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Gender Violence

Gender violence is a problem of significant proportions that affects all societies to a greater or
lesser extent. Yet, most people are unaware of the magnitude, causes, and consequences of
gender violence. This chapter will present some of the issues associated with gender violence and
propose legislation directed towards its prevention and eradication.

The chapter is divided into two parts.

Part I consists of three sections. The first section, Conceptual Framework and Data, defines and
conceptually analyses gender violence; it also includes statistical data that complement and
illustrate the dimensions of the problem. Section Two, Existing Legislation, offers a critical
outline of existing international, regional, and national gender violence laws, to facilitate the
complex task of legislation. The third section, Recommendations and Conclusions, defines the
considerations and obligations of legislating to eradicate gender violence.

Part II, Legislative Proposal, offers concrete legislative models designed to prosecute and
prevent gender violence.



Violence against women is defined in Article 1 of the Declaration on the Elimination of All
Forms of 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.

At first glance, this definition seems deceptively clear. However, further examination reveals
several nuances and raises fundamental questions. For example, what is violence? Is gender
violence a sexual act or may it be a manifestation of a power imbalance? What is a power
imbalance? Does gender violence occur only in the context of formally defined hierarchical
relations or can it also occur within relations of an apparently equal stature? What are the causes
of gender violence and who are its primary victims?

A group of experts convened by the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women in
1994 attempted to answer some of these questions. First, they described violence:

Violence is the use of coercive forms of power: the use of force or the threat of its use to compel
someone to do something that the person might not otherwise do. It is part of a continuum
ranging from legitimate power (a person does something because it is right to do so) through
utilitarian power (a person does something because of a reward for so doing) to coercive power.

They also recognised that gender violence relates more to issues of power than sexuality:

It has been known for some time that rape or sexual assault is not related to sexuality; it is
related to dominance and an apparent need to humiliate the person being attacked. Similarly,
battering as part of domestic violence is also at its heart an effort to assert dominance or to
reassert a self-image based on dominance.

Reliable data on gender violence are scarce. As a phenomenon largely restricted to the private
sphere, reporting gender violence has historically been a taboo issue. As a result of growing
gender awareness, more people --particularly women-- have become increasingly willing to
recognise and report gender violence. As more statistics on gender violence become available, an
increasingly negative picture emerges attesting to the prevalence and intensity of the problem.

Existing data indicate that an overwhelming number of women are victims of gender violence.
For many, gender violence begins in childhood and continues throughout their lifetimes. Table
4.1 illustrates the various forms that violence may take throughout the life cycle of a woman.

Table 4.1

Gender violence throughout the life cycle

Phase Type of Violence

Sex selective abortion; battering during pregnancy (emotional and

Pre-Birth physical effects on the woman; effects on birth outcome); coerced
pregnancy; mass rape in war

Female infanticide; emotional and physical abuse; differential access

Infancy to food and medical care

Girlhood Child marriage; genital mutilation; sexual abuse by strangers and


family members; differential access to food and medical care; child


Adolescence Dating and courtship violence; economically coerced sex; sexual

abuse in the workplace; rape; sexual harassment; forced prostitution;
trafficking in women

Reproductive Age Abuse of women by intimate male partners; marital rape; dowry abuse
and murders; partner homicide; psychological abuse; sexual abuse in
the workplace; sexual harassment; rape; abuse of women with


Abuse of widows; elder abuse affects mostly women

Source: Lori L. Heise with Jacqueline Pitanguy and Adrienne Germain, Violence Against

The Hidden Health Burden, World Bank Discussion Papers #255, Washington DC, 1994, p. 5.

Sexual abuse in childhood or adolescence is reported, for instance, by one-third of women in

Barbados, Canada, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and the United States. In addition, as
table 4.2 indicates, one to two-thirds of victims of sexual abuse in Panama, Mexico, Chile and
the United States of America were under 15 years of age, while between 18-32% were under the
age of 10.

Table 4.2

Ages of victims of sexual crimes in selected countries

Location Percentage of Percentage of Percentage of

Perpetrators victims age 15 victims age 10

known to and under and under


Chile (Santiago) 72 58 32

Malaysia 68 58 18

Mexico (Mexico City) 67 36 23

Panama (Panama City) 63 40 --

Papua New Guinea -- 47 13

Peru (Lima) 60 -- 18

United States of 78 62 29

Source: Lori L. Heise with Jacqueline Pitanguy and Adrienne Germain, Violence Against
The Hidden Health Burden, World Bank Discussion Papers #255, Washington DC, 1994, p.11.
US data cover only completed rapes, while other data include rape and sexual assault (attempted
rape and molestation).

As regards adults, studies in Chile, Mexico, Papua New Guinea and the Republic of Korea
indicate that two-thirds or more of married women have experienced domestic violence. In the
Caribbean 30% of women surveyed say they have been battered. Reports from Canada, New
Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States suggest that about one in six women is raped
in her lifetime. The statistics on violence are clearly alarming; moreover, table 4.2 revealed that
contrary to common belief, most violence against women is not committed by strangers. table
4.3 eloquently illustrates the persuasiveness of violence against women committed by their own

Table 4.3

Percentage of adult women who have been physically assaulted by an intimate partner



Antigua 30

Barbados 30

Chile (Santiago) 26

Colombia 54

Costa Rica 20

Ecuador (Quito) 60

Guatemala (Sacatepequez) 36

Mexico (Mexico City) 34

Jalisco (urban) 57

Jalisco (rural) 44

Panama (Panama City) 63

Peru (Lima) 60

Surinam (Paramaribo) 35

United States of America 63

Source: United Nations (1995), The World's Women 1995: Trends and Statistics. New York:
United Nations Publications.

Chart 6.13, p. 160.

More than half of all murders of women in Bangladesh, Brazil, Kenya, Papua New Guinea and
Thailand are committed by present or former partners. Cross-national evidence from Africa,
South America, the Melanesian Islands and the United States reveals that marital violence is a
leading cause of female suicide. Data from Latin America and the Caribbean, as illustrated in

table 4.4, confirm that as many as six out of ten women have suffered physical or psychological
abuse by their intimate partner.

Table 4.4

Prevalence of wife abuse in selected countries

Country and Sample Size Sample Type Findings Comments


Antigua (1993) 97 women; Random subset 30% battered as 50% of women and men
20-45 yrs of national adults report that their mothers
probability were beaten

Barbados 264 Islandwide 30% battered as 50% of women and men

(1993) women, national adults report that their mothers
243 men; probability were beaten
20-45 yrs sample

Chile (1993) 1000 Stratified random 60% abused by 70% of those abused were
women; sample male intimate; abused more than once a
22-55 yrs 26% severely year
physically abused

Colombia 3272 National random 20% physically Part of Colombia's

(1990) women sample abused; 33% Demographic and Health
(urban); psychologically Survey
2118 abused; 10%
women raped by husband

Costa Rica 1388 Convenience 54% physically Study sponsored by

women sample of women abused UNICEF/PAHO
attending child
welfare clinic

Ecuador 200 women Convenience 60% beaten by a 37% of those beaten were

(1992) (low- sample in a partner assaulted at least once a

income) neighbourhood in month

Guatemala 1000 Random sample 49% abused; 47% Study sponsored by

(1990) women in Sacatepequez by an intimate UNICEF/PAHO; included
male partner physical, emotional and
sexual abuse in adulthood

Mexico (1992) 342 Random sample 33% had lived in Of abused women, 66%
women; in semi-urban a violent reported physical abuse,
15+ yrs neighbourhood in relationship; 6% 76% psychological abuse
(low- Mexico City. raped by husband and 21% sexual abuse

Source: Lori L. Heise with Jacqueline Pitanguy and Adrienne Germain, Violence Against
The Hidden Health Burden, World Bank Discussion Papers #255, Washington DC, 1994, pp. 6-8.

Because research on gender violence in Latin America and the Caribbean is just beginning, the
full extent of the problem remains unknown, and existing statistics should be considered as
conservative estimates at best. As gender violence emerges as a critical issue throughout the
region, it is imperative that more comprehensive data be gathered. Information is fundamental
for deepening the understanding and assessing the scope of gender violence, and for devising

The principal characteristic of gender violence is that it occurs against women precisely because
of their womanhood. Gender-based violence involves power imbalances where, most often, men
are the perpetrators and women the victims. In addition, it is recognised that the power relations
between men and women that produce gender violence also reproduce gender violence.

While women are usually the immediate victims of gender violence, the consequences of gender
violence extend beyond the victim to the society as a whole. Gender violence threatens family
structures; children suffer emotional damage when they watch their mothers and sisters being
battered; two-parent homes may break up, leaving the new female heads of household to struggle
against increased poverty and negative social repercussions. Psychological scars often impede

the establishment of healthy and rewarding relationships in the future. Victims of gender
violence may vent their frustrations on their children and others, thereby transmitting and
intensifying the negative experiences of those around them. Children, on the other hand, may
come in the future to accept violence as an alternative means of conflict resolution and
communication. It is in these ways that violence is reproduced and perpetuated.

Gender violence is not exclusively a woman's concern. It is both a cause and consequence of
gender perceptions. Gender violence affects men’s perceptions of women, women's perceptions
of men, and men's and women's perceptions of themselves. In affecting the emotional and
economic development of the family, gender violence may ultimately influence the development
of nations and regions. Because gender violence impacts on all of society, it behoves society to
seek solutions. To the extent that it is the State's recognised role to sanction certain norms that
protect individual life and dignity and maintain collective peace. It is the State's obligation to
develop and implement measures that redress gender violence. One such measure would include
passage and enforcement of appropriate legislation.




As manifested by United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolutions on the subject, gender
violence has become a matter of international concern. In 1992, the Committee on CEDAW (the
Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women) issued General
Recommendation 19 which examined the subject of violence. In December of that year, the
UNGA passed Resolution 47/95 requesting the Committee on the Status of Women to draft the
Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women. That Declaration was adopted by the
UNGA in Resolution 48/104 in 1993. In March 1994, the Commission on Human Rights passed
resolution 1994/45 appointing a Special Rapporteur on violence against women who submitted a
preliminary report in November 1994. In addition, in December 1994, the UNGA adopted
Resolution 49/165 containing measures to prevent acts of violence against women migrant

Central to the discussion on gender violence, and especially in the context of drafting national
legislation, is General Recommendation 19, the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence
against Women and the appointment of the Special Rapporteur. These, together with a brief
outline of the relevant section of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action are discussed in
greater detail below.

General Recommendation 19

Issued in 1992 at the 11th session of the Committee on CEDAW, General Recommendation 19 is
the product of a scholarly and extensive analysis of violence against women. Because the
Recommendation originated from the work of a committee designated under a binding
international convention, it has higher persuasive legal significance than a resolution of the
United Nations General Assembly. Furthermore, the reporting requirement indicated in CEDAW
makes the member states party to CEDAW answerable.

General Recommendation 19 requires member states to adopt measures, including legislation, to

combat violence against women. It obliges states to inform the UN of the situation of violence
against women in their nations and the measures taken at the national level to eradicate such
violence. After its exhaustive examination of CEDAW, the Committee concluded that:

Gender-based violence may breach specific provisions of the Convention regardless whether
those provisions expressly mention violence.

The Recommendation, then, allowed the subject of violence to be inserted formally and
explicitly into CEDAW without having to amend the treaty itself.

General Recommendation 19 provides for a comprehensive obligation to eliminate

discrimination in all its forms in addition to the specific obligations acquired by States parties
under Articles 5-16 of CEDAW. Paragraph 24 recommends specific measures to overcome
gender-based violence, either by public or private act, including:

1) gender-sensitive training

2) compilation of statistics

3) media respect for women

4) reports on sexual harassment and establishment of complaint procedures and remedies

5) preventive and punitive measures to eliminate trafficking

6) reports on risks to rural women

7) support services for victims of family violence

8) prohibition of female circumcision and prevention of coercive fertility and reproduction

9) monitoring of the employment of domestic workers

Paragraph 24 further recommends that the states parties report on gender violence, including
information on the legal, preventive and protective measures taken to overcome the problem and
assessments of the effectiveness of such measures.

Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women

The Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Violence Against Women, adopted in 1993 by
the UN General Assembly, is the first international human rights instrument to deal exclusively
with violence against women. The Declaration provides the first comprehensive definition of
violence against women. In addition, the Declaration distinguishes itself by its scope and the
recognition that violence is as much a socio-cultural issue as it is a legislative one. The
Declaration recognises that violence against women occurs in all social strata, cultures, peoples,
nations, and regions, and explicitly refers to the urgent need to extend and ensure rights and
principles of equality, liberty, integrity, and dignity, as they apply to all women and to all

Eight rights of women are specified in Article 3 of the Declaration:

1) The right to life

2) The right to liberty and security of person

3) The right to equal protection under the law

4) The right to the highest standard attainable of physical and mental health

5) The right to just and favourable conditions of work

6) The right not to be subject to torture, or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or

7) The right to equality

8) The right to be free from all forms of discrimination.

Although rights 1 through 6 had been included in General Recommendation 19, rights 7 and 8
did not explicitly appear in its text. Instead, the Recommendation included the right to equal
protection according to humanitarian norms in time of international or internal armed conflict
and the right to equality in the family.

The Declaration also requires specific state actions. Article 4(c) demands that states exercise due
diligence to prevent, investigate and, in accordance with national legislation, punish acts of
violence against women, whether those acts are perpetrated by the State or by private persons.
Article 4(k), moreover, requires that States collect, compile and make public certain statistics and
data. While the Declaration is very comprehensive, it should take the form of a multilateral treaty
and be transformed into a convention in order to establish its binding character.

Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women to the Commission on Human Rights


In March 1994, at its 50th session, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) passed Resolution
1994/45 appointing a Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women. The Special Rapporteur
was empowered to seek and receive information, recommend measures, ways and means, and
work closely with other special rapporteurs, special representatives, working groups and
independent experts of the CHR and its Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and
Protection of Minorities and with treaty bodies. The Commission requested the Special
Rapporteur to report on her work on an annual basis, beginning at its 51st session.

The Special Rapporteur submitted a preliminary report on violence against women to the CHR in
November 1994. This report outlined the problem of violence against women in all its forms and
manifestations. The Special Rapporteur made specific reference to her mandate and
methodology, the causes and consequences of violence against women, international legal
standards and the problems arising from violence in the family, in the community and
perpetrated or condoned by the State.

In accordance with paragraph 10 of CHR Resolution 1994/45, the Special Rapporteur reported
plans to undertake a number of field missions in connection with the first and second reports,
expected in 1996 and 1997. This constitutes a significant development because it confers on the
Special Rapporteur an important role in the defence of the rights of women. In the absence of
enforceable mechanisms to protect women from violence, the mandate and moral authority of the
Special Rapporteur has allowed her to act as an informal monitor of state compliance.

Beijing Conference of 1995

The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action deals explicitly with the subject of violence
against women. It declares that violence against women is an obstacle to the achievement of the
objectives of equality, development and peace and it urges all nations to recognise and address
the problem. It recognises that violence against women may occur within the family or be
committed by either the general community or the State. In addition, the Declaration condemns
specific types of violence, such as forced sterilisation and forced reproduction, that have affected
women in situations of armed conflict and/or women belonging to minority and other persecuted

The Beijing Declaration recognises that violence against women manifests the historically
unequal power relations between men and women that have led to domination over and
discrimination against women and to the prevention of women's full advancement. While
recommending a multidisciplinary approach to the problem, the Declaration urges governments
and other actors to promote an active and visible policy of mainstreaming a gender perspective in
all policies that affect women and men.

The Declaration enunciated three strategic objectives for governmental action. First,
Governments should take integrated measures to prevent and eliminate violence against women.

These measures include ratification and implementation of those human rights conventions
pertaining to the issue of women. In addition, governments are urged to adopt and enforce laws
that punish or take other effective measures against police, security forces or any other agents of
the State who engage in acts of violence against women in the course of the performance of their
duties. In this context, it recommended that the Commission on Human Rights renew the
mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women when her term ends in 1997 and,
if warranted, update and strengthen it. Furthermore, the Beijing Declaration asks national and
local governments, community organisations and other agencies to provide funds for campaigns
and develop programmes to combat violence.

Second, Governments and other national and international agencies should study the causes and
consequences of violence against women and the effectiveness of preventive measures. The third
objective demands that Governments eliminate trafficking in women and assist victims of
violence associated with prostitution and trafficking.

The Beijing Declaration constitutes a significant step forward. The participating governments
unequivocally stated:

We hereby adopt and commit ourselves as Governments to implement the following Platform for
Action, ensuring that a gender perspective is reflected in all our policies and programmes. We
urge the United Nations system, regional and international financial institutions, other relevant
regional and international institutions and all women and men, as well as non-governmental
organisations, with full respect for their autonomy, and all sectors of civil society, in co-
operation with Governments, to fully commit themselves and contribute to the implementation of
this Platform for Action.

Other relevant instruments

In addition to the 1991 General Recommendation 19 of the CEDAW Committee, the 1993
Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, and the 1995 Beijing Declaration
and Platform of Action, several other international human rights instruments protect women from
gender violence. A brief historical overview is provided below.

The Universal Declaration on Human Rights declares, in Article 1, that "all human beings are
born free and equal in dignity and rights. Articles 2, 3 and 5 of the Universal Declaration further
establish that:

Article 2:

Every one is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in the Declaration, without
distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion,
national or social origin, property, birth, or other status.

Article 3:

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.


Article 5:

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The non-discrimination clause, combined with Articles 3 and 5, indicates that any form of
violence against women -- which may include threats against life, liberty or security, torture, or
cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment -- does not conform to the principles of the Declaration
and, therefore, constitutes a violation of the international obligations of member states.

The Nairobi Forward-Looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women, which was approved at
the 1985 World Conference for the Examination and Evaluation of the Achievements of the
United Nations Decade of the Woman, incorporates considerations directly related to violence
against women. This Conference elevated the debate to the international level, paving the way
for the topic of gender violence to become recognised as an international problem and helped the
achievement of equality, development, and peace.

Since then, the United Nations has organised several meetings of gender violence experts. The
UN has also worked to bring this issue to the attention of groups such as the Commission on the
Juridical and Social Condition of Women, Economic and Social Council's Division for the
Advancement of Women, and the Office of Statistics. In addition, the Eighth Congress of the
United Nations on the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Delinquency, held in 1990,
approved a resolution urging member states to formulate and apply policies, measures, and
strategies within and without the justice and penal systems to address the problem of violence in
the home. The General Assembly adopted this stance in Resolution 45/114.

A 1991 meeting of gender violence experts determined that existing instruments failed to take
gender violence into due consideration, or to specifically define gender violence. The group
observed that the lack of a clear concept in this matter made it difficult to effectively apply
international human rights norms; consequently, the group worked to create the Declaration on
the Elimination of Violence against Women. The Commission on the Legal and Social Condition
of Women analysed the Declaration extensively during its thirty-sixth session, with a view to
recommending its adoption by the General Assembly. As indicated earlier, the Declaration was
adopted in 1993 by the General Assembly of the United Nations and today constitutes the most
comprehensive principles on the issue of gender violence.


The Inter-American Convention to Prevent, Punish, and Eradicate Violence Against Women of
the Organisation of American States (OAS) constitutes the central piece of regional legislation on
gender violence in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Convention has been ratified by 13
countries (Bahamas, Barbados, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Dominica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras,
Panama, Paraguay, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Venezuela) and signed by nine others
(Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guyana, Mexico, Nicaragua, and
Peru). Four countries (Columbia, Cuba, Haiti and the United States) have neither signed nor
ratified the Convention. This Convention covers most forms of gender violence and is legally

binding on the ratifying states. Greater efforts must be made to ensure that ratifying states enact
enabling legislation and that the remaining countries ratify and implement the Convention.

The Inter-American Convention has three main objectives:

1. To recognise that the de jure and de facto elimination of discrimination against women and the
strict respect of all women's rights as an indispensable condition for the creation of a just, solid,
and peaceful society.

2. To prove that violence against women is a generalised situation, and constitutes a grave threat
to human rights.

3. To provide an Inter-American mechanism to protect the rights of women, and make states
internationally responsible for their ambivalence to this problem.

Article 7 of the Inter-American Convention urges signatory parties to condemn all forms of
violence against women and to adopt policies directed toward preventing, punishing and
eradicating said violence in the following manner:

(c) include penal, civil, and administrative norms -- as well as any others deemed necessary -- in
internal legislation to prevent, punish, and eradicate violence against women, and adopt
appropriate administrative measures.

(d adopt juridical measures that will threaten the aggressor with punishment if he fails to abstain
from assaulting, intimidating, threatening, harming, or placing a woman's life in danger in any
way that jeopardises her integrity or threatens propriety.

(e) take all appropriate measures, including legislative action, to modify or abolish any existing
laws, rules, or juridical or customary practices that support the maintenance or tolerance of
violence against women;

(f) establish just and efficient legal procedures for women who have suffered violence that
include, among others, protection, fair opportunity and effective access to said procedures;

(g) establish the necessary judicial and administrative mechanisms to ensure that victimised
women have effective access to indemnification, reparations, and other just and efficient means
of compensation, and;

(h) adopt any legislative or other measures that are necessary to effect the principles

of this Convention

The OAS Convention, unlike most national laws, does not attempt gender neutrality. It has been
found that laws dealing with violence that refer to the victim and aggressor in neutral terms
generally reproduce, rather than eradicate, gender violence. For this reason, the OAS Convention
addresses issues from a perspective of gender inequality. In doing so, the Convention aims to

adjust to the imbalance of the situation so that the "pendulum" will eventually settle in the
middle. To meet the obligations established by the Convention, laws must indicate that the
objective is to eradicate gender violence; to be effective, such laws must clearly identify the
victims of this type of violence. Family violence laws, therefore, must clearly note the gender of
the victim and the aggressor, normally female and male respectively.

In addition to specifying the gender of the aggressor and victim, measures or positive actions
must be taken to eliminate the cause of most gender violence power imbalances between men
and women. Correction of real or perceived power imbalances is fundamental to the elimination
and prevention of gender violence, both in the socio-cultural and in the legislative dimensions.
Furthermore and most significantly, it must be noted that the need to correct power imbalances in
no way detracts from or substitutes the importance of simultaneously legislating and
implementing punitive measures against the distinct manifestations of gender violence wherever
and whenever they may occur.

A group of experts that discussed measures to eliminate violence against women in families and
in society concluded that:

Every type of violence requires its own punishment. Some punishments may be applied through
the justice and legal systems and the state's police function. Others may require the use of public
institutions, such as the education system, to influence values and attitudes. Still others may
oblige community leaders or those who can influence the means of information to mold public
opinion. This analysis emphasises that, not only should the punishment fit the crime, but also
that the prevention should correspond with the cause.

