations, nearly all countries have ratified the treaty. The United States and Palau have signed but not ratified the treaty. Tonga, Iran, Somalia, and Sudan are not signatories to CEDAW.
The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (DEVAW) was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 20 December 1993. The document, consisting of a preamble and six articles, affirms that “violence against women constitutes a violation of the rights and fundamental freedoms of women and impairs or nullifies their enjoyment of those rights and freedoms, and concerned about the long-standing failure to protect and promote those rights and freedoms in the case of violence against women”. It covers physical, sexual, and psychological violence perpetrated by the state, within the general community, and in the family. The document also declares that “states should condemn violence against women and should not invoke any custom, tradition or religious consideration to avoid their obligations with respect to its elimination. States should pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating violence against women”. The statement is followed with recommendations on how to end such violence, including the development of appropriate domestic legislation to punish and redress the harms caused to women who experienced violence, as well as national action plans to promote the protection of women. The DEVAW is an important advancement in highlighting violence against women as a human rights issue.
Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was adopted at the UN Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing, 4-15 September 1995. The UN Conferences on Women bring into focus new issues affecting women and support international treaties aimed at protecting women. One of the main points on the fourth conference agenda was to continue pressing for the elimination of discrimination against women (Ulrich, 2000). The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life”. The document defines 12 areas of concern for women, along with strategic recommendations for governments and NGOs aimed at improving the situation of women worldwide. It was also recognised that violence against women hinders the achievement of gender equality.
Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention) is a Council of Europe convention against violence against women, opened for signatures on 11 May 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey. Within the declaration, violence against women is understood as “a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination against women and shall mean all acts of gender-based violence that result in, or are likely to result in, physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life” (article 3a). Domestic violence refers to “all acts of physical, sexual, psychological or economic violence that occur within the family or domestic unit or between former or current spouses or partners, whether or not the perpetrator shares or has shared the same residence with the victim” (article 3b), whereas GBV is defined as “violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately” (article 3d). The document is composed of a preamble and 12 chapters (consisting of 81 articles). The convention condemns all forms of violence against women and domestic violence and recognises that the realisation of gender equality is crucial for eliminating such violence. To date, it has been signed by 46 countries and the European Union (EU) and ratified by 32 countries.
For a snapshot of past and current policy and statistics relating to the topic in each of our study countries please click on the links below.
Arias, I., & Corso, P. (2005). Average cost per person victimized by an intimate partner of the opposite gender: A comparison of men and women. Violence and Victims, 20(4), 379-391. https://doi.org/10.1891/0886-6708.20.4.379
Campbell, J. C. (2002). Health consequences of intimate partner violence. The Lancet, 359(9314), 1331-1336. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(02)08336-8
Garcia-Moreno, C., Jansen, H. A. F. M., Ellsberg, M., Heise, L., & Watts, C. H. (2006). Prevalence of intimate partner violence: Findings from the WHO multi-country study on women’s health and domestic violence. The Lancet, 368(9543), 1260-1269. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(06)69523-8
Glander, S., Moore, M., Michielutte, R., & Parsons, L. (1998). The prevalence of domestic violence among women seeking abortion. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 91(6), 1002-1006. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0029-7844(98)00089-1
Heise, L., Ellsberg, M., & Gottmoeller, M. (2002). A global overview of gender-based violence. International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, 78(1), S5-S14. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0020-7292(02)00038-3
Holt, S., Buckley, H., & Whelan, S. (2008). The impact of exposure to domestic violence on children and young people: A review of the literature. Child Abuse & Neglect, 32(8), 797-810. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2008.02.004
Ulrich, J. L. (2000). Confronting gender-based violence with international instruments: Is a solution to the pandemic within reach? Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies, 7(2), 629-654. https://www.jstor.org/stable/20644746