Think you know your facts on violence against women?


16 Days of Activism to end violence against women and girls


Every woman and girl has the right to live her life without violence

  • The issue of gender-based violence (GBV) is at the heart of human rights.
  • GBV is never justifiable. Even a so-called ‘crime of passion’ is still a crime, and may well have cost a life.


The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development restated the entitlement of every individual everywhere to the fundamental freedoms and opportunities enshrined in human rights.

  • This is true for all peoples, no matter what their gender, age, race, religion, ethnicity or caste, and irrespective of their income level, sexual orientation, HIV status, citizenship, place of residence (city, slum, rural area, refugee camp) or any other characteristic of a person’s identity or context.
  •  The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a promise to humanity; a commitment to improve the lives of all and address pervasive inequalities so that no one is left behind.
  • Goal 5 of the SDGs is to achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls is and a central focus for the achievement of all the other goals


VAW reflects a lack of equality between women and men, and helps to perpetuate norms of power imbalance

  • Global data shows that one in three women has experienced physical and/or sexual violence at some point in her lifetime, with this figure being as high as 7 in 10 in some countries.
  • Everyday violence in multiple forms is stunting or halting the lives of hundreds of millions of women and girls around the world; it is present in every country and in every society. In some societies, it has become so normalized that it is not commented upon.
  • Lack of equality and imbalances in power, agency and voice are responsible for women and girls living in deeper poverty and on average doing less well than men across labour, health, education and political participation outcomes. It damages mental and physical health, hinders social functioning and affects a woman’s overall well-being. 


Violence comes in an increasing number of forms

  • The magnitude of sexual harassment demonstrates the culture of discrimination against women and girls that permeates societies everywhere.
  • Gender inequality and discrimination are at the core of all forms of physical and sexual violence and harmful practices, violating the fundamental human rights of women and girls. 
  • Women and girls face violence in their homes and communities, often at the hands of loved ones, people they know and authority figures, as well as by strangers, institutions and the state.
  • Cyberbullying and abuse exerted through constantly expanding and poorly regulated technologies complicate contexts and provide new challenges to prevent and respond to VAW (e.g. through gaming, social media, mobile phones, the internet).
  • Public forms of violence join private settings as threats, with widespread sexual violence in cities and workspaces, and by non-state actors, such as extremist groups joining repressive state regimes that curtail women’s rights and life opportunities.


Who is most at risk of being left behind?

  • Adolescents and older ages may be overlooked in statistics and in planning when data is gathered only from women of reproductive age. 
  • Migrants and refugees/IDPs may lack formal recognition by the State, lose rights and become less visible.
  • Indigenous women and those from ethnic or racial minorities often face the highest levels of discrimination.
  • Women and girls living with disabilities, those living in rural areas, among others similarly face overlapping inequalities and situations of multiple disadvantage.
    • An adolescent married before the age of 18 who has not completed secondary school is more likely to have unwanted pregnancies (lacking the power to negotiate sex); to have fewer opportunities for paid work; and to be at greater risk of domestic violence. She is less likely to have options to leave the abuser, and to access support services, as they may not recognize her as a child, nor serve her as an adult. 
  • Countries that tolerate violence get left behind.
    • The costs related to earnings losses for women married as children are high. The gains in earnings and productivity that would have been observed if women had not married early for a World Bank/ICRW study set of 15 countries are estimated at $26 billion in 2015.

Global and national crises increase vulnerability: those most affected are the least equal and empowered

  • Natural disasters, persistent conflicts, foreign occupation, violent extremism and terrorism, displaced populations, the global financial and economic crises, volatile food and energy prices, food insecurity, and hardships arising from climate change and the destruction/degradation of natural resources have intensified inequalities and vulnerability.
  • State responses and support systems may be non-existent, inadequate or non-accessible, for example disrupted by crises.
  • Those who are already invisible or unregistered are easier to leave behind.


Identifying the most marginalized girls and women is fundamental to comprehensive planning and implementation of approaches

  •  We do not yet have data that provide a comprehensive picture of the extent, nature and consequences of violence committed in private and public spaces against women - including and especially those most marginalized.
    • For example, VAWG in refugee camps. UNFPA  in 2017 observed that more than half of the GBV incidents reported by Rohingya refugees from Myanmar into Bangladesh are sexual assault -  an ‘exceptionally high proportion’, however many cases go unreported by victims because of “safety, confidentiality, shame and stigma”.
  • Quantitative and qualitative research and data collection and analysis must be improved so that laws, policies and interventions reach those furthest behind.


At the heart of leaving no one behind, is leaving no one out.  

  • Women and girls must be central to the development process, especially those who have been previously dismissed, sidelined or excluded.  Their experiences, knowledge, recommendations and agency are essential for balanced and sustainable solutions. 
  • As a global community, we must focus on changing institutions and social norms to end discrimination and restore human rights and dignity.


VAW is not inevitable.

  • There are many avenues to both prevent violence from occurring in the first place and to complement the actions of the response system to avert repeated cycles of violence.
  • Prevention must begin early.  The education system and teachers have a huge responsibility in what children and young people learn, so that they carry forward the principles of equality, respect and non-violence for future generations.
    • In India: Girls and boys 12-14 who participated in the Gender Equity Movement in Schools (GEMS) school-based curriculum and campaign activities were more likely to develop gender-equitable attitudes toward gender roles and norms and to challenge the use of violence. ICRW
  • Everyone has a critical role to play and must participate to create change. We must speak out against harassment and violence in our workplaces, in our institutions, in our social arenas and through our media, popular culture and mass communication channels.


Men play a central role in bringing change

  • Sexism, male dominance and male privilege lay the foundation for all forms of violence against women.
  • Challenging this as society’s norm starts with modeling positive masculinities; instilling principles of equality, rights and respect in the upbringing of sons; and men holding their peers accountable to non-discrimination, non-violence and the reversal of toxic masculinities.
    • In Uganda: IPV was reduced by 52 per cent through a community mobilization programme that engaged women and men, religious and community leaders, to change related social norms (Sasa! 2014).


For zero per cent tolerance, we must take 100 per cent responsibility

  • Those in power have to exercise their full power to end power inequality and impunity. Perpetrators must be held accountable for the violence that they commit.
  • The voices of those left behind have to be brought to the forefront and the gender gaps closed.
  • Discriminatory laws against women in general and those that affect marginalized groups must be eradicated.
  •  Legislation to protect girls and women from child marriage, FGM, domestic violence, sexual assault and harassment must be enacted and implemented, and  its impact properly monitored and evaluated.
  • The provision of essential services for survivors must be comprehensive, multi-sectoral, of good quality and accessible to all. 
  • Regardless of the point of entry, women and girls should receive the same standard of delivery from all services – health, police and justice and social services.
  • Sectors should work together in a coordinated way, and should be tailored to the needs of individuals. During reporting, response and recovery, factors such as survivors’ language, location, culture and age should be considered, in order to reduce the burden and impact on women and girls.
  • We have to adopt a ‘whole of society’ approach to ending GBV.
  • UN Women, as the leader on this issue within the UN family, is well prepared to support the world in ending this scourge.


CSOs and women’s organizations support lasting and effective policy development to end violence against women and girls             

  • Studies repeatedly affirm that civil society actors and women’s rights groups are one of the most effective means of ensuring sustainable change in the lives of women and girls, building strong social movements and advocating for both prevention of violence and response to it.
  • Civil society is the main repository of knowledge on the levers of changes in their own countries and play a crucial role in consolidation of best practices and amplification of the social justice movement.