The issue of gender violence should be a priority on the Latin American and Caribbean regional
agenda. The regional legal response to this problem must do more than just prohibit gender
violence. The eradication of gender violence throughout the region is a long-term process that
requires rehabilitation as well as criminalization, education as well as punishment, and research
as well as action.


It is important to recognise that Latin America and the Caribbean is the first, and as of now, the
only region in the world in which all countries have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of
All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. However, as the Economic Commission for Latin
America and the Caribbean noted, "this action should not be misunderstood (to mean) that the
nations have: (i) adapted their legislation to the demands of the Convention in all areas, (ii)
implemented policies and adopted positive actions to eliminate de facto discrimination, or
(iii) met their obligation to inform the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against
Women [of the status of gender violence in their nations]." In fact, all countries have yet to adapt,
implement and report it as national law.

Furthermore, with few exceptions, no legislation in the Latin American and Caribbean region
treats gender violence in an integral fashion. Legislation fails to consider the history of the region
and social ramifications, even though it may recognise the individual's right to physical integrity.
While all national legal codes provide some degree of legal remedy for one or more forms of
gender violence, these remedies are generally inadequate. For instance, the treatment of rape and
statutory rape under the existing legislation is insufficient to deal with the myriad of variations of
gender violence that are recognised today. Therefore, with the notable exceptions of Trinidad and
Tobago (1986) , the Bahamas (1992), Guyana (1991), and Barbados (1992), all of which have
recent sexual offences legislation, the majority of states should undertake radical reform of this
section of their penal codes, enacting separate legislation specifically for the issue of domestic
violence. On the other hand, even fewer penal codes or other bodies of law punish sexual assault
or harassment in the workplace or in educational institutions.

On the issue of domestic violence, the Law for the Prevention of Violence against Women and
Family was approved in Ecuador in November 1995 and published in the Official Registry no.
839 in December, 1995. The National Office for Women and the Commission for Women,
Children and the Family of the National Congress were fundamental in the formulation and
passage of the law. It provides for protection to the physical and psychological integrity and
sexual freedom of women, by means of preventing and penalising intra-familial violence. The
law takes into account the prevention of violence, rehabilitation of victims and reeducation of
victimisers, and provides as well for the establishment of support services, such as shelter and
counselling. By way of sanctions it provides for up to 7 days of prison and compensation
payment for damages. In addition violation of sanctions can result in prison terms of 1-6 months.
As regards reporting arrangements, family judges, women or family police, "Intendentes",
service corps, national commissars and political lieutenants are identified as competent
authorities report domestic violence cases. They can receive information from the victim and
from others who choose to report a case within 48 hours of becoming aware of it. Also, the
competent authority has 48 hours to formalise the report for investigation purposes.

Other examples of national legislation on domestic violence can be found in Colombia and
Bolivia. Law 294 to prevent, remedy and penalise intra-familiar violence, was approved on July
16, 1996 by the Colombian National Congress. In addition to providing measures for victim’s
and family’s protection and assistance, it establishes sanctions of one to two years of prison for
intra-familial violence acts. In Bolivia article 276 of the Penal Code, which provided impunity
for aggressions and violence within the family was abolished. A new Law against Domestic and
Family Violence was approved by the Congress in December 1995.

While it is true that penal codes and/or other legislation in Latin America and the Caribbean refer
to family violence, forced prostitution, and trafficking of women, these may be inadequate. For
example, some special laws on family violence fail to protect women because they are based on
questionable or erroneous assumptions. These laws may stipulate that for women to be eligible
for protection from gender violence, women's actions must fit a specific category, such as self-
defence, an event that usually does not occur because of the nature of the crime. In other cases,
victims of gender violence may themselves be prosecuted. Some penal codes punish the victims
of crimes of incest, adultery and abortion, rather than the victimisers. Revictimization adds to
women's reluctance to denounce gender violence, thereby contributing to the maintenance and

perpetuation of the behaviour underlying gender violence. The lack of damaging consequences
provides little incentive for the perpetrator to modify or stop the unacceptable behaviour.

Analysis of national legislation suggests that gender violence is limited to a few isolated acts not
attributable to a common cause or gender structure. For example, gender violence is labelled
"sexual" where the law is less traditional, and "against decency and good behaviour" where the
law is more traditional. The above descriptions of violence against women demonstrate an
indifference to the values that should be protected. The main issue with respect to gender
violence is neither decency and good behaviour nor sexual freedom but rather the fundamental
value of respect for the physical, sexual and psychological integrity of the individual.

National legislation has failed to prevent and/or eradicate gender violence because, unlike
international and regional legislation, national laws do not take gender into consideration. They
assume equality between spouses or partners instead of considering the real gender-based power
imbalances that lead to gender violence. For example, the new Brazilian and Colombian
constitutions recognise the state's duty to impede family violence but do not specifically refer to
gender. The expressions "family violence," "conjugal violence," "domestic violence," or "intra
family violence" are too neutral; available information confirms that the problem is usually not
ill treatment inflicted upon the husband, but upon the wife. The use of gender-neutral expressions
obscures the asymmetrical power relations between the victims and aggressors; more
significantly, it leaves open the interpretation that the blame resides equally with both partners, a
premise that is clearly misplaced given that violence is never justified. While a neutral position
may seem more inclusive extending equal protection to women and men, the lack of specificity
prevents an understanding of the problem in its true dimensions. Hence, gender-neutral
terminology in legislation can be counter productive.

Violence rooted in unequal power between men and women may also include frequent infliction
of harm that is justified or exonerated by custom, tradition, religion, or by the relationships
surrounding the crime even if the inflicted harm is considered criminal by law. Some examples
are marriage rape, justified by conjugal duty; beating or killing of wives, excused where a man's
virtue and honour are at stake; rape of prostitutes, accepted by virtue of their profession. At the
same time, certain actions that violate patriarchal traditions are criminalized. Some examples are
penalization of induced abortion and/or voluntary sterilisation and penalization of certain sexual
preferences. The emphasis should be on violence -- on the unacceptability of imposition and
coercion -- rather than on the sexual relations themselves. It is the context of sexual relations that
should concern society and determine its response. Violence is never an acceptable context for
any kind of human relations. Therefore, the exclusion of the husband from consideration of rape
violates this principle by assuming that marriage is exempt from the rule of non-violence. To
rectify this legal oversight, penal codes should consider as aggravated rape all situations in which
the aggressor in a sexual assault is married or related to, or is a guardian or other person trusted
by the victim.

The administrators of justice, among them the police, prosecutors and judges, have not reacted
appropriately to gender violence. Moreover, some laws fail to punish perpetrators, and
legislation, by and large, ignores the prevention of violence, the rehabilitation of victims and the
re-education of victimisers. Laws that aim to protect victims often fail to provide for the

establishment of the necessary support services, such as safe houses and counselling. Several
countries have introduced laws but without fostering sufficient levels of understanding and
commitment. Future legislation must take into account the two most fundamental elements for
effectively redressing gender violence: prevention and rehabilitation.



Legislating to eliminate all forms of gender violence is a complex task. Can one or several pieces
of legislation deal with all manifestations of gender violence? What types of laws can effectively
eliminate gender violence in a system that has historically kept women subordinate to and
undervalued by their fathers, husbands, brothers, or even sons? What is required to redress a
situation in the short term that has existed in and since the distant past?

If legal systems have reinforced structures and prejudices that are detrimental to women's value
and status, then elimination of gender violence requires the qualitative reform of these systems.
In this way, the power imbalances that generate gender violence may be redressed. All legislative
measures meant to prevent, eradicate, or punish gender violence must recognise the following:

1. Gender violence includes all forms of violence that perpetuate negative power imbalances
between men and women. Therefore, any law that seeks to eradicate one or more of the
manifestations of gender violence must take into account the historical and cultural relationship
between men and women. The law must establish that the aggressor and victim do not share
equal conditions, equal power, or the same liberty to terminate the abuse. Contrary to what has
been juridically effected in the past, the best way to eradicate or punish criminal behaviour is to
describe it realistically and accurately in all appropriate venues, especially the law.

2. Legal systems still imply that violence against women is justified under certain circumstances.
While it is true that all violence is equally unjustified and reprehensible, it is also true that, at
present, most violence is committed against women. Two essential steps to combat gender
violence against women are: (1) the repeal of all articles that extenuate or justify such violence;
and (2) the prohibition of the use of doctrine or arguments that legitimate any type of violence,
and particularly gender violence against women, in judicial proceedings.

3. A law that punishes gender violence such as sexual assault must do more than simply create a
new criminal figure; it must also create conditions to protect victims from negative repercussions
and reprisals stemming from their accusations. In addition, legislation must establish
mechanisms that would allow women to be spared any shame resulting from the exposure of
explicit or apparent unwanted sexual contact.

4. The objective of gender violence legislation is to prevent gender violence, not just to identify
and penalise the aggressors. Although it is necessary to establish, through legislation, that
violence against women is unacceptable and will be punished, it is also important to look for
other, parallel means to delegitimate all types of gender violence. Therefore, in revising penal
codes to address gender violence, the focus must be on rehabilitation rather than retribution.

5. The form in which a law is written influences the extent to which people know and use it.
Therefore, when drafting laws against gender violence, careful attention must be given to
language to facilitate understanding -- and hence application -- of laws by the general population.

6. Law can contribute in a fundamental way to the eradication of gender violence; however, law
alone cannot eradicate gender violence. Several types of actions must be effected simultaneously,
including: (1) revision of legal codes; (2) gender-sensitive education for children and youth; (3)
shelters and counselling services for battered women; (4) programs to rehabilitate aggressors;
and (5) campaigns to promote diversity and tolerance, and to reject violence as a means to any
end. The structure that legal reforms will offer to victims of gender violence will make all of
these efforts more effective and sustainable. Commitment and implementation of appropriate
legislation is, of course, assumed to be a precondition.

It is clearly imperative that states legislate against and commit to the eradication of gender

The existing international legal regime requires states to halt and eradicate gender violence. In
Latin America and the Caribbean, the Inter-American Convention to Prevent, Punish, and
Eradicate Violence Against Women explicitly refers to this duty. This Convention is binding on
the ratifying parties, and much work remains to be done both to bring national legislation in line
with the Convention and to guarantee the full co-operation of all OAS member states with the

The letter and intent of Inter-American Convention are clear. Measures for protection and
defence must conform to and reflect in reality the manifestations of gender violence. Therefore,
although it is understood that it applies to both men and women, gender violence legislation
should refer specifically to women as the victims of gender violence. Women, after all, comprise
the overwhelming majority of victims of gender violence.

As legislators begin to address this most distressing and pervasive issue, Part II of this chapter
offers legislative proposals designed to combat and eradicate gender violence. The proposals
derive their mandate from international legislation on the issue, primarily CEDAW and the Inter-
American Convention, as well as from the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of
Violence Against Women. Violence is not acceptable at any level, global, national or individual.
Legislation may not eliminate gender violence; however, effective application of such laws will
certainly lay the appropriate foundations for building societies free of violence against women.




Some suggestions for legislation to protect women from gender based violence are presented
below. Legislation is directed toward addressing problems in two spheres:

1. Violence against women within the family or domestic unit.

2. Violence perpetrated against women mainly outside the family and in the community.

All violence should give rise to moral outrage and legal penalties. Violence constitutes
unjustified and illegal conduct, whomever the victim may be. Violence against women is
especially reprehensible. This is because the legal and judicial treatment of such violence has
often been given inappropriate media attention and justified by an attitude that is disrespectful
and discriminatory towards women both as individuals and as subjects of law.

Norms to prevent and punish violence against women in all its forms must therefore be adopted
in a legal and social context that totally delegitimizes any attitude or conduct that places women
in a position that is inferior to men.

The first step is to recognise constitutionally the absolute equality of rights, opportunities and
abilities of men and women and the immediate applicability of the international treaties and
documents on non-discrimination ratified by the country.

The model presented in this section should serve to enable each State to locate and fill in any
gaps in its legal system as regards the ratification of international instruments, the content of the
Constitution or the adoption of specific laws in this area.

As in the case of the proposals and models put forward in earlier chapters, it is likely that some
of the proposed articles are already reflected in countries' legal systems. It will be the task of
legislatures, taking into account the proposals made here and the scope of anti-discrimination
legislation in their countries, to take appropriate measures to adapt and strengthen national
legislation, moving towards a body of law that is based on the most scrupulous respect for the
equality of all persons, irrespective of their sex.



Proposed articles:

"All individuals, whether men or women, are equal before the law, free from discrimination on
grounds of birth, race, sex, religion, opinion or any other personal or social status or

"All men and all women have the right to life, liberty and security of person."

"No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment."

"Duly ratified international treaties form part of the domestic legal system."

"The public authorities have the obligation to guarantee the equality of all citizens and to take the
necessary steps to eliminate any form of discrimination and violence, including ratifying and
complying with international treaties aimed at eradicating the various forms of discrimination
and violence."

"Judges and courts shall interpret the law according to the provisions of the Constitution and of
ratified international treaties."



The inadmissibility of any form of discrimination and the obligation of States to ensure equality
of women and men in the exercise and enjoyment of all economic, social, cultural, civil and
political rights are reaffirmed by numerous international instruments, including:

(i) The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women;

(ii) The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

(iii) The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

(iv) The Universal Declaration of Human Rights;

(v) The Inter-American Convention for the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence
against Women.

The following legislative proposal is designed to ensure compliance with and the application of
the above-mentioned international instruments, particularly articles 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 11 of

CEDAW, articles 2, 3, 7, 17, 18, 19, 22, 23 and 24 of the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights, articles 2, 3, 7, 8 and 10 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and
Cultural Rights, articles 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 12, 16, 17 and 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights and articles 1 to 9 of the Inter-American Convention.


II.4.1 Domestic Violence

Law on The Prevention of and Protection against Domestic Violence


Education and Information

Article 1:

1. The Ministry of Education shall establish appropriate mechanisms for guaranteeing equality of
educational opportunities for girls and women.

2. In particular, the Ministry shall establish means for guaranteeing equal access by girls and
women to sources of information on assistance, grants and subsidies for education.

Article 2:

The Ministry shall also take the necessary steps to avoid discrimination in the teaching and
learning of subjects included in official curricula and syllabuses.

Article 3:

The Ministry of Education, in co-operation with the Commission for Gender Equality, shall draw
up curricula that take into account, respect and promote equality between the sexes.


Domestic Violence

Article 4:

1. Domestic violence means acts of psychological, physical, property and sexual abuse
committed against a women member of the family unit by a member of that unit.

2. Acts of violence committed by a man against the woman who is the mother of his offspring is
considered domestic violence even if there is no matrimonial bond or stable de facto union
between them.

Article 5:

For the purposes of this Law, the family unit comprises the spouses, or the partners in a de facto
union, and any minor or disabled children, as well as the parents of the couple if they live in the
same home.

Article 6:

For the purposes of this Law:

1. Psychological violence means any act or omission intended to degrade or control the actions,
behaviour, beliefs and decisions of a female member of the family unit by means of intimidation,
manipulation, direct or indirect threats, humiliation, insults, false accusations, vigilance,
persecution or isolation or any other action which impairs her emotional health, her self-
determination or her personal development.

2. Physical violence means any mistreatment committed by act or omission which wilfully puts
at risk or impairs the woman's physical integrity.

3. Property violence is any act or omission that involves damage, loss, modification, theft,
destruction, withholding or misappropriation of objects, work tools, personal documents,
property, securities, economic rights or financial resources of a woman member of the family

4. Sexual violence means any act which violates the sexual freedom of any member of the family
unit through the use of force, intimidation, coercion, blackmail, deception or any other procedure
which prevents or limits free will.


Precautionary Measures

Article 7:

When there are indications of domestic violence, irrespective of whether preliminary criminal
proceedings have been instituted, the competent judicial authority may, before examining any
relevant evidence, order any of the following precautionary measures:

(a) Order a search of the family dwelling when, because of a situation of domestic violence, the
physical and psychological integrity and the property of its occupants are seriously at risk.

(b) Order the competent police body to look for material and documentary evidence of the
situation of violence and to open a file on this situation for possible later use in a judicial

(c) Order the aggressor's immediate departure from the home, bestowing tenancy rights on the
victim. In the event of resistance, this measure shall be undertaken using public force.

(d) Order the confiscation of any weapons in the possession of the aggressor.

(e) Temporarily bar the aggressor from the care, upbringing and education of minor sons and

(f) Order the aggressor to refrain from interfering in any way in the exercise of the care,
upbringing and education of the sons and daughters.

(g) In the event of incapacity of the victim, the judicial authority may order the necessary care
and custody.

(h) Prohibit the aggressor from acting in any way that upsets or intimidates any member of the
family group.

(I) Prohibit the aggressor from approaching the person he has attacked and bar him from access
to the family home and to the victim's place of work, study or leisure. He shall also be barred
from any contact with the victim by telephone, facsimile or mail, including electronic mail or
any other channel of communication.

(j) Order the preventive attachment of the aggressor's property for a period not exceeding one
month from the date on which the ruling that ordered it is executed. No deposit of security or
payment of fees or other costs is necessary in order to enforce this measure.

(k) Order the drawing up of an inventory of the movable property in the dwelling, especially
property which constitutes the household effects and other property which the victim uses for her

(l) Order the aggressor to make such cash reparation for the harm done to the victim as is
essential for her to go on with a normal life. This includes the costs of transporting
schoolchildren to the home, housing and medical costs. The amount will be obtained through the
same process, through the attachment and auctioning of property.

(m) In general, order any measure needed to comply with the objectives and principles of this

2. The adoption of these precautionary measures is not an impediment to the continuation of

judicial proceedings to determine whether the conduct that gave rise to judicial protection
constituted a crime.

Article 8:

The precautionary measures shall cease at the end of a period to be established by the judge.
However, the victim may request that the measures be lifted before this time and the judicial
authority may issue an order to this effect if it deems appropriate.


Protection of the Victim

Article 9:

1. In filing a complaint, a woman who has been the victim of domestic violence has the right:

(a) To demand to be able to present her complaint to a female judicial official of the competent
judicial body.

(b) To receive emergency medical care free of charge, even if there are no physical signs of

(c) Not to undergo a physical examination or to be subjected to any study, examination or

analysis against her wishes, the use of any act of intimidation or physical force to that end being
prohibited. Likewise, if the judge orders that a forensic examination be conducted to determine
the injury sustained by the victim, the victim may be accompanied by a person of her choosing.

(d) If she receives any medical, psychiatric, gynaecological or other kind of examination or care,
to have these carried out by women doctors.

(e) To receive specialised victims' services care.

(f) To go to a shelter on a temporary basis while the judge is taking a decision on and executing
precautionary measures.

(g) To receive assistance in the form of rehabilitation programs that help her to return to living a
full public and private life.

Article 10:

1. The same protection and rights established in this Law shall be enjoyed by all women victims
of violence, irrespective of whether they may be immigrants, refugees or members of an ethnic

2. In order to guarantee the protection of victims belonging to one of the categories described in
the preceding paragraph, such women shall have the right to be assisted by an interpreter during
the complaint proceeding if the victim, the complainant, the official receiving the complaint, the
public prosecutor's office or the judge so request.


Jurisdiction and Entitlement

Article 11:

Criminal judges shall have jurisdiction in matters dealt with in this Law and to order the
measures of protection referred to in article 7 thereof, without prejudice to the possibility of
establishing, in accordance with article 15(h), specialised judicial organs to handle the matters
defined herein.

Article 12:

The following shall be entitled to apply for the measures of protection described in article 7:

(a) Any person aged 12 or over who is affected by a situation of domestic violence. In the case of
children under the age of 12 years, the measures shall be requested by their legal representative
or closest relative who has knowledge of the facts, without prejudice to the provisions of
paragraphs (b), (c) and (d) of this article.

(b) Any public or private body or institution whose purpose is the protection of women's rights,
children's rights and human rights in general, if it learns of the existence of any of the conducts
listed in article 6 or if the victim so requests.

(c) Any adult who knows about the acts of aggression, irrespective of his or her relationship or
kinship to the victim.

(d) The public prosecutor's office of it own motion, if it learns of the existence of any of the
conducts listed in article 6 of this Law.

Article 14:

1. The procedures for filing a complaint and applying for, ruling on and executing precautionary
measures shall be established by means of rules and regulations.

2. Such rules shall take into account the victim's right to privacy and the principles of simplicity
and speed of proceedings, so as not to leave the victim unprotected. In any case, such procedures
shall meet the following criteria:

(a) The complaint may be made at any judicial or police unit.

(b) The complaint and the application for precautionary measures may be made directly to the
judge, without the need to complain first to the police.

(c) The victim's oral complaint shall suffice to set the procedure in motion.

(d) When the complaint is made at a police unit, the official receiving it shall immediately notify
the judge and the public prosecutor's office.

(e) The judge shall rule within 72 hours on the execution of precautionary measures.

Article 15:

The Ministry of Justice, in co-operation with the Commission for Gender Equality and with the
Ministry of Social Affairs and the Ministry of the Interior, shall take appropriate measures for the
protection and guidance of victims of domestic violence. Such measures shall include:

(a) Training judicial and police officials to deal appropriately with victims of domestic violence.

(b) Reinforcing judicial and police units with staff specialised in dealing with cases of domestic

(c) Promoting the establishment of temporary shelters for victims of domestic violence.

(d) Setting up rehabilitation programs for domestic violence offenders.

(e) Organising general domestic violence information, education and prevention campaigns.

(f) Promoting the participation of public and private organisations and entities in domestic
violence prevention and information activities and the care of victims of domestic violence.

(g) Evaluating progress in the implementation of legislation providing protection against

domestic violence.

(h) Proposing the necessary legal amendments for establishing procedural mechanisms that
permit a rapid judicial ruling on complaints of domestic violence.

(I) Establishing programs of assistance and rehabilitation for victims and for the children of
households in which there is domestic violence.

Additional Provision

The Government shall draft and adopt, within a period of six months from the publication of this
Law, the rules and regulations referred to in article 14.

Repeal Provision

All legal provisions that conflict with the provisions of this Law and with those of the
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, ratified on ..., are
hereby repealed.

Proposal for adapting the Penal Code to Situations of Domestic Violence

Proposed articles:

"The member of a family unit who in any way impairs the physical integrity or physical or
mental health of a woman member of that unit shall be liable to the penalty of ..., even if such
impairment does not require medical or surgical treatment."

"When violence is committed against a woman member of the family unit by another member of
that unit, the aggravating circumstance of membership of the family unit shall be applied to
crimes against persons not characterised in the preceding article."

"The same aggravating circumstance shall apply when the aggressor commits an act of violence
against the mother of his children, even if there is no matrimonial bond or stable de facto union
between the aggressor and the victim.

"Bearing in mind that the objective of criminal penalties is rehabilitation and without prejudice
to the penalties of imprisonment imposed for committing the crimes characterised above, the
judge shall order rehabilitation measures for the offender as established in this Code and in
procedural legislation."

