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Defining Violence against Women and Girls

Violence against women and girls is one of the most systematic and widespread human rights violations. It is rooted in gendered social structures rather than individual and random acts; it cuts across age, socio-economic, educational and geographic boundaries; affects all societies; and is a major obstacle to ending gender inequality and discrimination globally. (UN General Assembly, 2006)

The United Nations 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 in private life” (General Assembly Resolution 48/104 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, 1993).

The terms ‘gender-based violence’ and ‘violence against women’ are frequently used interchangeably in literature and by advocates, however, the term gender-based violence refers to violence directed against a person because of his of her gender and expectations of his or her role in a society or culture.  Gender-based violence 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. It is important to note, however, that men and boys may also be victims of gender-based violence, especially sexual violence.

Given the disproportionate numbers of women and girls that experience violence, the focus of this site is on women and girls, and therefore the term violence against women will be used throughout this site.

In conflict/post-conflict and emergency settings, the term sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is commonly used. Sexual violence in these settings is also largely perpetrated against women and girls.

Throughout the site, unless specified differently, the term “women” refers to females of all ages, including girls. (UN General Assembly, 2006)