"When violence is committed against a woman member of the family unit by another member of
that unit, the aggravating circumstance of family membership shall be applied to the crimes of
rape, abduction, sexual abuse and any other crime that violates the physical and psychological
integrity and sexual freedom of persons."

"The existence of a matrimonial bond or a stable de facto union, on the terms established in the
Civil Code, between the victim and the aggressor in no case absolves the aggressor or attenuates
his responsibility for the crimes referred to in the preceding article."

"The penalties and aggravating circumstances indicated in the preceding articles shall be
imposed, in their respective cases, even if the acts were committed with the victim's consent, if
such consent was obtained by intimidation, threats or abuse of seniority."

"An ascendant or an adult brother who has sexual intercourse, involving penetration of the
vagina, anus or mouth with the penis or any other instrument, with a descendant or a sister aged
over 12 and under 18 years, even with her consent, shall be subject to the penalty of ...".

"All crimes against the physical and psychological integrity and sexual freedom of persons shall
be officially prosecutable."

In addition, all articles or provisions which introduce variations either in the characterisation of
the crime or in the penalty or its application, based on discriminatory, non-egalitarian perceptions
of the situation and rights of men and women, should be repealed.

II.4.2 Violence in the Community - Sexual Crimes

Most manifestations of violence against women in the community are in fact recognised and
characterised as crimes, irrespective of whether they constitute gender violence against women
or simply acts of violence against men and women. Such acts include homicide and physical
injury, which are characterised in all Latin American penal codes. However, in order to be able to
really protect women from these forms of violence, it is important to review the codes to identify
cases where women have no legal protection because this type of crime is attenuated or even
condoned if it occurs within marriage or if the injuries are not such as to render the victim unfit
for paid employment. This is the case because some Latin American penal codes require that the
victim be left incapacitated for work before the crime of injury can be said to exist. Since women
who are housewives are not regarded as "workers", the injuries they receive do not incapacitate
them for work, which means that they often have no legal protection. In other cases, the husband
is exonerated if he murders his wife on grounds of adultery.

Many so-called "sex" crimes are also characterised as crimes "against decency and public
morality". In order for such crimes to really be punished in proportion to the harm caused, codes
must reflect the notion that the legal property thus protected is not something as subjective and
disrespectful towards the female person as "public morality". Crimes committed in violation of
sexual freedom are crimes because they violate the victim's physical and psychological integrity,
and these are legal property deserving of protection.

A number of suggestions as to the elements that should be taken into account in amending the
legislation on the crime of rape are made below. Similar considerations should be taken into
account in amending the legislation on other crimes such as statutory rape, corruption of minors,
abduction, etc.

Suggested Amendments to the Penal Code for Sexual Crimes

Crimes of a sexual nature could be included under the heading "Crimes against the physical and
psychological integrity and sexual freedom of persons."

Proposed articles

"Anyone who has sexual intercourse with a person of either sex involving penetration of the
vagina, anus or mouth with the penis or any other instrument shall be subject to the penalty of ...
in any of the following cases:

(a) If the victim is under 12 years of age.

(b) If the victim is insane.

(c) If the victim is unable to resist.

(d) If physical violence, intimidation or position of seniority are used."

"If the sexual intercourse referred to in the preceding article takes place with a child under 12
years of age, partial penetration shall be deemed sufficient grounds for considering that rape has

"In no case shall any attenuating circumstance be applied to the perpetrator on the basis of value
judgements or considerations as to the victim's private life."

"Without prejudice to the application of other aggravating circumstances, the fact that the rapist
is a carrier of sexually transmitted diseases shall increase the penalty for the crime of rape."

"The same aggravating circumstance shall apply to statutory rape and to sexual abuse where
touching has occurred."

"All crimes against the physical and psychological integrity and sexual freedom of persons shall
be official prosecutable."

"The victim of such crimes shall have the right, in particular:

"(a) To receive emergency medical care free of charge, even if there are no physical signs of

"(b) Not to undergo a physical examination or to be subjected to any study, examination or

analysis against his or her wishes, any act of intimidation or use of physical force to that end
being prohibited."

"(c) To have any medical, psychiatric, gynaecological or other examination or care carried out by
doctors of his or her own sex."

"(d) To receive specialised victims' services care."

"(e) To receive assistance in the form of rehabilitation programs that help him or her to return to
living a full public and private life."

"The following shall be subject to the penalties of ...:"

"1. Anyone who co-operates in or protects the prostitution of one or more persons or their
recruitment for such purposes."

"2. Anyone who through deception, violence, threats, abuse of authority or other means of
coercion forces a person to satisfy another person's sexual desires."

"3. Anyone who forces a person to remain a prostitute against his or her will."

Violence against women

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Part of a series on

against women


 Acid throwing

 Breast ironing

 Bride burning

 Dating abuse

o Date rape

 Domestic violence

o Marital rape

o Domestic violence and pregnancy


 Dowry death

 Honor killing

 Female genital mutilation

o Gishiri cutting

o Infibulation

 Female infanticide

 Femicide

 Foot binding

 Forced abortion

 Forced pregnancy

 Forced prostitution

 Genocidal rape

 Human trafficking

 Murder of pregnant women

 Rape

o In campus

o Corrective

o Prison

 Pregnancy from rape

 Sati

 Sexual slavery

 Sexual violence

 Violence against prostitutes

Related topics

 Outline of domestic violence

 Prosecution

 v

 t

 e

Violence against women (in short as VAW) is a technical term used to collectively refer to
violent acts that are primarily or exclusively committed against women. Similar to a hate crime,
which it is sometimes considered,[1][2][3] this type of violence targets a specific group with the
victim's gender as a primary motive. This type of violence is gender-based, meaning that acts of
violence are committed against women expressly because they are women.

Violence against women can be explained by the broad categories. These include violence
carried out by ‘individuals’ as well as ‘states.’ Some of the violence perpetrated by individuals
are rape; domestic violence; harmful customary or traditional practices such as diagnosis
planning, honor killings, dowry violence, female genital mutilation, forced marriages, sexual
harassment; coercive use of contraceptives, female infanticide; prenatal sex selection; obstetric
violence and mob violence. Some are perpetrated by state such as war rape; sexual violence and
slavery during conflict; trafficking in women; forced prostitution; forced sterilization; forced
abortion; violence by the police and authoritative personnel; stoning and flogging.[4]

The World Health Organization (WHO), in its research on violence against women, suggested
that there is a chance that women can encounter violence and its devastating effects throughout
their life cycle. They categorized phases of life cycle into five stages: “1) pre-birth, 2) infancy, 3)
girlhood, 4) adolescence and adulthood and 5) elderly”[5] and illustrated the types of violence that
women in each phrase might face. The summary table of these categories are provided below:

 1 Definition
 2 History of violence against women

 3 Impact on society

 4 WHO's table on typology of violence against women [45] and other typologies of violence against

o 4.1 Violence against women throughout the life cycle

o 4.2 Another typology: Violence Against Women over Time [15]


 5 Types of violence

o 5.1 Rape

 5.1.1 Marital rape

 5.1.2 Violence against victims of rape

o 5.2 Domestic violence

 5.2.1 Diagnosis planning

 5.2.2 Honor killings

 5.2.3 Dowry violence

 5.2.4 Acid throwing

 5.2.5 Forced marriage

o 5.3 Mob violence

o 5.4 Stalking

o 5.5 Sexual harassment

o 5.6 Violence against women accused of witchcraf

o 5.7 State violence

 5.7.1 War rape and sexual slavery during military conflict

 5.7.2 Forced sterilization and forced abortion

 5.7.3 Violence by the police and other authority figures

 5.7.4 Stoning and flogging

o 5.8 Female genital mutilation

 5.8.1 Interventionist approaches

 5.8.2 Female Genital Mutilation as a Public Health Issue

 5.8.3 Female Genital Mutilation as a Human Rights Issue

 5.8.4 Debates about best approaches

o 5.9 Obstetric Violence

 5.9.1 The fight for a more humane and respectful birth

 5.9.2 Legal Action Against Obstetric Violence


o 5.10 Sport-related violence against women

 5.10.1 Sport-related violence by male college athletes

 5.10.2 Controversy over contributing factors

 5.10.3 Response to violence by male college athletes

 6 Activism

o 6.1 Background and history

o 6.2 Levels of activist movements

o 6.3 Achievements of the VAW movements

 7 Access to justice for women victims of violence

o 7.1 International and regional instruments

o 7.2 Examples of measures put in place

o 7.3 Challenges faced by women in accessing justice and limitations of measures

 8 Relation between violence against women and marriage laws

 9 See also

 10 References

 11 Further reading

 12 External links

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), in its resolution on the Declaration on the
Elimination of Violence Against Women, defines "violence against women" as "any act of
gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or
suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty,
whether occurring in public or in private life."[6] Also, the 1993 Declaration on the Elimination
of Violence Against Women noted that this violence could be perpetrated by assailants of either
gender from individual, communal to state levels.[7]

In addition, the term 'gender-based violence' refers to "any acts or threats of acts intended to hurt
or make women suffer physically, sexually or psychologically, and which affect women because
they are women or affect women disproportionately."[8] The definition of 'gender-based violence'
is most often "used interchangeably with violence against women",[9] and some articles on VAW
reiterate these conceptions by suggesting that men are the main perpetrators of this violence.[10]
Moreover, the definition stated by the 1993 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against

Women also introduced the notion that violence is rooted in the inequality between men and
women when the term violence is used together with the term 'gender-based.'[9]

These definitions are seen by some to be unsatisfactory and problematic. These definitions of
'violence against women' are conceptualized in an understanding of society as patriarchal,
signifying unequal relations between men and women.[11] Opponents of such definitions argue
that the definitions disregard violence against men and that the term “gender,” as used in 'gender
based violence,' only refers to ‘women.’ Other critics argue that employing the term ‘gender’ in
this particular way may introduce notions of ‘inferiority’ and ‘subordination’ for femininity and
'superiority' for masculinity.[12][13] So, there is no perfect definition as of now that can cover all the
dimensions of 'gender based violence' rather than the one for women that tends to reproduce the
concept of binary oppositions: masculinity versus femininity.[4]

History of violence against women

An illustration from JJ Grandville's Cent Proverbes (1845) captioned "Qui aime bien châtie bien" (Who
loves well, punishes well). A man beating a woman is shown in the back.

Burning witches, with others held in Stocks

Sati (a Hindu practice whereby a widow immolates herself on the funeral pyre of her husband)

X-ray of bound feet, China

The history of violence against women remains vague in scientific literature. This is in part due
to the fact that many kinds of violence against women (specifically rape, sexual assault, and
domestic violence) often go unreported or under-reported, often due to societal norms, taboos,
stigma, and the sensitive nature of the subject.[14][15] It is widely recognized that even today, a lack
of reliable and continuous data is an obstacle in having a clear picture of violence against
women,[16] so a historical picture of violence against women becomes even more difficult to
capture. Although the history of violence against women is difficult to track, some claim that
violence against women has been accepted, and even condoned and legally sanctioned
throughout history.[17] Examples include the fact that Roman law gave men the right to chastise
their wives, even to the point of death,[18] the burning of witches, which was condoned by both
the church and the state,[17] and an 18th-century English common law allowing a man to punish
his wife using a stick "no wider than his thumb." This rule for punishment of wives prevailed in
England and America until the late 19th century.[17] Some historians believe that the history of
violence against women is tied to the history of women being viewed as property and a gender
role assigned to be subservient to men and also other women.[19] Oftentimes, explanations of
patriarchy and an overall world system or status quo in which gender inequalities exist and are
perpetuated, are cited to explain the scope and history of violence against women.[15][16] The UN

Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993) states that "violence against
women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women,
which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the
prevention of the full advancement of women, and that violence against women is one of the
crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared
with men.”[20][21] To the modern day, it is recognized that violence against women exists
everywhere, and that "there is no region of the world, no country and no culture in which
women’s freedom from violence has been secured."[16] Attention is often drawn to the fact that
some forms of violence are particularly more prevalent in some countries/parts of the world,
often in developing countries or the Third-World; for example, the associations of dowry
violence and bride burning with countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and
Nepal; acid throwing also with these countries, as well as some places in Southeast Asia, such as
Cambodia; honor killings with the Middle East and South Asia; female genital mutilation with
particular regions in Africa, and to a lesser extent the Middle East and some other parts of Asia;
marriage by abduction with Ethiopia, Central Asia and the Caucasus; abuse related to payment of
bride price (such as violence, trafficking and forced marriage) to certain parts of Sub-Saharan
Africa and Oceania. (see also lobolo).[22][23] Some regions are no longer associated today with a
specific form of violence, but such violence was common until quite recently in those places -
this is for instance the case with honor-based crimes in Southern/Mediterranean Europe.[24] For
instance, in Italy, before 1981, the Criminal Code provided for mitigating circumstances in case
of a killing of a female or her sexual partner due to honor reasons, providing for a reduced
sentence for such killings.[25] However, using any explanation based on culture to justify specific
forms of violence against women may legitimize such acts. There is also debate and controversy
about the ways in which cultural traditions, local customs and social expectations, and various
interpretations of religion can interact with certain abusive practices.[16][26] Specifically, cultural
justifications for certain violent acts against women are asserted by some States and by social
groups within many countries claiming to defend cultural tradition (also historical tradition), but
these justifications are questionable precisely because these defenses are generally voiced by
political leaders or traditional authorities, not by those actually affected.[16] But the need for
sensitivity and respect of culture is an element which cannot be ignored either, thus a sensitive
debate has ensued and is still ongoing.

However, there has also been a history of recognizing of the harmful and wrongful effects of this
violence, and actions have been taken to classify it as unjust. In the 1870s, courts in the United
States stopped recognizing the common-law principle that a husband had the right to "physically
chastise an errant wife".[27] In fact, the first state to rescind this right was Alabama in 1871.[28] In
the UK the traditional right of a husband to inflict moderate corporal punishment on his wife in
order to keep her "within the bounds of duty" was removed in 1891.[29][30] More recently, in the
20th and 21st centuries, and in particular since the 1990s, there has been a large increase in
activity on both the national and international levels to research, raise awareness and advocate
for the prevention of all kinds of violence against women.[16] Most often, violence against women
has been framed as a health issue, and also as a violation of human rights. As for current
information, a study from 2002 estimated that at least one in five women in the world had been
physically or sexually abused by a man sometime in their lifetime, and that "gender-based
violence accounts for as much death and ill-health in women aged 15–44 years as cancer, and is a
greater cause of ill-health than malaria and traffic accidents combined."[31] Although there are

many different forms, certain characteristics of violence against women have emerged from the
research, for example, quite often acts of violence against women are not unique episodes, but
are ongoing over time, and that more often than not, the violence is perpetrated by someone the
woman knows, not a stranger.[15] However, all of the research seems to provide convincing
evidence that violence against women is a severe and pervasive problem the world over, with
devastating effects on the health and well-being of women and children.[16]

Some of the largest milestones on the international level for the prevention of violence against
women include:

The 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW),
which recognizes violence as a part of discrimination against women in recommendations 12 &

The 1993 World Conference on Human Rights, which recognized violence against women as a
human rights violation, and which contributed to the following UN declaration. [32]

The 1993 UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women was the first
international instrument explicitly defining and addressing violence against women. This
document specifically refers to the historically forever-present nature of gender inequalities in
understanding violence against women.[32] (Include current 2nd paragraph here). This
Declaration, as well as the World Conference of the same year, is ofen viewed as a "turning
point" at which the consideration of violence against women by the international community
began to be taken much more seriously, and afer which more countries mobilized around this

The 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, linking violence against
women to reproductive health & rights, and also providing recommendations to governments on
how to prevent & respond to violence against women and girls. [32]

In 1996, the World Health Assembly (WHA) declared violence a major public health issue, and
included in the subtypes recognized were intimate partner violence and sexual violence, two
kinds of violence which are ofen perpetrated as violence against women. This was followed by a
WHO report in 2002 (see below).[14]

In 1999,the UN designated November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence
against Women.[31]

In 2002, as a follow-up of the WHA declaration in 1996 of violence as a major public health issue,
the World Health Organization published the first World Report on Violence and Health, which
addressed many types of violence and their impact on public health, including forms of violence
affecting women particularly strongly. The report specifically noted the sharp rise in civil society
organizations and activities directed at responding to gender-based violence against women
from the 1970s to the 1990s.[14]

In 2004, the World Health Organization published its "Multi-country study on Women's Health
and Domestic Violence against Women," a study of women's health and domestic violence by
surveying over 24,000 women in 10 countries from all regions of the world, which assessed the
prevalence & extent of violence against women, particularly violence by intimate partners, and

linked this with health outcomes to women as well as documenting strategies & services which
women use to cope with intimate-partner violence. [33]

The 2006 UN Secretary General's "In-depth study on all forms of violence against women," the
first comprehensive international document on the issue. [16]

The 2011 Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women
and domestic violence, which is the second regional legally-binding instrument on violence
against women and girls.[32]

In 2013, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) adopted, by consensus,
Agreed Conclusions on the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women
and girls (formerly, there were no agreed-upon conclusions). [32]

Also in 2013, the UN General Assembly passed its first resolution calling for the protection of
defenders of women's human rights. [34] The resolution urges states to put in place gender-
specific laws and policies for the protection of women's human rights defenders and to ensure
that defenders themselves are involved in the design and implementation of these measures,
and calls on states to protect women's human rights defenders from reprisals for cooperating
with the UN and to ensure their unhindered access to and communication with international
human rights bodies and mechanisms.[35]

Additionally, on the national level, individual countries have also organized efforts (legally,
politically, socially) to prevent, reduce and punish violence against women. As a particular case
study, here are some developments since the 1960s in the United States to oppose and treat
violence against women:[28]

 1967: One of the country's first domestic violence shelters opened in Maine.
 1972: The country's first rape help hotline opened in Washington, D.C.

 1978: Two national coalitions, the National Coalition Against Sexual Assault and the National
Coalition Against Domestic Violence, were formed, to raise awareness of these two forms of
violence against women.

 1984: The US Attorney General created the Department of Justice Task Force on Family Violence,
to address ways in which the criminal justice system & community response to domestic
violence should be improved.

 1994: Passage of the Violence Against Women Act or VAWA, legislation included in the Violent
Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, sponsored by then-Senator Joseph Biden,
which required a strengthened community response to crimes of domestic violence and sexual
assault, strengthened federal penalties for repeat sex offenders and strengthened legislative
protection of victims, among many other provisions.

 2000: President Clinton signed into law the VAWA of 2000, further strengthening federal laws,
and emphasizing assistance of immigrant victims, elderly victims, victims with disabilities, and
victims of dating violence.

 2006: President Bush signed into law the VAWA of 2006, with an emphasis on programs to
address violence against Indian women, sexual assault, and youth victims, and establishing
programs for Engaging Men and Youth, and Culturally and Linguistically Specific Services.

 2007: The National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline opened.

 2009: President Obama declared April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Other countries have also enacted comparable legislative, political and social instruments to
address violence against women. Experts in the international community generally believe,
however, that solely enacting punitive legislation for prevention & punishment of violence
against women is not sufficient to address the problem. For example, although much stricter laws
on violence against women have been passed in Bangladesh, violence against women is still
rising.[31] Instead, it is thought that wide societal changes to address gender inequalities &
women's empowerment will be the way to reduce violence against women.[16][31][36][37]

Impact on society

A map of the world showing countries by level of women's physical security, 2011

According to an article in the Health and Human Rights Journal,[38] regardless of many years of
advocacy and involvement of many feminist activist organizations, the issue of violence against
women still "remains one of the most pervasive forms of human rights violations worldwide."[39]
The violence against women can occur in both public and private spheres of life and at any time
of their life span. Many women are terrified by these threats of violence and this essentially has
an impact on their lives that they are impeded to exercise their human rights, for instance, the
fear for contribution to the development of their communities socially, economically and
politically. Apart from that, the causes that trigger 'VAW' or 'gender-based violence' can go
beyond just the issue of gender and into the issues of age, class, culture, ethnicity, religion,
sexual orientation and specific geographical area of their origins.

Importantly, other than the issue of social divisions, violence can also extend into the realm of
health issues and become a direct concern of the public health sector.[40] A health issue such as
HIV/AIDS is another cause that also leads to violence. Women who have HIV/AIDS infection
are also among the targets of the violence.[39] The World Health Organization reports that
violence against women puts an undue burden on health care services, as women who have

suffered violence are more likely to need health services and at higher cost, compared to women
who have not suffered violence.[41] Another statement that confirms an understanding of 'VAW' as
being a significant health issue is apparent in the recommendation adopted by the Council of
Europe, violence against women in private sphere, at home or domestic violence, is the main
reason of "death and disability" among the women who encountered violence.[42]

In addition, several studies have shown a link between poor treatment of women and
international violence. These studies show that one of the best predictors of inter- and
intranational violence is the maltreatment of women in the society.[43][44]

WHO's table on typology of violence against women[45] and

other typologies of violence against women

Violence against women throughout the life cycle

Phase Type of violence

Sex-selective abortion; effects of battering during pregnancy on birth

Infancy Female infanticide; physical, sexual and psychological abuse

Child marriage; female genital mutilation; physical, sexual and

psychological abuse; incest; child prostitution and pornography
Dating and courtship violence (e.g. acid throwing and date rape); economically coerced
sex (e.g. school girls having sex with “sugar daddies” in return for school fees); incest;
Adolescence sexual abuse in the workplace; rape; sexual harassment; forced prostitution and
and adulthood pornography; trafficking in women; partner violence; marital rape; dowry abuse and
murders; partner homicide; psychological abuse; abuse of women with disabilities;
forced pregnancy

Forced “suicide” or homicide of widows for economic reasons; sexual,

physical and psychological abuse

Significant progress towards the protection of women from violence has been made on
international level as a product of collective effort of lobbying by many women’s rights
movements; international organizations to civil society groups. As a result, worldwide
governments and international as well as civil society organizations actively work to combat
violence against women through a variety of programs. Among the major achievements of the

women’s rights movements against violence on girls and women, the landmark accomplishments
are the "Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women” that implies “political will
towards addressing VAW ” and the legal binding agreement, “the Convention on Elimination of
all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).”[46] In addition, the UN General
Assembly resolution also designated 25 November as International Day for the Elimination of
Violence against Women.[47]

Another typology: Violence Against Women over Time [15]

A diagram of typology of violence against women over time, as conceived by authors Charlotte Watts &
Cathy Zimmerman.

This similar typology from an academic journal article on violence against women shows
similarly the different types of violence perpetrated against women according to what time
period in a women's life the violence takes place. However, it also classifies the types of violence
according to the perpetrator. One important point to note is that more of the types of violence
inflicted on women are perpetrated by someone the woman knows, either a family member or
intimate partner, rather than a stranger.

Types of violence

Main article: Rape

Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or
more persons against another person without that person's consent. The act may be carried out by
physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or with a person who is incapable of valid consent,
such as one who is unconscious, incapacitated, or below the legal age of consent.[48][49][50][51]

Internationally, the incidence of rapes recorded by the police during 2008 varied between 0.1 in
Egypt per 100,000 people and 91.6 per 100,000 people in Lesotho with 4.9 per 100,000 people in

Lithuania as the median.[52] According to the American Medical Association (1995), sexual
violence, and rape in particular, is considered the most underreported violent crime.[53][54] The rate
of reporting, prosecution and convictions for rape varies considerably in different jurisdictions.
Rape by strangers is usually less common than rape by persons the victim knows.[55][56][57][58][59]

Victims of rape can be severely traumatized and may suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder;[60]
in addition to psychological harm resulting from the act, rape may cause physical injury, or have
additional effects on the victim, such as acquiring of a sexually transmitted infection or
becoming pregnant.

Marital rape

Main article: Marital rape

Marital rape, also known as spousal rape, is non-consensual sex in which the perpetrator is the
victim's spouse. Once widely condoned or ignored by law, spousal rape is now repudiated by
international conventions and increasingly criminalized. Still, in many countries, spousal rape
either remains legal, or is illegal but widely tolerated and accepted as a husband's prerogative.
The criminalization of marital rape is recent, having occurred during the past few decades.
Traditional understanding and views of marriage, rape, sexuality, gender roles and self
determination have started to be challenged in most Western countries during the 1960s and
1970s, which has led to the subsequent criminalization of marital rape during the following
decades. With a few notable exceptions, it was during the past 30 years when most laws against
marital rape have been enacted. Some countries in Scandinavia and in the former Communist
Bloc of Europe made spousal rape illegal before 1970, but most Western countries criminalized it
only in the 1980s and 1990s. In many parts of the world the laws against marital rape are very
new, having been enacted in the 2000s.

In Canada, marital rape was made illegal in 1983, when several legal changes were made,
including changing the rape statute to sexual assault, and making the laws gender neutral.[61][62][63]
In Ireland spousal rape was outlawed in 1990.[64] In the US, the criminalization of marital rape
started in the mid-1970s and in 1993 North Carolina became the last state to make marital rape
illegal.[65] In England and Wales, marital rape was made illegal in 1991. The views of Sir
Matthew Hale, a 17th-century jurist, published in The History of the Pleas of the Crown (1736),
stated that a husband cannot be guilty of the rape of his wife because the wife "hath given up
herself in this kind to her husband, which she cannot retract"; in England and Wales this would
remain law for more than 250 years, until it was abolished by the Appellate Committee of the
House of Lords, in the case of R v R in 1991.[66] In the Netherlands marital rape was also made
illegal in 1991.[67] One of the last Western countries to criminalize marital rape was Germany, in

The relation between some religions (Christianity and Islam) and marital rape is controversial.
The Bible at 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 explains that one has a "conjugal duty" to have sexual relations
with one's spouse (in sharp opposition to sex outside marriage which is considered a sin) and
states that "The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And
likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not

deprive one another (...)"[69] Some conservative religious figures interpret this as rejecting to
possibility of marital rape.[70] Islam makes reference to sexual relations in marriage too, notably:
Allah's Apostle said, "If a husband calls his wife to his bed (i.e. to have sexual relation) and she
refuses and causes him to sleep in anger, the angels will curse her till morning.";[71] and several
comments on the issue of marital rape made by Muslim religious leaders have been criticized.[72]

Violence against victims of rape

Following a rape, a victim may face violence or threats of thereof from the rapist, and, in some
cultures, from the victim's own family and relatives. Violence or intimidation of the victim may
be perpetrated by the rapist or by friends and relatives of the rapist, as a way of preventing the
victims from reporting the rape, of punishing them for reporting it, or of forcing them to
withdraw the complaint; or it may be perpetrated by the relatives of the victim as a punishment
for "bringing shame" to the family. This is especially the case in cultures where female virginity
is highly valued and considered mandatory before marriage; in extreme cases, rape victims are
killed in honor killings. Victims may also be forced by their families to marry the rapist in order
to restore the family's "honor".[74][75][76][77]

Domestic violence

Main article: Domestic violence

Girl in Ethiopia. An analysis by the UN of several international studies found domestic violence against
women to be most prevalent in Ethiopia[78]

Women are more likely to be victimized by someone that they are intimate with, commonly
called "Intimate Partner Violence" or (IPV). Instances of IPV tend not to be reported to police
and thus many experts believe that the true magnitude of the problem is hard to estimate.[79]
Women are much more likely than men to be murdered by an intimate partner. In the United
States, in 2005, 1181 women, in comparison with 329 men, were killed by their intimate
partners.[80][81] In England and Wales about 100 women are killed by partners or former partners
each year while 21 men were killed in 2010.[82] In 2008, in France, 156 women in comparison
with 27 men were killed by their intimate partner.[83]

According to WHO, globally, as many as 38% of murders of women are committed by an

intimate partner.[84] A UN report compiled from a number of different studies conducted in at
least 71 countries found domestic violence against women to be most prevalent in Ethiopia.[78]

In Western Europe, a country which has received major international criticism for the way it has
dealt legally with the issue of violence against women is Finland; with authors pointing that a
high level of equality for women in the public sphere (as in Finland) should never be equated
with equality in all other aspects of women's lives.[85][86][87]

A study by Pan American Health Organization conducted in 12 Latin American countries found
the highest prevalence of domestic violence against women to be in Bolivia.[88]

Though this form of violence is often portrayed as an issue within the context of heterosexual
relationships, it also occurs in lesbian relationships,[89] daughter-mother relationships, roommate
relationships and other domestic relationships involving two women. Violence against women in
lesbian relationships is about as common as violence against women in heterosexual

Diagnosis planning

The American Psychiatric Association planning and research committees for the forthcoming
DSM-5 (2013) have canvassed a series of new Relational disorders which include Marital
Conflict Disorder Without Violence or Marital Abuse Disorder (Marital Conflict Disorder With
Violence).[91] Couples with marital disorders sometimes come to clinical attention because the
couple recognize long-standing dissatisfaction with their marriage and come to the clinician on
their own initiative or are referred by an astute health care professional. Secondly, there is
serious violence in the marriage which is -"usually the husband battering the wife".[92] In these
cases the emergency room or a legal authority often is the first to notify the clinician. Most
importantly, marital violence "is a major risk factor for serious injury and even death and women
in violent marriages are at much greater risk of being seriously injured or killed (National
Advisory Council on Violence Against Women 2000)."[93] The authors of this study add that
"There is current considerable controversy over whether male-to-female marital violence is best
regarded as a reflection of male psychopathology and control or whether there is an empirical
base and clinical utility for conceptualizing these patterns as relational."[93]

Recommendations for clinicians making a diagnosis of Marital Relational Disorder should

include the assessment of actual or "potential" male violence as regularly as they assess the

potential for suicide in depressed patients. Further, "clinicians should not relax their vigilance
after a battered wife leaves her husband, because some data suggest that the period immediately
following a marital separation is the period of greatest risk for the women. Many men will stalk
and batter their wives in an effort to get them to return or punish them for leaving. Initial
assessments of the potential for violence in a marriage can be supplemented by standardized
interviews and questionnaires, which have been reliable and valid aids in exploring marital
violence more systematically."[93]

The authors conclude with what they call "very recent information"[94] on the course of violent
marriages which suggests that "over time a husband's battering may abate somewhat, but perhaps
because he has successfully intimidated his wife. The risk of violence remains strong in a
marriage in which it has been a feature in the past. Thus, treatment is essential here; the clinician
cannot just wait and watch."[94] The most urgent clinical priority is the protection of the wife
because she is the one most frequently at risk, and clinicians must be aware that supporting
assertiveness by a battered wife may lead to more beatings or even death.[94]

Honor killings

Honor killings are a common form of violence against women in certain parts of the world. In
honor killings, women and girls are killed by family members (usually husbands, fathers, uncles
or brothers) because the women are believed to have brought shame or dishonor upon the family.
These killings are a traditional practice, believed to have originated from tribal customs where an
allegation against a woman can be enough to defile a family's reputation.[95][96][97] Women are
killed for reasons such as refusing to enter an arranged marriage, being in a relationship that is
disapproved by their relatives, attempting to leave a marriage, having sex outside marriage,
becoming the victim of rape, dressing in ways which are deemed inappropriate.[98][99]

Honor killings are common in countries such as Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon,
Libya, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Yemen.[99][100][101][102][103] Honor killings
also occur in immigrant communities in Europe, the United States and Canada. Although honor
killings are most often associated with the Middle East and South Asia, they occur in other parts
of the world too.[104][105] In India, honor killings occur in the northern regions of the country,
especially in the states of Punjab, Haryana, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand,
Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.[106][107] In Turkey, honor killings are a serious problem in
Southeastern Anatolia.[108][109]

Dowry violence

Anti-dowry poster in Bangalore, India

The custom of dowry, which is common in South Asia, especially in India, is the trigger of many
forms of violence against women. Bride burning is a form of violence against women in which a
bride is killed at home by her husband or husband's family due to his dissatisfaction over the
dowry provided by her family. Dowry death refers to the phenomenon of women and girls being
killed or committing suicide due to disputes regarding dowry. Dowry violence is common in
India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. In India, in 2011 alone, the National Crime Records
Bureau reported 8,618 dowry deaths, while unofficial figures suggest the numbers to be at least
three times higher.[110]

Acid throwing

Acid attack victim in Cambodia

Acid throwing, also called acid attack, or vitriolage, is defined as the act of throwing acid onto
the body of a person "with the intention of injuring or disfiguring [them] out of jealousy or
revenge".[111] The most common types of acid used in these attacks are sulfuric, nitric, or
hydrochloric acid.[112] Perpetrators of these attacks throw acid at their victims, usually at their
faces, burning them, and damaging skin tissue, often exposing and sometimes dissolving the
bones.[113] The long term consequences of these attacks include blindness and permanent scarring
of the face and body.[114][115] Women and girls are the victims in 75-80% of cases.[116] Acid attacks
are often connected to domestic disputes, including dowry disputes, and refusal of a proposition
for marriage, or of sexual advances. Such attacks are common in South Asia, in countries such as
Bangladesh, Pakistan, India; and in Southeast Asia, especially in Cambodia.[117][118][119][120][121][122]

Forced marriage

A forced marriage is a marriage in which one or both of the parties is married against their will.
Forced marriages are common in South Asia, the Middle East and Africa. The customs of bride
price and dowry, that exist in many parts of the world, contribute to this practice. A forced
marriage is also often the result of a dispute between families, where the dispute is 'resolved' by
giving a female from one family to the other.[123][124][125]

The custom of bride kidnapping continues to exist in some Central Asian countries such as
Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and the Caucasus, or parts of Africa, especially Ethiopia. A
girl or a woman is abducted by the would be groom, who is often helped by his friends. The
victim is often raped by the would be groom, after which he may try to negotiate a bride price
with the village elders to legitimize the marriage.[126][127][128]

Mob violence

In 2010 Amnesty International reported that mob attacks against single women were taking place
in Hassi Messaoud, Algeria.[129] According to Amnesty International, "some women have been
sexually abused" and were targeted "not just because they are women, but because they are
living alone and are economically independent."[129]


Main article: Stalking

Stalking is unwanted or obsessive attention by an individual or group toward another person,

often manifested through persistent harassment, intimidation, or following/monitoring of the
victim. Stalking is often understood as "course of conduct directed at a specific person that
would cause a reasonable person to feel fear".[130] Although stalkers are frequently portrayed as
being strangers, they are most often known people, such as former or current partners, friends,
colleagues or acquaintances. In the US, a survey by NVAW found that only 23% of female
victims were stalked by strangers.[131] Stalking by partners can be very dangerous, as sometimes
it can escalate into severe violence, including murder.[131] Police statistics from the 1990s in

Australia indicated that 87.7% of stalking offenders were male and 82.4% of stalking victims
were female.[132]

Sexual harassment

Main article: Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is abusive, uninvited and unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature, typically in
the work/studying place, which may include intimidation, bullying or coercion of a sexual
nature, or the inappropriate promise of rewards in exchange for sexual favors. It can be verbal or
physical, and it is often perpetrated by a person in a position of authority against a subordinate.
In the United States, sexual harassment is a form of discrimination which violates Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating
violence against women and domestic violence defines sexual harassment as: "any form of
unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature with the purpose or effect of
violating the dignity of a person, in particular when creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading,
humiliating or offensive environment."[134]

Violence against women accused of witchcraft

Witch trials in the early modern period (between the 15th and 18th centuries) were common in
Europe and in the European colonies in North America. Today, there remain regions of the world
(such as parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, rural North India, and Papua New Guinea) where belief in
witchcraft is held by many people, and women accused of being witches are subjected to serious
violence.[135][136][137] In addition, there are also countries which have criminal legislation against
the practice of witchcraft. In Saudi Arabia, witchcraft remains a crime punishable by death.[138]

State violence

War rape and sexual slavery during military conflict


"Brennus and His Share of the Spoils", by Paul Jamin, 1893.

Rangoon, Burma. August 8, 1945. A young ethnic Chinese woman who was in one of the Imperial
Japanese Army's "comfort battalions" is interviewed by an Allied officer.

Militarism produces special environments that allow for increased violence against women. War
rapes have accompanied warfare in virtually every known historical era.[139] Rape in the course of
war is mentioned multiple times in the Bible: "For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem
to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped..." Zechariah
14:2 "Their little children will be dashed to death before their eyes. Their homes will be sacked,
and their wives will be raped."Isaiah 13:16

War rapes are rapes committed by soldiers, other combatants or civilians during armed conflict
or war, or during military occupation, distinguished from sexual assaults and rape committed
amongst troops in military service. It also covers the situation where women are forced into
prostitution or sexual slavery by an occupying power. During World War II the Japanese military
established brothels filled with "comfort women", girls and women who were forced into sexual
slavery for soldiers, exploiting women for the purpose of creating access and entitlement for
men.[140] [141][142]

Another example of violence against women incited by militarism during war took place in the
Kovno Ghetto. Jewish male prisoners had access to (and used) Jewish women forced into camp
brothels by the Nazis, who also used them.[143]

Rape was committed during the Bangladesh Liberation War by members of the Pakistani military
and the militias that supported them. Over a period of nine months, hundreds of thousands of
women were raped. Susan Brownmiller, in her report on the atrocities, said that girls from the
age of eight to grandmothers of seventy-five suffered attacks. (See also: Rape during the
Bangladesh Liberation War)

Rape used as a weapon of war was practiced during the Bosnian War where rape was used as a
highly systematized instrument of war by Serb armed forces predominantly targeting women and
girls of the Bosniak ethnic group for physical and moral destruction. Estimates of the number of
women raped during the war range from 50,000 to 60,000; as of 2010 only 12 cases have been
prosecuted.[144] (See also Rape during the Bosnian War).

The 1998 International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda recognized rape as a war crime. Presiding
judge Navanethem Pillay said in a statement after the verdict: "From time immemorial, rape has
been regarded as spoils of war. Now it will be considered a war crime. We want to send out a
strong message that rape is no longer a trophy of war."[145] (See also: Rwandan Genocide)

In 2006, five U.S. troops from a six-man unit gang raped and killed a 14-year-old girl in a village
near the town of Al-Mahmudiyah, Iraq. After the rape the girl was shot in her head and the lower
part of her body, from her stomach down to her feet, was set on fire.[146][147] (See also:
Mahmudiyah killings)

A 1995 study of female war veterans found that 90 percent had been sexually harassed. A 2003
survey found that 30 percent of female vets said they were raped in the military and a 2004 study
of veterans who were seeking help for post-traumatic stress disorder found that 71 percent of the
women said they were sexually assaulted or raped while serving.[148]

Forced sterilization and forced abortion

Forced sterilization and forced abortion are forms of gender-based violence.[149] These procedures
are reported to be practiced in countries such as Uzbekistan and China.[150][151][152][153][154][155]

Violence by the police and other authority figures

A member of the Taliban's religious police beating an Afghan woman in Kabul on August 26, 2001.

When police officers misuse their power as agents of the state to physically and sexually harass
and assault victims, the survivors, including women, feel much less able to report the violence.
It is standard procedure for police to force entry into the victim's home even after the victim's

numerous requests for them to go away.[157] Government agencies often disregard the victim's
right to freedom of association with their perpetrator.[158] Shelter workers are often reduced
themselves to contributing to violence against women by exploiting their vulnerability in
exchange for a paying job.[159]

Human rights violations perpetrated by police and military personnel in many countries are
correlated with decreased access to public health services and increased practices of risky
behavior among members of vulnerable groups, such as women and female sex workers.[160]
These practices are especially widespread in settings with a weak rule of law and low levels of
police and military management and professionalism. Police abuse in this context has been
linked to a wide range of risky behaviors and health outcomes, including post-traumatic stress
disorder (PTSD), and substance abuse.[160][161][162][163][164][165][166] Extortion of sexual services and
police sexual abuse have been linked to a decrease in condom use and an elevated risk of STI
and HIV infections among vulnerable groups.[160][167]

Stoning and flogging

Stoning, or lapidation, refers to a form of capital punishment whereby an organized group throws
stones at an individual until the person dies. Stoning is a punishment that is included in the laws
of several countries, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Pakistan, Yemen, the United Arab
Emirates, and some states in Nigeria, as punishment for adultery.[168] Flogging or flagellation is
the act of methodically beating or whipping the human body. It is a judicial punishment in
various countries for specific crimes, including sex outside marriage. These punishments
employed for sexual relations outside marriage, apart from constituting a form of violence in
themselves, can also deter victims of sexual violence from reporting the crime, because the
victims may themselves be punished (if they cannot prove their case, if they are deemed to have
been in the company of an unrelated male, or if they were unmarried and not virgins at the time
of the rape).[169][170]

Female genital mutilation

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as "all
procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to
the female genital organs for non-medical reasons."[171] According to a 2013 UNICEF report, 125
million women and girls in Africa and the Middle East have experienced FGM.[172] The WHO
states that: "The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women" and "Procedures can
cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, infertility as well as
complications in childbirth increased risk of newborn deaths" and "FGM is recognized
internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted
inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women".
According to a UNICEF report, the top rates for FGM are in Somalia (with 98 percent of
women affected), Guinea (96 percent), Djibouti (93 percent), Egypt (91 percent), Eritrea (89
percent), Mali (89 percent), Sierra Leone (88 percent), Sudan (88 percent), Gambia (76 percent),
Burkina Faso (76 percent), Ethiopia (74 percent), Mauritania (69 percent), Liberia (66 percent),
and Guinea-Bissau (50 percent).[172]

According to some local practitioners, it is believed that FGM is linked to cultural rites and
customs. It is considered to be a traditional practice which continues to take place in different
communities/countries of Africa and Middle East, including in places where it is banned by
national legislation. FGM is defined as a “harmful traditional practice”[173] in accordance to the
Inter-African Committee. Due to globalization and immigration, FGM is spreading beyond the
borders of Africa and Middle East, to countries such as Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, New
Zealand, US, and UK.[174]

Interventionist approaches

There exist several approaches that were set up by international health organizations and civil
societies (for example, Tostan) aimed at eliminating the practice of FGM in implemented

1. FGM as a Health issue (also known as health risks approach)

2. FGM as a Human Rights issue (also known as Human Rights-based approach)

Some scholars suggests that, when dealing with FGM, it is necessary to take lessons from
history, particularly 19th-century campaign against foot-binding in China[175] which was

Female Genital Mutilation as a Public Health Issue

The existing approaches to eliminate FGM are principally founded on health-based arguments
and methods. Supporters of that approach established their arguments on the need to protect
women’s health from hazards caused by FGM. It is acknowledged that FGM affects women's
health, reproduction, and sexual functioning. According to the World Health Organization’s
findings [7] “women who have had FGM) are significantly more likely to experience difficulties
during childbirth and that their babies are more likely to die as a result of the practice”.[173]
Moreover, it can "result in myriad complications, from infections, menstrual difficulties and
painful intercourse to...stillbirths and brain-damaged infants, increased risk of HIV infection, and
psychological and emotional stress.“[176] Therefore, in order to eradicate the procedure, advocates
of the health risks approach designed strategies to raise public awareness of negative impacts of
FGM to women's bodies and health. The health approach was commonly used and promoted,
until it was criticized and, to a certain extent, replaced by the Human rights approach.

Female Genital Mutilation as a Human Rights Issue

In 1993, at the Vienna World Conference on Human Rights, the issue of FGM was for the first
time addressed as a form of violence against women under the framework of International
Human Rights. Since then, the elimination of FGM has taken a prominent place in the agenda of
the international human rights discourse, leaving behind the health risk approach.[173]

"The global human rights discourse differs from earlier Western policies, which focused on
health in relation to female genital mutilation. It modifies earlier Western feminist arguments

that read female genital mutilation as patriarchal control over women’s bodies and sexuality, and
as a symbol of women’s subordination". [177]

The human rights-based arguments are founded principally on a concept of universal human
rights. Supporters of that approach emphasize the flagrant violation of fundamental rights, and
they consider FGM as a violent violation of woman ‘s and child’s fundamental rights including
the right to life, the right to be protected from cruel treatment, the right to physical integrity, and
the right to health. According to Shell-Duncan FGM is violence against not only women, but it
also constitutes a violation in the rights of child not yet achieved puberty.[173]

The use of International Human Rights discourse to tackle FGM has, however, faced challenges
such as “there are no international human rights instruments that specifically address female
genital cutting”.[173] Therefore advocates of FGM's elimination, building their arguments upon the
UN Declarations, Conventions, and a Theory of Justice[174] suggest that the issue of FGM can be
addressed under the legal framework of the three legal instruments such as: Violation of Rights
of Child, violation of rights of women, and the right to be protected from torture.[173]

Debates about best approaches

There are growing debates about what is the most appropriate approach to tackle FGM. Both the
health and the human rights-based approaches have been criticized.

The critique of the health approach is related to the medicalization of FGM,[173] meaning that
concentration on health risks neglects the other aspects of FGM practice(for example, legal) and
leads not to the banning of practice, but to medically safe performance of FGM. This critique is
defined by Shell-Duncan:

"A final problematic aspect of the health approach as a rationale for abandoning FGC is that the
emphasis on health risks is believed by anti-circumcision advocates to have inadvertently
promoted the conceptualization of FGC and obstetrical complications." [173]

The human rights approach notices the lack of legal instruments to address FGM. In addition to
that, the usage of universal human rights language might be at a variance with collective identity
and cultural understandings of indigenous people. That is why "the post-colonialist critique as an
approach to the politics of female circumcision stresses the need for contextualised
understandings of indigenous meanings arguing against the human rights approach."[177]

Obstetric Violence

“Obstetric violence” refers to acts categorized as physically or psychologically violent in the

context of labor and birth. In most developed and many developing countries, birth takes place in
an increasingly medicalized environment; with numerous surgical interventions that women can
sometimes be coerced into accepting, or which are done without her consent. Medicalized
birthing practices and interventions such as Caesarean sections, episiotomies and hormonal birth
induction; which should normally be restricted to only a minority of cases where risks for the

mother are clear, are increasingly being used during births that could otherwise take place
naturally. Some organizations and scholars consider this a violent act against the woman and her

The concept also includes the unjustified use of instruments and maneuvers that have been
recognized as risky to the health of the mother and child, or whose benefits and risks have not
been sufficiently examined (use of forceps, Kristeller maneuver,[178] vacuum extraction[179]). The
World Health Organization warns that “the boom in unnecessary surgeries is jeopardizing
women’s health”, that Caesarean sections have reached “epidemic proportions” in many
countries (46% in China, 25% and above in many Asian, European and Latin American
countries), and that sometimes financial incentives for doctors and hospitals have an influence

Concerning episiotomies, the World Health Organization informs that they “carry a greater risk
of getting infected, and can cause a higher blood loss, than (natural) tears”, and that “Limiting
the use of episiotomy to strict indications has a number of benefits: less posterior perineal
trauma, less need for suturing and fewer complications”.[181] England’s National Health Service
informs that episiotomies may cause pain and discomfort for the woman for many months after
their child’s birth,[182] and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also
recommends a restriction on their use.[183] Some sources refer to North American obstetricians
and gynecologists, especially between the 1950s and 1980's, practicing what was called “the
husband’s stitch”: placing extra stitches in the woman’s vagina after the episiotomy or natural
tearing, supposedly to increase the husband’s future sexual pleasure and often causing long-term
pain and discomfort to the woman. However, there is no proof that such a practice was
widespread in North America,[184][185] but mentions of it frequently appear in studies about
episiotomy, also in other American countries such as Brazil.[186]

The WHO recently stated that “in normal birth, there should be a valid reason to interfere with
the natural process. The aim of care is to achieve a healthy mother and child with the least
possible level of intervention compatible with safety”.[187] Practices that should be stopped (in
normal labor), according to the WHO:

 Shaving the pubic hair

 Giving an enema to empty the bowels

 Electronic fetal monitoring

 Not letting the woman eat or drink

 Telling the woman to hold her breath and push during the second stage of labor (rather than
leaving it to do her own way)

 Stretching and interfering with the entrance to the vagina when the baby is being born

 Episiotomy

 Taking the baby away from its mother at birth


 Getting the woman to lie down on her back during labor and/or delivery

The fight for a more humane and respectful birth

In Latin America, with the increasingly medicalized and surgical context of birth, many
organizations propose a rediscovery of natural, unmedicated birth.[188] Different scholars such as
O. Fernández have analyzed the link between Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and obstetric
violence,[189][190] as have Olde et al.[191] Various NGO’s around the world have the purpose of
defending “the right to a respectful and humane birth”, such as the Canadian organization
Humanize Birth,[192] or the Spanish association El Parto es Nuestro (“Birth Is Ours”).[193] In the
United States, Young Women United engages in policy and advocacy efforts to improve the
access that low income and pregnant people of color have to midwifery care, as well as improve
breastfeeding rates in New Mexico communities (Medicaid funding is also available for home
births).[194] Other organizations such as The Birth Trauma Association[195] claim to “support
women suffering from Post Natal Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or birth trauma”;
which rather than being the result of the birth process itself, is caused by “factors such as loss of
control, loss of dignity, the hostile or difficult attitudes of the people around them, feelings of not
being heard or the absence of informed consent to medical procedures”.[196] The WHO’s
Reproductive Health library states that a de-humanized, highly medical context for normal births
can “promote the use of unnecessary interventions, neglect women's emotional needs and
contribute to a high overall cost of medical services”.[197]

Legal Action Against Obstetric Violence

In Venezuela, as well as in the Mexican states of Veracruz, Chiapas, Guanajuato and Durango,
laws have been passed to give women the right to a life free of obstetric violence.[198] Venezuela’s
Organic Law on the Right of Women to a Life Free of Violence, approved November 2006,
defines on its Article 51 the following acts as forms of obstetric violence:

Failing to timely and efficiently take care of obstetric emergencies

Forcing the woman to give birth in a face-up (lithotomy) position and with legs on stirrups, when
the means are available for vertical birth,

Blocking the child’s early attachment to the mother without a justified medical cause, denying
the mother the possibility of picking up the child and breastfeeding immediately afer birth,

Altering the natural process of the low-risk birth, by use of induction and acceleration
techniques, without obtaining the mother’s voluntary, explicit and informed consent.

Practicing caesarean sections when the conditions are available for natural birth, without
obtaining the mother’s voluntary, explicit and informed consent. [199]

Mexico’s GIRE (Group for Information on Planned Reproduction) has issued a report where it
also mentions the “normalization of obstetric violence”, as well as psychological and emotional
mistreatment by care providers being common during childbirth. It also mentions forced
sterilization as a form of severe violence against women; one which might disproportionally
affect indigenous women.[200] Psychological and verbal abuse during childbirth, as well as

coercion into accepting surgical intervention, are also documented in Goer’s “Cruelty in
Maternity Wards: Fifty Years Later”; published in the Journal of Perinatal Education.[201]

Sport-related violence against women

Sport-related violence against women refers to any physical, sexual, mental acts that are
“perpetrated by both male athletes and by male fans or consumers of sport and sporting events,
as well as by coaches of female athletes”.[202]

The documenting reports and literature suggest that there are obvious connections between
contemporary sport and violence against women. Such events as the 2010 World Cup, the
Olympic and Commonwealth Games “have highlighted the connections between sports
spectatorship and intimate partner violence, and the need for police, authorities and services to be
aware of this when planning sporting events”.[202]

Sport-related violence can occur in various contexts and places, including homes, pubs, clubs,
hotel rooms, the streets.[202]

Sport-related violence by male college athletes

Violence against women is a topic of concern in the United States' collegiate athletic community.
From the 2010 UVA lacrosse murder, in which a male athlete was charged guilty with second
degree murder of his girlfriend, to the 2004 University of Colorado Football Scandal when
players were charged with nine alleged sexual assaults,[203] studies suggest that athletes are at
higher risk for committing sexual assault against women than the average student.[204][205] It is
reported that one in three college assaults are committed by athletes.[206] Surveys suggest that
male student athletes who represent 3.3% of the college population, commit 19% of reported
sexual assaults and 35% of domestic violence.[207] The theories that surround these statistics range
from misrepresentation of the student-athlete to an unhealthy mentality towards women within
the team itself.[206]

Controversy over contributing factors

Sociologist Timothy Curry, after conducting an observational analysis of two big time sports’
locker room conversations, deduced that the high risk of male student athletes for gender abuse is
a result of the team’s subculture.[208] He states, "Their locker room talk generally treated women
as objects, encouraged sexist attitudes toward women and, in its extreme, promoted rape
culture."[208] He proposes that this objectification is a way for the male to reaffirm his
heterosexual status and hyper-masculinity. Claims have been made that the atmosphere changes
when an outsider (especially women) intrude in the locker room. In the wake of the reporter Lisa
Olson being harassed by a Patriots player in the locker room in 1990, she reflected, "We are
taught to think we must have done something wrong and it took me a while to realize I hadn't
done anything wrong."[209] Other female sports reporters (college and professional) have claimed
that they often brush off the players' comments which leads to further objectification.[209] Other
sociologists challenge this claim. Steve Chandler notes that because of their celebrity status on
campus, “athletes are more likely to be scrutinized or falsely accused than non-athletes.”[205]

Another contender, Stephanie Mak, notes that, “if one considers the 1998 estimates that about
three million women were battered and almost one million raped, the proportion of incidences
that involve athletes in comparison to the regular population is relatively small."[206]

Response to violence by male college athletes

In response to the proposed link between college athletes and gender-based violence, and media
coverage holding Universities as responsible for these scandals more universities are requiring
athletes to attend workshops that promote awareness. For example, St. John's University holds
sexual assault awareness classes in the fall for its incoming student athletes.[210] Other groups,
such as the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes, have formed to provide support for the
victims as their mission statement reads, "The NCAVA works to eliminate off the field violence
by athletes through the implementation of prevention methods that recognize and promote the
positive leadership potential of athletes within their communities. In order to eliminate violence,
the NCAVA is dedicated to empowering individuals affected by athlete violence through
comprehensive services including advocacy, education and counseling."[211]

Background and history

Activism refers to “a doctrine or practice that emphasizes direct vigorous action especially in
support of or opposition to one side of a controversial issue.”[212] In the activism for violence
against women, the objectives are to address and draw public attention on the issues of VAW as
well as seek and recommend measures to prevent and eliminate this violence.[213] Many scholarly
articles suggest that the VAW is considered as a violation of human rights[214][215][216] as well as
“public health issue.”[217]

In order to better comprehend the anti-violence movements against VAW, there is a need to also
understand the generic historical background of feminist movements in a holistic manner.
Talking about the international women’s movement, many feminist scholars have categorized
these movements into three waves[218] according to their different beliefs, strategies and goals.[219]

The emergence of the first women’s movements, or so called the first wave of feminism, dated
back in the years the late 19th Century and early 20th Century in the United States and Europe.
During this period, the first series of feminist movements developed from the context of
“industrial society and liberal politics” that trigger the ‘feminist groups’ with the concern of
equal access and opportunity for women.[220] This wave marks a period of “suffrage,
independence, rights to nationality, work and equal pay” for women.[221]

The second wave of feminist movements was the series of movements from the period of the
“late 1960s to early 1970s.” It was noted by feminist scholars that this wave could be
characterized as a period of women’s liberation and the rise of a branch of feminism known as
‘radical feminism.’[222] This wave of feminism emerged in the context of postwar period[223] and
society where other mainstream movements also played a large role; for instance, the civil rights
movements,[221] which meant to condemn ‘capitalism,’ ‘ imperialism’ and ‘oppression’ of people

based on the notion of race, ethnicity, gender identity and sexual orientation.[224] This wave marks
a period of equal rights at home and workplace as well as rights to development[221] for the
purposes of people of different races, ethnicities, economic statuses and gender identities.

The third wave of feminism is the newest wave of feminism led by young feminists whose
understanding and context are of the globalized world order with an invention of many new
technologies Also, this wave is a transition of the fall communism[225] to more complex issues of
new kinds of ‘warfare,’ threats and violence. This new wave also “embraces ambiguity”[226] and
introduced a feminist approach of ‘intersectionality’ that includes the issues of “gender, race,
class and age-related."[227] Other than that, the third wave marks a period of feminism dealing
with identity politics, body politics as well as the issues of violence.[228]

Nonetheless, the VAW movement was initiated in the 1970s where some feminist movements
started to bring the discussion on the issue of violence into the feminist discourse[229] and that
many other groups, on the national as well as international levels, had attempted to push for the
betterment of women through lobbying of the state officials and delegates, demanding the
conferences on ‘gender issues'[230] and thus made the VAW known to a wider range of population.
Therefore, to put this into the theoretical context, VAW can be categorized along with the third
wave of feminism whose one of its focuses is on ‘violence.’

VAW activist movements come in many forms and operate through different levels at "local,
national and international levels "[231] and different approaches: health and human rights
frameworks.[232] The movements stemmed mostly from social movements and groups of women
who see the need to create organizations to 'lobby' their governments to establish "sanctuaries,
shelters" and provision of services that help protecting these victims or so-called battered women
from acts of violence. The term battered women was used in a number of VAW movements and
had its root in the early stage of organizing efforts to tackle the problem of violence against
women in many regions of the world such as Africa, Asia Pacific, Latin American and the
Caribbean.[233] The activist organizations against VAW, some with and the others without the
support of their governments, attempted to develop "innovative efforts" to assist the battered
women by providing services such as shelters and centers for these women; drafting and
lobbying the governments to include the recognition and language of VAW into national
legislations and international human rights instruments; advocating to raise the awareness of
people via education and training sessions; forming national, regional as well as international
networks to empower the movements; organizing demonstration and gathering more efforts to
end violence acts against women.[234] In addition, many women’s rights activist groups see the
issue of violence against women as a central focus of their movements. Many of these groups
take ‘human rights’ approach as the integral framework of their activism. These VAW
movements also employ the idea of ‘women’s rights are human rights,’ transform the concepts
and ideas of ‘human rights,’ which are mostly reckoned to be ‘Western concepts’ and
'vernacularize' them into the concepts that can be understood in their local institutions.[235]

Levels of activist movements

On the local or national level, the VAW movements are diverse and differ in their strategic
program of intervention. The strategies used in a number of the movements focus on the

individual level with the emphases on individuals, relationships and family. Also, many of them
take the 'preventive' as an approach to tackle the issues on the ground by encouraging people to
"reexamine their attitudes and beliefs" in order to trigger and create fundamental changes in
these "deep-rooted beliefs and behaviors."[236] Despite the fact that these strategies can be life
changing, helpful to those who participate and feasible over a long time frame, the impacts on
societal level seem to be restricted and of minimal effects. In order to achieve the objectives of
the movement, ending the violence against women, many activists and scholar seem to argue that
they have to initiate the changes on the communal level in the norms and cultural attitudes,
which were the sources that permit the abusive behavior of men toward women.[237] An example
of activism on the local level can be seen in South Africa. The movements of VAW in this
context employ a strategy that is based on the ‘prevention’ approach, which is applicable on
individual and societal levels: in families and communities. This movement encourages the
individuals and small populations to rethink about their attitudes and beliefs in order to create a
possibility to alter these deep-rooted beliefs and behaviors, which lead to the act of violence
against women.[13] Another example is the local level movement in East Africa that employs the
prevention approach, which is applicable on the communal level. They call this approach a
‘raising voices’ approach. This approach employs an ‘ad hoc’ framework that can be used
complementarily with the individual approach where the strategy is to aggravate the status quo
issues onto the individuals’ and communities’ perception and establish a common ground of
interests for them to push for the movement, but in a short time of period.[13] In addition, on the
domestic level, there seems to be many 'autonomous movements.'[238] Whereas autonomous
feminist movements (for VAW) can be understood as "a form of women's mobilization that is
devoted to promoting women's status and well-being independently of political parties and other
associations that do not have the status of women as their main concern."[239]

On the transnational or regional level, the anti-violence movements also deploy different
strategies based on the specificities of their cultures and beliefs in their particular regions. On
this level, the activist movements are known as "transnational feminist networks" or TFNs.[240]
The TFNs have a significant impact, like the autonomous movements on the national level, in
shaping sets of policies as well pushing for the recognition and inclusion of language of VAW in
the United Nations human rights mechanisms: the international human rights agreements.[241]
Their activities are ranging from lobbying the policy makers; organizing demonstrations on the
local and regional levels; to creating institutional pressure that could push for changes in the
international institutional measures.[242]

On the international level, the movements that advocate for women's rights and against VAW
are the mixture of (civil society) actors from the domestic and regional levels. On this level, the
objectives of VAW movements focus on "creating shared expectations" within the domestic and
regional levels as well as "mobilizing numbers of domestic civil society" to create "standards in
global civil society."[243] The global women's movement determine to transform numbers of
international conventions and conferences to "a conference on women's rights" by pushing for a
"stronger language and clearer recognition" of the VAW issues. In addition, the United Nations
also plays a vital role in promoting and campaigning for the VAW movements on the
international level. For instance, in 2008, Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary General has initiated
and launched the campaign called "UniTE To End Violence Against Women." This campaign
"calls on governments, civil society, women’s organizations, young people, the private sector, the

media and the entire UN system to join forces in addressing the global pandemic of violence
against women and girls."[244] Moreover, this campaign also announces every 25th of the month
to be "Orange Day" or "a day to take action to raise awareness and prevent violence against
women and girls."[245]

In conclusion, each level of activism is intertwined and has the common purpose to end violence
against women. The activism on the local level can significantly affect the movements on the
other levels: transnational and international levels. All in all, the effort on different levels lead to
change that can perpetrate to all levels. In a scholarly article on Combating Violence Against
Women, the authors illustrated from their research analysis on how the norms of international
society can shape and influence the policy making on the domestic or national level and vice
versa. They argue that there are ‘three’ mechanisms, which have effects on the making of
national policies as well as global agreements and conventions. Three of which are “1) the
influence of global treaties and documents such as CEDAW on women’s rights" - on the national
policies "2) the influence of regional agreements on VAW (particularly after certain tipping
points are reached)" - on both domestic policies and international conventions and "3) regional
demonstration effects or pressure for conformity captured as diffusion within regions” - on the
international norms and agreements.[246]

Achievements of the VAW movements

On the Global level:

The first major document that highlights the recognition of violence against women as a human
rights violation: the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women
in Vienna, 1993.[247][248][249] It was a result of collective effort of global feminist movement to
transform the Vienna conference from a general and mainstream human rights conference into
the conference on women's rights. As before the other human rights organizations such as
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch did not focus on the issue of VAW and did not
consider rape and domestic violence as violations of human rights despite of the fact that they
also have agenda on women's rights. [250]

The 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing[251] During the 4th Women Conference,
VAW was emphasized and named as a critical concern. Also, the spillover effect was that this
push highlighted the need for the development of "new international norms" that have ofen
been used by activists and governments the proposition of legislation that provide other action
to redress the acts of violence.[247][249][252]

Subsequently, the push from the global feminist movement also push for the fully incorporation
of the VAW issues into the "Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women" or
CEDAW[253] whereas the "original text of CEDAW in 1979 did not explicitly mention violence
against women"[254]

On the regional level:

Americas: the Inter-American Convention on Violence Against Women, which was formally
announced and adopted by the Organization of American States (OAS) in 1994, immediately
afer the Vienna Conference[255]

Europe: The European Union (EU)’s initiatives to combat violence against women afer the
1990s: the 1997 resolution calling for a zero tolerance: specifically on UN human rights
instruments of CEDAW and the Vienna Declaration.
The Council of Europe also developed "a series of initiatives" related to the issue of
VAW: "the 2000 resolution on trafficking, the 2003 resolution on domestic violence,
and the 2004 resolution on honor crimes" as well as promoted "the 2002
recommendation on the protection of women against violence and established its
monitoring framework." [256]

There emerged a series of regional meetings and agreements, which was triggered by
the UN processes on the international level such as Third World Conference on Women
in Nairobi, 1985; the 1993 Kampala Prep Com; the 1994 Africa-wide UN women's
conference [257] that led to the identification of VAW as a critical issue in the Southern
African Women's Charter.[258]

Access to justice for women victims of violence

International and regional instruments

Efforts to fight violence against women can take many forms and access to justice, or lack
thereof, for such violence varies greatly depending on the justice system. International and
regional instruments are increasingly used as the basis for national legislation and policies to
eradicate violence against women.

The Inter-American Convention to Prevent, Eradicate and Punish Violence Against Women –
also known as the Belém do Parà Convention, for instance, has been applied by the Inter-
American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in its first case of domestic violence to
condemn Brazil in the Maria da Penha case. This led the Brazilian government to enact in 2006
the Maria da Penha Law, the country’s first law against domestic violence against women.[259]
There is also, for instance, the South Asian Agreement on Regional Cooperation’s (SAARC)
Protocol to End Trafficking in Women and Children.[260]

Examples of measures put in place

As violence is often committed by a family member, women first started by lobbying their
governments to set up shelters for domestic violence survivors. The Julia Burgos Protected
House established in Puerto Rico in 1979 was the first shelter in Latin America and the
Caribbean for « battered women ». In 2003, 18 out of the 20 countries in the region had
legislation on domestic or family violence, and 11 countries addressed sexual violence in their
laws. Legislative measures to protect victims can include restraining orders, which can be found
in Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Paraguay, Venezuela, Turkey, the United States and many
western European countries for instance.

Courts can also be allowed by law (Germany, 2001) to order the perpetrator to leave the home so
that victims do not have to seek shelter. Countries were urged to repeal discriminatory legislation
by 2005 following the review of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in 2000. Egypt,
for instance, abolished a law that exempted men from rape charges when marrying their victims.
However, the goal of antiviolence legislation is often to keep the families together, regardless of
the best interests of women, which perpetuate domestic violence.[261]

Innovative measures have been pioneered in a number of countries to end violence against
women. In Brazil and Jordan, women’s police stations have been introduced, and one-stop
shelthers were created in Malaysia and Nicaragua.

Marital rape has been illegal in every American state and the District of Columbia since 1993,
but is rarely prosecuted in America.[262]

In 2013 the UN General Assembly passed its first resolution calling for the protection of
defenders of women's human rights.[34] The resolution urges states to put in place gender-specific
laws and policies for the protection of women's human rights defenders and to ensure that
defenders themselves are involved in the design and implementation of these measures, and calls
on states to protect women's human rights defenders from reprisals for cooperating with the UN
and to ensure their unhindered access to and communication with international human rights
bodies and mechanisms.[35]

Challenges faced by women in accessing justice and limitations of measures

There can be a de jure or de facto acceptance of violent behaviors and lack of remedies for

* Lack of criminalization. In many places, acts of abuse, especially acts such as female genital
mutilation, marital rape, forced marriage and child marriage, are not criminalized, or are illegal
but widely tolerated, with the laws against them being rarely enforced. There are instances where
crimes against women are also categorized as minor offenses.

*Lack of awareness of the existing laws. In many places, although there are laws against
violence on the books, many women do not know of their existence. This is especially the case
with marital rape - its criminalization being very recent in most countries.[263][264][265]

* Challenges in making a case in court. The burden of proof can be placed on the victim. For
instance in the Philippines, before a change in law in 1997, rape used to be described as a crime
against chastity; and virginity played an important role in court. In various countries, such as
Bangladesh, a woman's past sexual experience continues to be very important in a case of rape.
It can also be difficult to make a case of sexual assault in court, when members of the
judiciary expect evidence of severe struggle and injury as determinative evidence of non-
consent. On the other hand, there are measures like the 2012 law in Brazil that allow for cases to
be filed even without the representation of the victim.

* Existing laws are insufficient, conflicting, and have no effect in practice. Some laws on
domestic violence, for instance, conflict with other provisions and ultimately contradict their
goals. In Ukraine, a law on domestic violence also provides that the police can arrest the victim
for « provocation ».[261] Legal frameworks can also be flawed when laws that integrate protection
do so in isolation, notably in relation to immigration laws. Undocumented women in countries
where they would have, in theory, access to justice, don’t in practice for fear of being denounced
and deported. The CEDAW Committee recommends that a State authority’s obligation to report
undocumented persons be repealed in national legislation.

Measures to address violence against women range from access to legal-aid to the provision of
shelters and hotlines for victims. Despite advances in legislation and policies, the lack of
implementation of the measures put in place prevents significant progress in eradicating violence
against women globally. This failure to apply existing laws and procedures is often due to the
persisting issue of gender stereotyping.[267]

The barriers that women face in participating in the justice system as lawyers, law enforcement
officers etc. also play an important role in perpetuating a lack of concern for women victims of
violence. In war and post-conflict times, women are often denied a seat at the negotiation table
despite the role they may have played in peacebuilding processes, thus preventing issues such as
sexual violence to be pushed forward on the agenda.

Measurement of the impact of these measures is also difficult due to a lack of data and
coordination of efforts between policy-makers and implementing partners.

Relation between violence against women and marriage laws

Further information: Criticism of marriage and Sexism#Coverture_and_other_marriage_regulations

The relation between violence against women and marriage laws, regulations and traditions has
also been discussed.[268][269] The US and English law subscribed until the 20th century to the
system of coverture, that is, a legal doctrine under which, upon marriage, a woman's legal rights
were subsumed by those of her husband.[270] Today, outside the West, many countries severely
restrict the rights of married women: for example, in Yemen, marriage regulations state that a
wife must obey her husband and must not leave home without his permission.[271] In Iraq
husbands have a legal right to "punish" their wives. The criminal code states at Paragraph 41 that
there is no crime if an act is committed while exercising a legal right; examples of legal rights
include: "The punishment of a wife by her husband, the disciplining by parents and teachers of
children under their authority within certain limits prescribed by law or by custom".[272] In the
West, married women faced discrimination until just a few decades ago: for instance, in France,
married women received the right to work without their husband's permission in 1965.[273][274][275]
In Spain, during the Franco era, a married woman required her husband's consent (permiso
marital) for nearly all economic activities, including employment, ownership of property and
traveling away from home; the permiso marital was abolished in 1975.[276] Concerns exist about
violence related to marriage - both inside marriage (physical abuse, sexual violence, restriction
of liberty) and in relation to marriage customs (dowry, bride price, forced marriage, child

marriage, marriage by abduction, violence related to female premarital virginity). Claudia Card,
professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, writes that:[277]

"The legal rights of access that married partners have to each other’s persons, property, and
lives makes it all but impossible for a spouse to defend herself (or himself), or to be protected
against torture, rape, battery, stalking, mayhem, or murder by the other spouse... Legal marriage
thus enlists state support for conditions conducive to murder and mayhem."

See also
 Acid attack
 Bride burning

 Domestic violence

 Eve teasing

 Female genital mutilation

 Human trafficking

 Infibulation

 Military sexual trauma

 Murder of pregnant women

 Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence

 Sexual assault in the U.S. military

 Sexual slavery

 United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325

 Violence Against Women Act

 Violence against men

 Violence against LGBT people

Domestic violence
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Domestic violence
Classification and external resources

eMedicine article/805546

MeSH D017579

Family law

 Family

Marriage and other

equivalent or similar unions and status

 Marriage

 Types of marriages

 Prenuptial agreement

 Cohabitation

 Civil union

 Domestic partnership

Validity of marriages

 Void and Voidable marriages

 Annulment

Dissolution of marriages

 Divorce

 Adultery

 Grounds for divorce

 Matrimonial Causes Act


 Legal separation

 Alimony

 Parenting plan

 Residence (UK (E.W. and NI))

 Parental rights

 Custody Evaluator (U.S.)

 Parenting coordinator (U.S.)

Other issues

 Paternity

 Legitimacy

 Child custody

 Legal guardian

 Adoption

 Child support

 Contact & Visitation


 Grandparent visitation

 U.N. Rights of the Child

 Children's rights

 Emancipation

 Foster care

 Ward

 Parental child abduction

Private international law

 Private international law

 Divorce

 Marriage

 International child abduction

 Hague Convention (child abduction)

The Family and the Criminal Code

(or Criminal Law)

 Paternity fraud

 Bigamy

 CPS (U.S.)

 Child abuse

 Domestic violence

 Incest

 Child-selling

 v

 t

 e

Part of a series on

against men


 Acid throwing

 Androcide

o see gendercide

 Anti-gay vigilantism

o Brazil

o Mexico

o United States

 Domestic violence against men

 Forced emasculation

o Castration

o Involuntary penis removal

 Other genital mutilation

o Forced circumcision

 Human trafficking

 Patricide

 Rape

o campus

o prison

 Other sexual violence


 Outline of related topics

 v

 t

 e

Part of a series on

against women


 Acid throwing

 Breast ironing

 Bride burning

 Dating abuse

o Date rape

 Domestic violence

o Marital rape

o Domestic violence and pregnancy

 Dowry death

 Honor killing

 Female genital mutilation

o Gishiri cutting

o Infibulation

 Female infanticide

 Femicide

 Foot binding

 Forced abortion

 Forced pregnancy

 Forced prostitution

 Genocidal rape

 Human trafficking

 Murder of pregnant women

 Rape

o In campus

o Corrective

o Prison

 Pregnancy from rape

 Sati

 Sexual slavery

 Sexual violence

 Violence against prostitutes

Related topics

 Outline of domestic violence

 Prosecution

 v

 t

 e

Domestic violence, also known as domestic abuse, spousal abuse, battering, family violence,
dating abuse, and intimate partner violence (IPV), is a pattern of behavior which involves the
abuse by one partner against another in an intimate relationship such as marriage, cohabitation,
dating or within the family.[1] Domestic violence can take many forms, including physical
aggression or assault (hitting, kicking, biting, shoving, restraining, slapping, throwing objects,

battery), or threats thereof; sexual abuse; controlling or domineering; intimidation; stalking;

passive/covert abuse (e.g., neglect); and economic deprivation.[1][2]

Alcohol consumption[3] and mental illness[4] can be co-morbid with abuse, and present additional
challenges in eliminating domestic violence. Awareness, perception, definition and
documentation of domestic violence differs widely from country to country, and from era to era.

Domestic violence and abuse is not limited to obvious physical violence. Domestic violence can
also mean endangerment, criminal coercion, kidnapping, unlawful imprisonment, trespassing,
harassment, and stalking.[5]

Laws on domestic violence vary by country. While it is generally outlawed in the Western World,
this is not the case in many developing countries. For instance, in 2010, the United Arab
Emirates's Supreme Court ruled that a man has the right to physically discipline his wife and
children as long as he does not leave physical marks.[6] The social acceptability of domestic
violence also differs by country. While in most developed countries domestic violence is
considered unacceptable by most people, in many regions of the world the views are different:
according to a UNICEF survey, the percentage of women aged 15–49 who think that a husband
is justified in hitting or beating his wife under certain circumstances is, for example: 90% in
Afghanistan and Jordan, 87% in Mali, 86% in Guinea and Timor-Leste, 81% in Laos, 80% in
Central African Republic.[7] Refusing to submit to a husband's wishes is a common reason given
for justification of violence in developing countries:[8] for instance 62.4% of women in Tajikistan
justify wife beating if the wife goes out without telling the husband; 68% if she argues with him;
47.9% if she refuses to have sex with him.[9]

Traditionally, in most cultures, men had a legal right to use violence to "discipline" their wives.
Although in the US and many European countries this right was removed from them in the late
19th/early 20th century, before the 1970s criminal arrests were very rare (occurring only in cases
of extreme violence), and it was only in the 1990s that rigorous enforcement of laws against
domestic violence became standard policy in Western countries.[10][11]

 1 Definitions
o 1.1 Government definitions

o 1.2 Dynamics classification

o 1.3 Intimate partner violence types

o 1.4 Other

o 1.5 Physical

o 1.6 Sexual

 1.6.1 Marital rape


o 1.7 Emotional

o 1.8 Verbal

o 1.9 Economic

 2 Specific forms in parts of the world

o 2.1 Honor killings

o 2.2 Acid throwing

o 2.3 Dowry violence and bride burning

o 2.4 Violence against victims of rape

o 2.5 Violence related to female virginity

 3 Social views on domestic violence

 4 Effects

o 4.1 On children

o 4.2 Physical

o 4.3 Psychological

o 4.4 Financial

o 4.5 Long-term

o 4.6 On responders

 4.6.1 Vicarious trauma

 4.6.2 Burnout

 5 Causes

o 5.1 Biological

o 5.2 Psychological

 5.2.1 Mental illness

 5.2.2 Marital conflict disorder

o 5.3 Jealousy

o 5.4 Behavioral

o 5.5 Social theories


 5.5.1 Resource theory

 5.5.2 Social stress

 5.5.3 Social learning theory

 5.5.4 Power and control

 6 Gender aspects of abuse

o 6.1 Violence against women

o 6.2 Violence against men

o 6.3 Same-sex relationships

 7 Cycle of abuse

 8 Management

o 8.1 Medical response

 8.1.1 Duluth model

o 8.2 Law enforcement response

o 8.3 Counseling for person affected

 8.3.1 Lethality assessment

 8.3.2 Safety planning

o 8.4 Counseling for offenders

o 8.5 Prevention and intervention

 9 Pregnancy

 10 Prognosis

 11 Domestic violence around the world

o 11.1 United States

 12 Epidemiology

o 12.1 Europe

o 12.2 North America

o 12.3 Asia

o 12.4 Africa

o 12.5 Oceania

 13 History

 14 See also

 15 References

 16 Bibliography

 17 Further reading

 18 External links

The definition of the term "domestic violence" varies, depending on the context in which it is
used.[12] It may be defined differently in medical, legal, political or social contexts. The
definitions have varied over time, and vary in different parts of the world. Traditionally, domestic
violence was mostly associated with physical violence. For instance, according to the Merriam-
Webster dictionary definition, domestic violence is: "the inflicting of physical injury by one
family or household member on another; also: a repeated / habitual pattern of such behavior."[13]
However, domestic violence today, as defined by international conventions and by governments,
has a much broader definition, including sexual, psychological and economic abuse.

The Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence
states that:

" “domestic violence” shall mean 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". [14]

The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women classifies violence against
women into three categories: that occurring in the family (DV), that occurring within the general
community, and that perpetrated or condoned by the State. Family violence is defined as follows:

"Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family, including battering, sexual
abuse of female 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".

The term "intimate partner violence" (IPV) is often used synonymously with domestic abuse or
domestic violence. Family violence is a broader definition, often used to include child abuse,
elder abuse, and other violent acts between family members.[16]

Broad definitions of domestic violence are common today. For instance the Act XX on Domestic
Violence 2006, in Malta, defines DV as follows:[17]

"domestic violence" means any act of violence, even if only verbal, perpetrated by a household
member upon another household member and includes any omission which causes physical or
moral harm to the other"

Terms such wife abuse, wife beating, and battering are descriptive terms that have lost popularity
recently for several reasons:

There is acknowledgment that many victims are not actually married to the abuser, but rather
cohabiting or in other arrangements. [18]

Abuse can take other forms than physical abuse. Other forms of abuse may be constantly
occurring, while physical abuse happens occasionally. These other forms of abuse, that are not
physical, also have the potential to lead to mental illness, self-harm, and even attempts at

Males as well as females may be victims of domestic violence, and females as well as males can
be the perpetrators.

All forms of domestic abuse can occur in same sex partnerships.

"Domestic violence" may also be the name of a specific criminal offense, in a Criminal Code of
a jurisdiction, describing various criminal acts. It may also appear in the context of legislation
that is not necessary criminal, but rather civil (providing for civil remedies, protection orders
etc.). See, for example, Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005.

Government definitions

The US Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) defines domestic violence as a "pattern of
abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and
control over another intimate partner". The definition adds that domestic violence "can happen to
anyone regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender", and can take many forms,
including physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional, economic, and psychological abuse.[21]

The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service in the United Kingdom in its
"Domestic Violence Policy" uses domestic violence to refer to a range of violent and abusive
behaviours, defining it as:

Patterns of behaviour characterised by the misuse of power and control by one person over
another who are or have been in an intimate relationship. It can occur in mixed gender
relationships and same gender relationships and has profound consequences for the lives of
children, individuals, families and communities. It may be physical, sexual, emotional and/or
psychological. The latter may include intimidation, harassment, damage to property, threats and
financial abuse.[22]

Dynamics classification

Violence by a person against their intimate partner is often done as a way for controlling their
partner, even if this kind of violence is not the most frequent.[23] Many types of intimate partner
violence occur, including violence between gay and lesbian couples,[24] and by women against
their male partners.[25]

Intimate partner violence types

Michael P. Johnson argues for four major types of intimate partner violence, which is supported
by subsequent research and evaluation.[26][27][28][29] as well as independent researchers.[30][31][32]

Distinctions are made among the types of violence, motives of perpetrators, and the social and
cultural context based upon patterns across numerous incidents and motives of the perpetrator.
Types of violence identified by Johnson:[25][27][33][34]

Common couple violence (CCV) is not connected to general control behavior, but arises in a
single argument where one or both partners physically lash out at the other.

Intimate terrorism (IT) may also involve emotional and psychological abuse. Intimate terrorism is
one element in a general pattern of control by one partner over the other. Intimate terrorism is
less common than common couple violence, more likely to escalate over time, not as likely to be
mutual, and more likely to involve serious injury. [25][33][35][36][37] IT batterers include two types:
"Generally-violent-antisocial" and "dysphoric-borderline". The first type includes people with
general psychopathic and violent tendencies. The second type are people who are emotionally
dependent on the relationship. [25][38] Support for this typology has been found in subsequent

Violent resistance (VR), sometimes thought of as "self-defense", is violence perpetrated by
victims against their abusive partners.[33][38][41][42][43]

Mutual violent control (MVC) is rare type of intimate partner violence occurring when both
partners act in a violent manner, battling for control. [25][44]

Types of male batterers identified by Holtzworth-Munroe and Stuart (1994) include "family-
only", which primarily fall into the CCV type, who are generally less violent and less likely to
perpetrate psychological and sexual abuse.[45]


Others, such as the US Centers for Disease Control, divide domestic violence into two types:
reciprocal, in which both partners are violent, and non-reciprocal violence, in which one partner
is violent.[46][47]


Main article: Physical abuse


Azim Azimzade. "Husband beating his wife". 1937

Physical abuse is abuse involving contact intended to cause feelings of intimidation, pain,
injury, or other physical suffering or bodily harm.

Physical abuse includes hitting, slapping, punching, choking, pushing, burning and other types of
contact that result in physical injury to the victim. Physical abuse can also include behaviors such
as denying the victim of medical care when needed, depriving the victim of sleep or other
functions necessary to live, or forcing the victim to engage in drug/alcohol use against his/her
will. If a person is suffering from any physical harm then they are experiencing physical abuse.
This pain can be experienced on any level.[48] It can also include inflicting physical injury onto
other targets, such as children or pets, in order to cause psychological harm to the victim.[49]


Main article: Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse is any situation in which force or threat is used to obtain participation in unwanted
sexual activity. Coercing a person to engage in sexual activity against their will, even if that
person is a spouse or intimate partner with whom consensual sex has occurred, is an act of
aggression and violence.

Sexual violence is defined by World Health Organization as:

any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts
to traffic, or otherwise directed, against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person
regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting, including but not limited to home and

Categories of sexual abuse include:

1. Use of physical force to compel a person to engage in a sexual act against his or her will, whether
or not the act is completed;

2. Attempted or completed sex act involving a person who is unable to understand the nature or
condition of the act, unable to decline participation, or unable to communicate unwillingness to
engage in the sexual act, e.g., because of underage immaturity, illness, disability, or the influence
of alcohol or other drugs, or because of intimidation or pressure.

Marital rape

Main article: Marital rape

Marital rape, also known as spousal rape, is non-consensual sex in which the perpetrator is the
victim's spouse. It is a form of partner rape, of domestic violence, and of sexual abuse. Once
widely condoned or ignored by law, spousal rape is now repudiated by international conventions
and increasingly criminalized. Still, in many countries, spousal rape either remains legal, or is
illegal but widely tolerated and accepted as a husband's prerogative.

The criminalization of rape in marriage is recent, having occurred during the past few decades.
The legal and social concept of marital rape, has developed, in most industrialized countries, in
the mid to late 20th century; and in many parts of the world it is still not recognized, socially and
legally, as a form of abuse. Several countries in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia made spousal
rape illegal before 1970, but other countries in Western Europe and the English-speaking
Western World outlawed it much later, mostly in the 1980s and 1990s. In many parts of the world
the laws against marital rape are very new, having been enacted in the 2000s.

In the US spousal rape is illegal in all 50 states.[51] In Canada, spousal rape was outlawed in 1983,
when several legal changes were made, including changing the rape statute to sexual assault, and
making the laws gender neutral.[52] Criminalization in Australia began with the state of New
South Wales in 1981, followed by all other states from 1985 to 1992.[53] New Zealand outlawed
spousal rape in 1985, and Ireland in 1990.[53] In England and Wales, spousal rape was made
illegal in 1991, when the marital rape exemption was abolished by the Appellate Committee of
the House of Lords, in the case of R v R.[54]


Main article: Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse (also called psychological abuse or mental abuse) can include humiliating the
victim privately or publicly, controlling what the victim can and cannot do, withholding
information from the victim, deliberately doing something to make the victim feel diminished or
embarrassed, isolating the victim from friends and family, implicitly blackmailing the victim by
harming others when the victim expresses independence or happiness, or denying the victim
access to money or other basic resources and necessities. Degradation in any form can be
considered psychological abuse.

Emotional abuse can include verbal abuse and is defined as any behavior that threatens,
intimidates, undermines the victim’s self-worth or self-esteem, or controls the victim’s freedom.
This can include threatening the victim with injury or harm, telling the victim that they will be

killed if they ever leave the relationship, and public humiliation. Constant criticism, name-
calling, and making statements that damage the victim’s self-esteem are also common verbal
forms of emotional abuse.[56]

Often perpetrators will attempt and may succeed in alienating (parental alienation), a child from
a parent or extended family member, and in doing so also victimize the child when the child is
engaged in emotional abuse by encouraging, teaching or forcing them to harshly criticize another
victim.[56] Emotional abuse includes conflicting actions or statements which are designed to
confuse and create insecurity in the victim. These behaviors also lead the victims to question
themselves, causing them to believe that they are making up the abuse or that the abuse is their

Emotional abuse includes forceful efforts to isolate the victim, keeping them from contacting
friends or family. This is intended to eliminate those who might try to help the victim leave the
relationship and to create a lack of resources for them to rely on if they were to leave. Isolation
results in damaging the victim’s sense of internal strength, leaving them feeling helpless and
unable to escape from the situation.[56]

People who are being emotionally abused often feel as if they do not own themselves; rather,
they may feel that their significant other has nearly total control over them. Women or men
undergoing emotional abuse often suffer from depression, which puts them at increased risk for
suicide, eating disorders, and drug and alcohol abuse.[57]


Main article: Verbal abuse

Verbal abuse is a form of emotionally abusive behavior involving the use of language. Verbal
abuse can also be referred to as the act of threatening. Through threatening a person can blatantly
say they will harm you in any way and will also be considered as abuse.[58] It may include
profanity but can occur with or without the use of expletives.[citation needed]

Verbal abuse may include aggressive actions such as name-calling, blaming, ridicule, disrespect,
and criticism, but there are also less obviously aggressive forms of verbal abuse. Statements that
may seem benign on the surface can be thinly veiled attempts to humiliate; falsely accuse; or
manipulate others to submit to undesirable behavior, make others feel unwanted and unloved,
threaten others economically, or isolate victims from support systems.[59]

In Jekyll and Hyde behaviors, the abuser may fluctuate between sudden rages and false joviality
toward the victim; or may simply show a very different "face" to the outside world than to the
victim. While oral communication is the most common form of verbal abuse, it includes abusive
communication in written form.[citation needed]


Main article: Economic abuse


Economic abuse is a form of abuse when one intimate partner has control over the other
partner's access to economic resources.[60] Economic abuse may involve preventing a spouse
from resource acquisition, limiting the amount of resources to use by the victim, or by exploiting
economic resources of the victim.[60][61] The motive behind preventing a spouse from acquiring
resources is to diminish victim's capacity to support his/herself, thus forcing him/her to depend
on the perpetrator financially, which includes preventing the victim from obtaining education,
finding employment, maintaining or advancing their careers, and acquiring assets.[60][61][62]

In addition, the abuser may also put the victim on an allowance, closely monitor how the victim
spends money, spend victim's money without his/her consent and creating debt, or completely
spend victim's savings to limit available resources[60][61][62]

Specific forms in parts of the world

In some parts of the world, specific forms of domestic violence, such as honor killings, acid
attacks and dowry violence, are common.

Honor killings

Main article: Honor killing

An honor killing is the homicide of a member of a family or social group by other members, due
to the belief of the perpetrators that the victim has brought dishonor upon the family or
community. Although these crimes are most often associated with the Middle East, they occur in
other places too.[63]

Human Rights Watch defines "honor killings" as follows:

Honor killings are acts of vengeance, usually death, committed by male family members against
female family members, who are held to have brought dishonor upon the family. A woman can
be targeted by (individuals within) her family for a variety of reasons, including: refusing to
enter into an arranged marriage, being the victim of a sexual assault, seeking a divorce—even
from an abusive husband—or (allegedly) committing adultery. The mere perception that a
woman has behaved in a way that "dishonors" her family is sufficient to trigger an attack on her

Acid throwing

Acid attack victim in Cambodia

Main article: Acid throwing

Acid throwing, also called an acid attack [65] or vitriolage is defined as the act of throwing acid
onto the body of a person "with the intention of injuring or disfiguring [them] out of jealousy or
revenge".[66] Perpetrators of these attacks throw acid at their victims, usually at their faces,
burning them, and damaging skin tissue, often exposing and sometimes dissolving the bones.[67]
The long term consequences of these attacks include blindness and permanent scarring of the
face and body.[68][69][70] Acid attacks are often connected to domestic disputes in places such as
Pakistan and Bangladesh.[71][72][73][74] In India, these attacks also happen in connection to dowry

Anti dowry poster in Bangalore, India


These attacks are most often associated with South and Southeast Asia (especially Cambodia,[76]
Afghanistan,[77] India,[78] Bangladesh,[68][69] Pakistan,[68]) but are also common in other places, such
as Colombia,[79] and have also occurred in Europe.[80] In the UK, the case of Katie Piper, who had
acid thrown in her face by her ex-boyfriend and an accomplice, was highly publicized.

Dowry violence and bride burning

Main articles: Dowry death and Bride burning

In parts of the world, such as South Asia, the custom of dowry is related to severe forms of
violence, including murder. Bride burning is a form of domestic violence in which a bride is
killed at home by her husband or husband's family due to his dissatisfaction over the dowry
provided by her family. The act is often a result of demands for more or prolonged dowry after
the marriage.[81] It is a major problem in countries such as India. Dowry death refers to the
phenomenon of women and girls being killed or committing suicide due to disputes regarding

Violence against victims of rape

In many cultures, victims of rape face severe violence, including honor killings, from their
families and relatives. In many parts of the world, women who have been raped are considered to
have brought 'dishonour' or 'disgrace' to their families.[82] This is especially the case if the victim
becomes pregnant.[83]

Violence related to female virginity

Female virginity is the trigger of many forms of violence against women. Sex outside marriage is
illegal in many countries, including Saudi Arabia, Pakistan,[84] Afghanistan,[85][86][87] Iran,[87]
Kuwait,[88] Maldives,[89] Morocco,[90] Oman,[91] Mauritania,[92] United Arab Emirates,[93][94] Qatar,[95]
Sudan,[96] Yemen.[97] In many parts of the world, the social expectation for a bride to be a virgin is
extremely strong, and if the husband has sex with his wife after marriage and she does not bleed
(it is possible for a woman to not bleed when she has sex for the first time [98]), this can end in
extreme violence, including an honor killing.[99][100]

Social views on domestic violence


Woman wearing burqa in Afghanistan. A survey in Afghanistan showed that a majority of women agree
that a husband is justified to beat his wife if she wears inappropriate clothes. [101]

The social views on DV vary from person to person, and from region to region, but in many
places outside the West, the concept in very poorly understood. This is because in most of these
countries, the relation between the husband and wife is not considered one of equals, but instead
one in which the wife must submit herself to the husband. This is codified in the laws of some
countries - for example, in Yemen, marriage regulations state that a wife must obey her husband
and must not leave home without his permission.[102] "Disobeying" a husband can often result in
violence. These violent acts are not considered a form of abuse by society (both men and
women) but are considered as being provoked by the behavior of the wife who is seen as being at
fault herself. While beatings of wives are often a response to "inappropriate" behaviors, in many
places extreme acts such as honor killings are approved by a high section of the society. In one
survey, 33.4% of teenagers in Jordan's capital city, Amman, approved of honor killings. This
survey was carried in the capital of Jordan, which is much more liberal the other parts of the
country; the researchers said that "We would expect that in the more rural and traditional parts of
Jordan, support for honour killings would be even higher".[103]

In a 2012 news story, The Washington Post reported, "The Reuters TrustLaw group named India
one of the worst countries in the world for women this year, in part because domestic violence
there is often seen as deserved. A 2012 report by UNICEF found that 57 percent of Indian boys
and 53 percent of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 think wife-beating is justified."[104]

In conservative cultures, a wife dressing in attire deemed to be not sufficiently modest can result
in serious violence by her husband or relatives, with such violent responses being seen as
appropriate by most of the society: in a survey, 62.8% of women in Afghanistan said that a
husband is justified to beat his wife if she wears inappropriate clothes.[101]

In many places, sex in marriage is constructed as the right of the husband, who can claim it by
force, if "necessary".[105] For instance, in Lebanon, while discussing a proposed law that would
criminalize marital rape, Sheik Ahmad Al-Kurdi, a judge in the Sunni religious court, said that
the law "could lead to the imprisonment of the man where in reality he is exercising the least of
his marital rights."[106] In many countries, women are instructed before marriage that sex with the
husband is their absolute duty, that they do not have the right to ever refuse it, even if they don't
want it; and as a result it becomes impossible to understand the concept of marital rape - for
example one survey found that 74% of women in Mali said that a husband is justified to beat his
wife if she refuses to have sex with him.[107]

On children

Further information: Effects of domestic violence on children

3.3 million children witness domestic violence each year in the US. There has been an increase
in acknowledgment that a child who is exposed to domestic abuse during their upbringing will
suffer in their developmental and psychological welfare.[108] During the mid 1990s, the Adverse
Childhood Experiences (ACE) study found that children who were exposed to domestic violence
and other forms of abuse had a higher risk of developing mental and physical health problems.
Because of the awareness of domestic violence that some children have to face, it also
generally impacts how the child develops emotionally, socially, behaviorally as well as

Some emotional and behavioral problems that can result due to domestic violence include
increased aggressiveness, anxiety, and changes in how a child socializes with friends, family, and
authorities.[108] Depression, emotional insecurity, and mental health disorders can follow due to
traumatic experiences.[111] Problems with attitude and cognition in schools can start developing,
along with a lack of skills such as problem-solving.[108] Correlation has been found between the
experience of abuse and neglect in childhood and perpetrating domestic violence and sexual
abuse in adulthood.[112]

Additionally, in some cases the abuser will purposely abuse the mother or father[113] in front of
the child to cause a ripple effect, hurting two victims simultaneously.[113] It has been found that
children who witness mother-assault are more likely to exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress
disorder (PTSD).[114] Consequences to these children are likely to be more severe if their
assaulted mother develops post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and does not seek treatment due
to her difficulty in assisting her child with processing his or her own experience of witnessing the
domestic violence.[115]

Family Violence prevention in Australia and other countries has begun to focus on breaking
intergenerational cycles, according to the National (Aust) Standards for Working with Children
Exposed to Family Violence it is important to acknowledge that exposing children to Family
Violence is child abuse.[116] Some of the effects of Family Violence on children are highlighted in
the Queensland Government and SunnyKids awareness raising campaign.[117]


Bruises, broken bones, head injuries, lacerations, and internal bleeding are some of the acute
effects of a domestic violence incident that require medical attention and hospitalization.[118]
Some chronic health conditions that have been linked to victims of domestic violence are
arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic pain, pelvic pain, ulcers, and migraines.[119] Victims
who are pregnant during a domestic violence relationship experience greater risk of miscarriage,
pre-term labor, and injury to or death of the fetus.[118]


Among victims who are still living with their perpetrators high amounts of stress, fear, and
anxiety are commonly reported. Depression is also common, as victims are made to feel guilty
for ‘provoking’ the abuse and are frequently subjected to intense criticism. It is reported that 60%
of victims meet the diagnostic criteria for depression, either during or after termination of the
relationship, and have a greatly increased risk of suicidality.[120]

In addition to depression, victims of domestic violence also commonly experience long-term

anxiety and panic, and are likely to meet the diagnostic criteria for Generalized Anxiety Disorder
and Panic Disorder. The most commonly referenced psychological effect of domestic violence is
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD (as experienced by victims) is characterized by
flashbacks, intrusive images, exaggerated startle response, nightmares, and avoidance of triggers
that are associated with the abuse.[121] These symptoms are generally experienced for a long span
of time after the victim has left the dangerous situation. Many researchers state that PTSD is
possibly the best diagnosis for those suffering from psychological effects of domestic violence,
as it accounts for the variety of symptoms commonly experienced by victims of trauma.


Once victims leave their perpetrator, they can be stunned with the reality of the extent to which
the abuse has taken away their autonomy. Due to economic abuse and isolation, the victim
usually has very little money of their own and few people on whom they can rely when seeking
help. This has been shown to be one of the greatest obstacles facing victims of DV, and the
strongest factor that can discourage them from leaving their perpetrators.[122]

In addition to lacking financial resources, victims of DV often lack specialized skills, education,
and training that are necessary to find gainful employment, and also may have several children to
support. In 2003, thirty-six major US cities cited DV as one of the primary causes of
homelessness in their areas.[123] It has also been reported that one out of every three homeless
women are homeless due to having left a DV relationship. If a victim is able to secure rental

housing, it is likely that her apartment complex will have "zero tolerance" policies for crime;
these policies can cause them to face eviction even if they are the victim (not the perpetrator) of
violence.[123] While the number of shelters and community resources available to DV victims has
grown tremendously, these agencies often have few employees and hundreds of victims seeking
assistance which causes many victims to remain without the assistance they need.[122]


Domestic violence can trigger many different responses in victims, all of which are very relevant
for any professional working with a victim. Major consequences of domestic violence
victimization include psychological/mental health issues and chronic physical health problems.
Some long term effects on a child who comes from an abusive household, or have been
abused themselves are guilt, anger, depression/anxiety, shyness, nightmares, disruptiveness,
irritability,and problems getting along with others. Although they may have not been the ones
being abused it still affects them because they had to experience and witness their loved ones
being abused, which takes a toll on them as well. Domestic violence also teaches poor family
structure. A child who grows up being abused thinks of that as a way a family functions, and will
grow up and repeat the cycle because that is all they know. Some other long term affects include
but are not limited to poor health, low self-esteem, difficulty sleeping, drug and alcohol abuse
risk, isolation, suicidal thoughts, and extreme loneliness and fear. A victim’s overwhelming lack
of resources can also lead to homelessness and poverty. A person who has suffered abuse is at
risk for a lot of negative consequences that can put them on a destructive path for their future. [125]

On responders

Vicarious trauma

See also: Vicarious traumatization

Due to the gravity and intensity of hearing victims’ stories of abuse, professionals (social
workers, police, counselors, therapists, advocates, medical professionals) are at risk themselves
for secondary or vicarious trauma (VT), which causes the responder to experience trauma
symptoms similar to the original victim after hearing about the victim’s experiences with abuse.
Research has demonstrated that professionals who experience vicarious trauma show signs of
exaggerated startle response, hypervigilance, nightmares, and intrusive thoughts although they
have not experienced a trauma personally and do not qualify for a clinical diagnosis of PTSD.[127]

Researchers concluded that although clinicians have professional training and are equipped with
the necessary clinical skills to assist victims of domestic violence, they may still be personally
affected by the emotional impact of hearing about a victim’s traumatic experiences. Iliffe et al.
found that there are several common initial responses that are found in clinicians who work with
victims: loss of confidence in their ability to help the client, taking personal responsibility for
ensuring the client’s safety, and remaining supportive of the client’s autonomy if they make the
decision to return to their perpetrator.[127]

It has also been shown that clinicians who work with a large number of victims may alter their
former perceptions of the world, and begin to doubt the basic goodness of others. Iliffe et al.
found that clinicians who work with victims tend to feel less secure in the world, become
"acutely aware" of power and control issues both in society and in their own personal
relationships, have difficulty trusting others, and experience an increased awareness of gender-
based power differences in society.[127]

The best way for a clinician to avoid developing VT is to engage in good self-care practices.
These can include exercise, relaxation techniques, debriefing with colleagues, and seeking
support from supervisors.[127] Additionally, it is recommended that clinicians make the positive
and rewarding aspects of working with domestic violence victims the primary focus of thought
and energy, such as being part of the healing process or helping society as a whole. Clinicians
should also continually evaluate their empathic responses to victims, in order to avoid feelings of
being drawn into the trauma that the victim experienced. It is recommended that clinicians
practice good boundaries, and find a balance in expressing empathic responses to the victim
while still maintaining personal detachment from their traumatic experiences.[127]


See also: Burnout (psychology)

Vicarious trauma can lead directly to burnout, which is defined as "emotional exhaustion
resulting from excessive demands on energy, strength, and personal resources in the work
setting".[128] The physical warning signs of burnout include headaches, fatigue, lowered immune
function, and irritability.[129] A clinician experiencing burnout may begin to lose interest in the
welfare of clients, be unable to empathize or feel compassion for clients, and may even begin to
feel aversion toward the client.[128]

If the clinician experiencing burnout is working with victims of domestic violence, the clinician
risks causing further great harm through re-victimization of the client. It should be noted,
however, that vicarious trauma does not always directly lead to burnout and that burnout can
occur in clinicians who work with any difficult population – not only those who work with
domestic violence victims.

There are many different theories as to the causes of domestic violence. These include
psychological theories that consider personality traits and mental characteristics of the
perpetrator, as well as social theories which consider external factors in the perpetrator's
environment, such as family structure, stress,and social learning. As with many phenomena
regarding human experience, no single approach appears to cover all cases.

Whilst there are many theories regarding what causes one individual to act violently towards an
intimate partner or family member there is also growing concern around apparent
intergenerational cycles of domestic violence. In Australia where it has been identified that as
many as 75% of all victims of domestic violence are children[130] Domestic violence services

such as Sunnykids are beginning to focus their attention on children who have been exposed to
domestic violence.[131]

Responses that focus on children suggest that experiences throughout life influence an
individuals' propensity to engage in family violence (either as a victim or as a perpetrator).
Researchers supporting this theory suggest it is useful to think of three sources of domestic
violence: childhood socialization, previous experiences in couple relationships during
adolescence, and levels of strain in a person's current life. People who observe their parents
abusing each other, or who were themselves abused may incorporate abuse into their behaviour
within relationships that they establish as adults. (Kalmuss & Seltzer 1984)


These factors include genetics and brain dysfunction and are studied by neuroscience.[132]


Psychological theories focus on personality traits and mental characteristics of the offender.
Personality traits include sudden bursts of anger, poor impulse control, and poor self-esteem.
Various theories suggest that psychopathology and other personality disorders are factors, and
that abuse experienced as a child leads some people to be more violent as adults. Correlation has
been found between juvenile delinquency and domestic violence in adulthood.[133] Studies have
found high incidence of psychopathy among abusers.[134][135][136]

For instance, some research suggests that about 80% of both court-referred and self-referred men
in these domestic violence studies exhibited diagnosable psychopathology, typically personality
disorders. "The estimate of personality disorders in the general population would be more in the
15–20% range [...] As violence becomes more severe and chronic in the relationship, the
likelihood of psychopathology in these men approaches 100%."[4] Dutton has suggested a
psychological profile of men who abuse their wives, arguing that they have borderline
personalities that are developed early in life.[137][138]

However, these psychological theories are disputed: Gelles suggests that psychological theories
are limited, and points out that other researchers have found that only 10% (or less) fit this
psychological profile. He argues that social factors are important, while personality traits, mental
illness, or psychopathy are lesser factors.[139][140][141]

Mental illness

Many psychiatric disorders are risk factors for domestic violence, including several personality
disorders: all Cluster B PDs, (especially antisocial), paranoid and passive-aggressive. Bipolar
disorder, schizophrenia, drug abuse, alcoholism and poor impulse control are also risk factors.[2]
It is estimated that at least one-third of all abusers have some type of mental illness.[143]

Marital conflict disorder


The American Psychiatric Association planning and research committees for the forthcoming
DSM-5 (2013) have canvassed a series of new Relational disorders which include Marital
Conflict Disorder Without Violence or Marital Abuse Disorder (Marital Conflict Disorder With
Violence).[144] Couples with marital disorders sometimes come to clinical attention because the
couple recognize long-standing dissatisfaction with their marriage and come to the clinician on
their own initiative or are referred by an astute health care professional. Secondly, there is
serious violence in the marriage which is "usually the husband battering the wife".[145]

In these cases the emergency room or a legal authority often is the first to notify the clinician.
Most importantly, marital violence "is a major risk factor for serious injury and even death and
women in violent marriages are at much greater risk of being seriously injured or killed
(National Advisory Council on Violence Against Women 2000)".[146] The authors of this study
add that "There is current considerable controversy over whether male-to-female marital
violence is best regarded as a reflection of male psychopathology and control or whether there is
an empirical base and clinical utility for conceptualizing these patterns as relational."[146]

Recommendations for clinicians making a diagnosis of Marital Relational Disorder should

include the assessment of actual or "potential" male violence as regularly as they assess the
potential for suicide in depressed patients. Further, "clinicians should not relax their vigilance
after a battered wife leaves her husband, because some data suggest that the period immediately
following a marital separation is the period of greatest risk for the women. Many men will stalk
and batter their wives in an effort to get them to return or punish them for leaving. Initial
assessments of the potential for violence in a marriage can be supplemented by standardized
interviews and questionnaires, which have been reliable and valid aids in exploring marital
violence more systematically".[146]

The authors conclude with what they call "very recent information"[147] on the course of violent
marriages which suggests that "over time a husband's battering may abate somewhat, but perhaps
because he has successfully intimidated his wife. The risk of violence remains strong in a
marriage in which it has been a feature in the past. Thus, treatment is essential here; the clinician
cannot just wait and watch".[147] The most urgent clinical priority is the protection of the wife
because she is the one most frequently at risk, and clinicians must be aware that supporting
assertiveness by a battered wife may lead to more beatings or even death.[147]


Many cases of domestic violence occur due to jealousy when one partner is either suspected of
being unfaithful or is planning to leave the relationship. It can also be seen in a situation where
one partner is doing better than the other. For example: the woman being more successful than
the husband.[148][149] An evolutionary psychology explanation of such cases of domestic violence
against a woman is that they represent male attempts to control female reproduction and ensure
sexual exclusivity through violence or the threat of violence. [148] [149] Though often jealousy is
used as an excuse for the abusers behavior, most often it is just an excuse in order to exert more
control over their partner and a blaming technique in order to isolate the victim further from
friends and family.


Behavioral theories draw on the work of behavior analysts. Applied behavior analysis uses the
basic principles of learning theory to change behavior. Behavioral theories of domestic violence
focus on the use of functional assessment with the goal of reducing episodes of violence to zero
rates.[150] This program leads to behavior therapy. Often by identifying the antecedents and
consequences of violent action, the abusers can be taught self control.[151] Recently more focus
has been placed on prevention and a behavioral prevention theory.[150]

Social theories

Looks at external factors in the offender's environment, such as family structure, stress, social
learning, and includes rational choice theories.[152] Though these external factors may heighten
the frequency and severity of violence, ultimately it is not the cause, but merely fueling the
abusers need to seek control in their life else where and enacting that need for control in the only
way that they can, which is against their partner.

Resource theory

Resource theory was suggested by William Goode (1971).[153] Women who are most dependent
on the spouse for economic well being (e.g. homemakers/housewives, women with handicaps,
the unemployed), and are the primary caregiver to their children, fear the increased financial
burden if they leave their marriage. Dependency means that they have fewer options and few
resources to help them cope with or change their spouse's behavior.[154]

Couples that share power equally experience lower incidence of conflict, and when conflict does
arise, are less likely to resort to violence. If one spouse desires control and power in the
relationship, the spouse may resort to abuse.[155] This may include coercion and threats,
intimidation, emotional abuse, economic abuse, isolation, making light of the situation and
blaming the spouse, using children (threatening to take them away), and behaving as "master of
the castle".[156][157]

Social stress

Stress may be increased when a person is living in a family situation, with increased pressures.
Social stresses, due to inadequate finances or other such problems in a family may further
increase tensions.[158] Violence is not always caused by stress, but may be one way that some
people respond to stress.[159][160] Families and couples in poverty may be more likely to experience
domestic violence, due to increased stress and conflicts about finances and other aspects.[161]
Some speculate that poverty may hinder a man's ability to live up to his idea of "successful
manhood", thus he fears losing honor and respect. Theory suggests that when he is unable to
economically support his wife, and maintain control, he may turn to misogyny, substance abuse,
and crime as ways to express masculinity.[161]

Social learning theory


Social learning theory suggests that people learn from observing and modeling after others'
behavior. With positive reinforcement, the behavior continues. If one observes violent behavior,
one is more likely to imitate it. If there are no negative consequences (e. g. victim accepts the
violence, with submission), then the behavior will likely continue. Often, violence is transmitted
from generation to generation in a cyclical manner.[vague] [162][163][164]

Power and control

In abusive relationships, violence is posited to arise out of a need for power and control of one
partner over the other. An abuser will use various tactics of abuse (e.g., physical, verbal,
emotional, sexual or financial) in order to establish and maintain control over the partner.

Abusers' efforts to dominate their partners have been attributed to low self-esteem or feelings of
inadequacy, unresolved childhood conflicts, the stress of poverty, hostility and resentment toward
women (misogyny), hostility and resentment toward men (misandry), personality disorders,
genetic tendencies and sociocultural influences, among other possible causative factors. Most
authorities seem to agree that abusive personalities result from a combination of several factors,
to varying degrees.

A causalist view of domestic violence is that it is a strategy to gain or maintain power and control
over the victim. This view is in alignment with Bancroft's "cost-benefit" theory that abuse
rewards the perpetrator in ways other than, or in addition to, simply exercising power over his or
her target(s). He cites evidence in support of his argument that, in most cases, abusers are quite
capable of exercising control over themselves, but choose not to do so for various reasons.[165]

An alternative view is that abuse arises from powerlessness and externalizing/projecting this and
attempting to exercise control of the victim. It is an attempt to 'gain or maintain power and
control over the victim' but even in achieving this it cannot resolve the powerlessness driving it.
Such behaviours have addictive aspects leading to a cycle of abuse or violence. Mutual cycles
develop when each party attempts to resolve their own powerlessness in attempting to assert

Questions of power and control are integral to the widely utilized Duluth Domestic Abuse
Intervention Project. They developed a "Power and Control Wheel" to illustrate this: it has power
and control at the center, surrounded by spokes (techniques used), the titles of which include:
coercion and threats, intimidation, emotional abuse, isolation, minimizing, denying and blaming,
using children, economic abuse, and male privilege.[166] The model attempts to address abuse by
challenging the misuse of power by the perpetrator.

The power wheel model is not intended to assign personal responsibility, enhance respect for
mutual purpose or assist victims and perpetrators in resolving their differences. Rather, it is an
informational tool designed to help individuals understand the dynamics of power operating in
abusive situations and identify various methods of abuse.

Critics of this model argue that it ignores research linking domestic violence to substance abuse
and psychological problems.[167] Some modern research into the patterns in DV has found that

women are more likely to be physically abusive towards their partner in relationships in which
only one partner is violent,[46][47] which draws the effectiveness of using concepts like male
privilege to treat domestic violence into question; however, it may still be valid in studying
severe abuse cases, which are mostly male perpetrated.[47] However, modern research into
predictors of injury from domestic violence suggests that the strongest predictor of injury by
domestic violence is participation in reciprocal domestic violence.[168]

Gender aspects of abuse

The relationship between gender and domestic violence is a controversial topic. There continues
to be debate about the rates at which each gender is subjected to domestic violence. Reasons for
mixed findings include the limitations of existing survey tools (e.g., conflict tactics scale) to
measure all relevant aspects of domestic violence and the use of disparate samples in studies.[169]
Sociologists Michael P. Johnson and Kathleen J. Ferraro argue that the rate of domestic violence
against men is often inflated due to the practice of including self-defense as a form of domestic

Gender differences in reporting violence have been cited as another explanation for mixed
results.[169] A 2011 review article by Chan found evidence of gender-specific reporting patterns:
men tended to under-report their own perpetration of domestic violence while women were more
likely to under-report their victimization. Factors which according to the reviewed studies can
lead women to under-report their partner's violence include financial or familial dependence on
the abusive partner, the tendency to excuse or normalize the partner's violence with the reasoning
that their partner really loves them, and self-blaming. By contrast, men who under-report their
own violence may be influenced by the fear and avoidance of legal consequences, the tendency
to blame their partner, and a narrative focus on their needs and emotions during reporting.
Furthermore, cultural factors can influence men's under-reporting of their own violence. In
cultures where machismo is prevalent and where men are considered the head of households in
control of their family, wife battering may be not perceived as a serious behavior that needs to

According to a 2004 survey in Canada, the percentages of males being physically or sexually
victimized by their partners was 6% versus 7% for women. However, females reported higher
levels of repeated violence and were more likely than men to experience serious injuries; 23% of
females versus 15% of males were faced with the most serious forms of violence including being
beaten, choked, or threatened with or having a gun or knife used against them. Also, 21% of
women versus 11% of men were likely to report experiencing more than 10 violent incidents.
Women who often experience higher levels of physical or sexual violence from their current
partner, were 44%, compared with 18% of men to suffer from an injury. Cases in which women
are faced with extremely abusive partners, results in the females having to fear for their lives due
to the violence they had faced. In addition, statistics show that 34% of women feared for their
lives, and 10% of men feared for theirs.[52]

A problem in conducting studies that seek to describe violence in terms of gender is the amount
of silence, fear and shame that results from abuse within families and relationships. Another is
that abusive patterns can tend to seem normal to those who have lived in them for a length of

time. Similarly, subtle forms of abuse can be quite transparent even as they set the stage for
further abuse seeming normal. Finally, inconsistent definition of what constitutes domestic
violence makes definite conclusions difficult to reach when compiling the available studies.

Violence against women

Campaign against domestic violence in Uganda

Although the exact rates are widely disputed, especially within the United States, there is a large
body of cross-cultural evidence that women are subjected to domestic violence significantly
more often than men.[171][172][173][174] In addition, there is broad consensus that women are more
often subjected to severe forms of abuse and are more likely to be injured by an abusive partner.

According to the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, a survey of 16,507
Americans by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30.3% of women and 25.7% of
men reported being slapped, pushed, or shoved by a current or former intimate partner in their
lifetime, while 24.3% of women and 13.8% of men reported being the victims of severe physical
violence.[176] A 2012 survey of over 21,000 residents of England and Wales by the UK Office for
National Statistics showed that 7% of women and 5% of men were victims of domestic abuse
(defined to include non-physical abuse such as emotional and financial abuse, as well as physical
violence) in the last year.[177] A study in the United States found that women were 13 times more
likely than men to seek medical attention due to injuries related to spousal abuse.[178]

Women are more likely than men to be murdered by an intimate partner. Of those killed by an
intimate partner about three quarters are female and about a quarter are male. In 1999 in the
United States 1,218 women and 424 men were killed by an intimate partner,[179] and 1181 females
and 329 males were killed by their intimate partners in 2005.[180][181] In England and Wales about
100 women are killed by partners or former partners each year while 21 men were killed in 2010.
In 2008, in France, 156 women and 27 men were killed by their intimate partner.[183]

The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993) states that "violence
against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and
women, which has led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the

prevention of the full advancement of women, and that violence against women is one of the
crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared
with men".[184][185] However, more recent research has called into question the notion that sexism
and patriarchy are the sole or even primary causes of domestic violence. A 2013 review of
studies from five continents examined the correlation between a country's level of gender
inequality and rates of domestic violence. When DV rates were measured by general population
or community studies, there was no correlation. When DV rates were measured by samples of
dating couples, gender inequality explained the variance for only 17% of male abuse and 19% of
female abuse. The authors conclude that "partner abuse can no longer be conceived as merely a
gender problem, but also (and perhaps primarily) as a human and relational problem, and should
be framed as such by everyone concerned."[186]

In their study of severely violent couples, Neil Jacobson and John Gottman conclude that the
frequency of violent acts is not as crucial as the impact of the violence and its function, when
trying to understand spousal abuse; specifically, they state that the purpose of domestic violence
is typically to control and intimidate, rather than just to injure.[187]

A recent study in South Asia, done in from 2010 to 2013, interviewed 10,000 men from a variety
of countries. The study found that "...overall nearly half of those men interviewed reported using
physical and/or sexual violence against a female partner, ranging from 26 percent to 80 percent
across the sites. Nearly a quarter of men interviewed reported perpetrating rape against a woman
or girl, ranging from 10 percent to 62 percent across the sites." [188]

Violence against men

Main article: Domestic violence against men


Kalighat painting, "Woman Striking Man With Broom," Calcutta, India, 1875

Domestic violence against men refers to abuse against men or boys in an intimate relationship
such as marriage, cohabitation, dating, or within a family.

Determining how many instances of domestic violence actually involve male victims is difficult.
Male domestic violence victims may be reluctant to get help for various reasons.[189] Some
studies have shown that women who assaulted their male partners were more likely to avoid
arrest even when the male victim contacts police.[190] Another study examined the differences in
how male and female batterers were treated by the criminal justice system. The study concluded
that female intimate violence perpetrators are frequently viewed by law enforcement and the
criminal justice system as victims rather than the actual offenders of violence against men.[191]
Other studies have also demonstrated a high degree of acceptance of aggression against men by

Same-sex relationships

Domestic violence occurs in same-sex relationships. Gay and lesbian relationships have been
identified as a risk factor for abuse in certain populations.[2] In an effort to be more inclusive,
many organizations have made an effort to use gender-neutral terms when referring to
perpetratorship and victimhood.

Historically, domestic violence has been seen as a heterosexual family issue and little interest has
been directed at violence in same-sex relationships.[192] It has not been until recently, as the gay
rights movement has brought the issues of gay and lesbian people into public attention, when
research has been conducted on same-sex relationships. A 1999 analysis of nineteen studies of
partner abuse concluded that "[r]esearch suggests that lesbians and gay men are just as likely to
abuse their partners as heterosexual men,"[193] although the study also noted the uncertain nature
of much of the contemporary research in the area.

People in homosexual relationships, however, face special obstacles in dealing with the issues
that some researchers have labeled "the double closet". A recent Canadian study by Mark W.
Lehman[194] suggests similarities include frequency (approximately one in every four couples);
manifestations (emotional, physical, financial, etc.); co-existent situations (unemployment,
substance abuse, low self-esteem); victims' reactions (fear, feelings of helplessness,
hypervigilance); and reasons for staying (love, can work it out, things will change, denial). At the
same time, significant differences, unique issues and deceptive myths are typically present.[194]

Lehman points to added discrimination and fear gay and lesbian people can face. This includes
potential dismissal by police and some social services, a lack of support from peers who would
rather keep quiet about the problem in order not to attract negative attention toward the gay
community, the impacts of HIV status or AIDS in keeping partners together, due to health care
insurance/access, or guilt; outing used as a weapon, and encountering supportive services that are
targeted and/or structured for the needs of heterosexual women and which may not meet the
needs of gay men or lesbians. However Lehman himself noted that "due to the limited number of
returned responses and non-random sampling methodology the findings of this work are not

generalizable beyond the sample" of 32 initial respondents and final 10 who completed the more
in-depth survey.[194]

Cycle of abuse
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(October 2013)

Main article: Cycle of abuse

Frequently, domestic violence is used to describe specific violent and overtly abusive incidents,
and legal definitions will tend to take this perspective. However, when violent and abusive
behaviours happen within a relationship, the effects of those behaviours continue after these
overt incidents are over. Advocates and counsellors will refer to domestic violence as a pattern of
behaviours, including those listed above.

Lenore Walker presented the model of a Cycle of abuse which consists of three basic phases:

Tension Building Phase

Characterized by poor communication, tension, fear of causing outbursts. During this stage the
victims may try to calm the abuser down, try to not do anything that would set the abuser off,
and to avoid any major violent confrontations.

Violent Episode

Characterized by outbursts of violent, abusive incidents. During this stage the abuser attempts to
dominate his/her partner(victim), with the use of domestic violence.

Honeymoon Phase

Characterized by affection, apology, and apparent end of violence. During this stage the abuser
feels overwhelming feelings of remorse and sadness. Some abusers walk away from the
situation, while others shower their victims with love and affection.

Although it is easy to see the outbursts of the Violent Episode Phase as abuse, even the more
pleasant behaviours of the Honeymoon Phase serve to perpetuate the abuse.

Many domestic violence advocates believe that the cycle of abuse theory is limited and does not
reflect the realities of many men and women experiencing domestic violence.

Main article: Management of domestic violence

The management of domestic violence differs between societies, and has a very important role in
ensuring the well being of the victims and preventing their re-victimization.

The response to domestic violence in Western countries is typically a combined effort between
law enforcement, social services, and health care. The role of each has evolved as domestic
violence has been brought more into public view.

Domestic violence historically has been viewed as a private family matter that need not involve
the government or criminal justice.[195] Police officers were often reluctant to intervene by
making an arrest, and often chose instead to simply counsel the couple and/or ask one of the
parties to leave the residence for a period of time. The courts were reluctant to impose any
significant sanctions on those convicted of domestic violence, largely because it was viewed as a
misdemeanor offense.[citation needed]

The modern view in industrialized countries is that domestic violence should be viewed as a
public matter and all criminal authority should be involved; that once the violence is reported it
should be taken seriously.

Medical response

Medical professionals can make a difference in the lives of those who experience abuse. Many
cases of spousal abuse are handled solely by physicians and do not involve the police.
Sometimes cases of domestic violence are brought into the emergency room,[196] while many
other cases are handled by a family physician or other primary care provider.[197] Subspecialist
physicians are also increasingly playing an important role. For example, HIV physicians are
ideally suited to play an important role in managing abuse given the association between abuse
and HIV infection as well as their often lifelong relationships with patients.[2]

Duluth model

See also: Duluth model

The Duluth Model or Domestic Abuse Intervention Project is a program developed to reduce
domestic violence against women.[198] The Duluth model was developed by Minnesota Program
Development, Inc., a nonprofit agency in Duluth, Minnesota. The program was largely founded
by social activist Ellen Pence. The Duluth Model is featured in the documentary Power and
Control: Domestic Violence in America.[199]

The Domestic Abuse Intervention Project was the first multi-disciplinary program designed to
address the issue of domestic violence. This experimental program, conducted in Duluth,
Minnesota in 1981, coordinated the actions of a variety of agencies dealing with domestic
conflict. The program has become a model for programs in other jurisdictions seeking to deal
more effectively with domestic violence.[200]

According to the Duluth Model, "women and children are vulnerable to violence because of their
unequal social, economic, and political status in society".[201]

The Duluth Model is based on a "violence is patriarchal" model. The model focuses solely on the
men's use of violence in abusive relationships, rather than on the behavior of all parties
concerned. This helps the men to focus on changing their personal behavior in order to be
nonviolent in any relationship.

Law enforcement response

Law enforcement response to intimate partner violence has varied over time and across
jurisdictions. Until the 1980s, U.S. law enforcement policies and practices emphasized not using
arrest, prosecution or other legal sanctions. In most U.S. jurisdictions, law enforcement officers
were not even authorized to make arrests for any misdemeanor assault, unless it occurred in their
presence. In addition, it was widely believed that domestic disturbance calls were the most
dangerous type of call for responding officers. This belief was based on FBI statistics which
turned out to be flawed, in that they grouped all types of disturbances together with domestic
disturbances, such as brawls at a bar.[202][203] This false belief led to development of programs that
trained police officers to first separate intimate partners and to counsel them. The objective of
this program was to reduce assaults against and injuries to law enforcement officers.

Based on legal suits, social research and changing attitudes about the role of women and the
social acceptable of the use of violence, law enforcement policies and practices in the U.S. have
changed toward encouraging and, in some cases, mandating the use of legal sanctions for
intimate partner violence. Many U.S. states have adopted legislation mandating the use of arrest
for at least some types of intimate partner violence. In addition, the Federal Violence Against
Women Act, first adopted in 1994, promotes the use of arrest and prosecution of intimate partner
violence by state and local agencies.

Counseling for person affected

Due to the extent and prevalence of violence in relationships, counselors and therapists should
assess every client for domestic violence (both experienced and perpetrated). If the clinician is
seeing a couple for couple’s counseling, this assessment should be conducted with each
individual privately during the initial interview, in order to increase the victim’s sense of safety
in disclosing DV in the relationship.[204] In addition to determining whether DV is present,
counselors and therapists should also make the distinction between situations where battering
may have been a single, isolated incident or an ongoing pattern of control. The therapist must,
however, consider that domestic violence may be present even when there has been only a single
physical incident as emotional/verbal, economic, and sexual abuse may be more insidious.[204]

Lethality assessment

A lethality assessment is a tool that can assist in determining the best course of treatment for a
client, as well as helping the client to recognize dangerous behaviors and more subtle abuse in
their relationship.[205] In a study of victims of attempted domestic violence-related homicide, only
about one-half of the participants recognized that their perpetrator was capable of killing them,
as many domestic violence victims minimize the true seriousness of their situation.[206] Thus,
lethality assessment is an essential first step in assessing the severity of a victim’s situation.

Safety planning

Safety planning allows the victim to plan for dangerous situations they may encounter, and is
effective regardless of their decision on whether remain with their perpetrator. Safety planning
usually begins with determining a course of action if another acute incident occurs in the home.
The victim should be given strategies for their own safety, such as avoiding confrontations in
rooms where there is only one exit and avoiding certain rooms that contain many potential
weapons (such as kitchens, bathrooms, etc.).[49]

Counseling for offenders

The main goal for treatment for offenders of domestic violence is to minimize the offender’s risk
of future domestic violence, whether within the same relationship or a new one. Treatment for
offenders should emphasize minimizing risk to the victim, and should be modified depending on
the offender’s history, risk of reoffending, and criminogenic needs.[207][208] The majority of
offender treatment programs are 24–36 weeks in length and are conducted in a group setting with
groups not exceeding 12 participants.[209]

Prevention and intervention

There are many community organizations which work to prevent domestic violence by offering
safe shelter, crisis intervention, advocacy, and education and prevention programs. Community
screening for domestic violence can be more systematic in cases of animal abuse, healthcare
settings, emergency departments, behavioral health settings and court systems. Tools are being
developed to facilitate domestic violence screening such as mobile apps.[210][211]

Main article: Domestic violence and pregnancy

Pregnancy, when coupled with domestic violence, may amplify health risks. Abuse during
pregnancy, whether physical, verbal or emotional, produces adverse effects for both the mother
and fetus. Domestic violence during pregnancy is categorized as abusive behavior towards a
pregnant woman, where the pattern of abuse can often change in terms of severity and frequency
of violence. Abuse may be a long-standing problem in a relationship that continues after a
woman becomes pregnant or it may commence during pregnancy.[212] Although female-to-male
partner violence occurs in these settings, the overwhelming form of domestic violence is
perpetrated by men against women.[213]

Domestic abuse can be triggered by pregnancy for various reasons. Pregnancy itself can be used
a form of coercion and the phenomenon of preventing an intimate partner’s reproductive choice
is referred to as birth control sabotage, or reproductive coercion. Studies on the birth control
sabotage performed by males against female partners have indicated a strong correlation between
domestic violence and birth control sabotage.[214] Pregnancy can also lead to a hiatus of domestic

violence when the abuser does not want to harm the unborn child. The risk of domestic violence
for pregnant women is greatest immediately after childbirth.[215]

In 2010, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 4.8% of women
reported having had an intimate partner who tried to get them pregnant against their wishes,
while 8.7% of men reported having had an intimate partner who tried to get pregnant against
their wishes or tried to stop them from using birth control.[216]

New research illustrates that there are strong associations between exposure to domestic violence
and abuse in all their forms and higher rates of many chronic conditions. The strongest evidence
comes from the Adverse Childhood Experiences' series of studies which show correlations
between exposure to abuse or neglect and higher rates in adulthood of chronic conditions, high
risk health behaviors and shortened life span.[217] Evidence of the association between physical
health and violence against women has been accumulating since the early 1990s.[218]

Studies have indicated that it is important to consider the effect of domestic violence and its
psychophysiologic sequelae on women who are mothers of infants and young children. Several
studies have shown that maternal interpersonal violence-related posttraumatic stress disorder
(PTSD) can, despite traumatized mother's best efforts, interfere with their child's response to the
domestic violence and other traumatic events.[219][220] Thus, practitioners and service agencies
addressing the needs of domestic violence victims should assess the victim-as-parent and
evaluate the safety and well-being of children in the home.

More recently work by such researchers as Corso[221] have begun to quantify the economic
impact of exposure to violence and abuse. A recent publication, Hidden Costs in Health Care:
The Economic Impact of Violence and Abuse, [222] makes the case that such exposure represents a
serious and costly public health issue that should be addressed by the health care system.

Domestic violence around the world

In Iraq husbands have a legal right to "punish" their wives. The criminal code states at Paragraph
41 that there is no crime if an act is committed while exercising a legal right; examples of legal
rights include: "The punishment of a wife by her husband, the disciplining by parents and
teachers of children under their authority within certain limits prescribed by law or by custom".

In Jordan, part of article 340 of the Penal Code states that "he who discovers his wife or one of
his female relatives committing adultery and kills, wounds, or injures one of them, is exempted
from any penalty."[224] This has twice been put forward for cancellation by the government, but
was retained by the Lower House of the Parliament, in 2003: a year in which at least seven honor
killings took place.[225] Article 98 of the Penal Code is often cited alongside Article 340 in cases
of honor killings. "Article 98 stipulates that a reduced sentence is applied to a person who kills
another person in a 'fit of fury'".[226]

In Russia, according to Russian interior ministry estimates, there are 600,000 women victims of
domestic abuse every year and 14,000 die from injuries inflicted by husbands or partners each
year. Domestic violence is not a specific criminal offense, but it can be charged under various
crimes of the criminal code (e.g. assault), but in practice cases of domestic violence turn into
criminal cases only when they involve severe injuries, or the victim has died.[227] For more details
see Domestic violence in Russia.

A UN report compiled from a number of different studies conducted in at least 71 countries

found domestic violence against women to be most prevalent in Ethiopia.[228]

A study on Bedouin women in Israel found that most have experienced DV, most accepted it as a
decree from God, and most believed they were to blame themselves for the violence. The study
also showed that the majority of women were not aware of existing laws and policies which
protect them: 60% said they did not know what a restraining order was.[229]

In the European Union, DV is a serious problem in the Baltic States. These three countries -
Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania - have also lagged behind most post-communist countries in their
response to DV.[230] The problem in these countries is very severe, and in 2013 a DV victim won
a European Court of Human Rights case against Lithuania.[231][232]

United States

Main articles: Domestic violence in the United States and Violence Against Women Act

Approximately 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate
partner annually in the United States.[233] In the United States, domestic violence is the leading
cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44.[234]

Victims of DV are offered legal remedies, which include the criminal law, as well as obtaining a
protection order. The remedies offered can be both of a civil nature (civil orders of protection
and other protective services) and of a criminal nature (charging the perpetrator with a criminal
offense). People perpetrating DV are subject to criminal prosecution, most often under assault
and battery laws. [12][235][236]

Main article: Epidemiology of domestic violence

Domestic violence occurs across the world, in various cultures,[237] and affects people of all
economic statuses.[18] According to one study, the percentage of women who have reported being
physically abused by an intimate partner vary from 69% to 10% depending on the country.[238]


A 1992 Council of Europe study on domestic violence against women found that 1 in 4 women
experience domestic violence over their lifetimes and between 6 and 10% of women suffer
domestic violence in a given year.[citation needed]

North America

See also: Domestic violence in the United States

In the United States, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics in 1995 women reported a six
times greater rate of intimate partner violence than men.[239][240] The National Crime Victimization
Survey (NCVS) indicates that in 1998 about 876,340 violent crimes were committed in the U.S.
against women by their current or former spouses, or boyfriends.[241] According to the Centers for
Disease Control, in the United States 4.8 million women suffer intimate partner related physical
assaults and rapes and 2.9 million men are victims of physical assault from their partners.[242]

In Canada, the Assembly of First Nations evaluation of the Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program
conducted by CIET offers an inclusive and relatively unbiased national estimate. It documented
domestic violence in a random sample of 85 First Nations across Canada: 22% (523/2359) of
mothers reported suffering abuse in the year prior to being interviewed; of these, 59% reported
physical abuse.[243]


Fighting the prevalence of domestic violence in Kashmir has brought Hindu and Muslim
activists together.[244] Additionally, aspects of Islamic law have been criticized for promoting
domestic violence[245]

One study found that half of Palestinian women have been the victims of domestic violence.[246]

The Human Rights Watch found that up to 90% of women in Pakistan were subject to some form
of maltreatment within their own homes.[247] Honor killings in Pakistan are a very serious
problem, especially in northern Pakistan.[248][249] In Pakistan, honour killings are known locally as
karo-kari. Karo-kari is a compound word literally meaning "black male" (Karo) and "black
female (Kari).

Domestic violence in India is widespread, and is often related to the custom of dowry.[250]
Although not as common as in other parts of Asia, honor killings do occur in some regions of
India, particularly in northern regions of the country. Honor killings have been reported in the
states of Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar, as a result of people marrying
without their family's acceptance, and sometimes for marrying outside their caste or religion.[251]

In Turkey 42% of women over 15 have suffered physical or sexual violence.[253]


Up to two-thirds of women in certain communities in Nigeria's Lagos State say they are victims
to domestic violence.[254]

80% of women surveyed in rural Egypt said that beatings were common and often justified,
particularly if the woman refused to have sex with her husband.[255]


Statistics published in 2004, show that the rate of domestic violence victimisation for Indigenous
women in Australia may be 40 times the rate for non-Indigenous women.[256]


An illustration from JJ Grandville's Cent Proverbes (1845) captioned "Qui aime bien châtie bien" (Who
loves well, punishes well).

Prior to the mid-1800s, most legal systems accepted wife beating as a valid exercise of a
husband's authority over his wife.[257][258] One exception, however, was the 1641 Body of
Liberties of the Massachusetts Bay colonists, which declared that a married woman should be
"free from bodilie correction or stripes by her husband."[259]

Political agitation during the nineteenth century led to changes in both popular opinion and
legislation regarding domestic violence within the United Kingdom and the United States.[257][260]
In 1850, Tennessee became the first state in the United States to explicitly outlaw wife beating.
Other states soon followed suit.[258][263] In 1878, the Matrimonial Causes Act made it
possible for women in the UK to seek separations from abusive husbands.[264] By the end of the
1870s, most courts in the United States were uniformly opposed to the right of husbands to

physically discipline their wives.[265] By the early twentieth century, it was common for police to
intervene in cases of domestic violence in the United States, but arrests remained rare.[266]

Modern attention to domestic violence began in the women's movement of the 1970s,
particularly within the contexts of feminism and women's rights, as concern about wives being
beaten by their husbands gained attention. The first known use of the expression "domestic
violence" in a modern context, meaning "spouse abuse, violence in the home" was in an address
to the Parliament of the United Kingdom in 1973. A few months later the world's first domestic
violence services federation (Women's Aid) was set up in 1974, providing practical and
emotional support as part of a range of services to women and children experiencing violence in
England.[267][268] With the rise of the men's movement of the 1990s, the problem of domestic
violence against men also gained significant attention.

Until quite recently, children had very few rights in regard to protection from violence by their
parents, and still continue to do so in many parts of the world. Historically, fathers had virtually
unlimited rights in regard to their children and how they chose to discipline them. In many
cultures, such as in Ancient Rome, a father could legally kill his children; many cultures have
also allowed fathers to sell their children into slavery. Child sacrifice was also a common
practice.[269] Today, corporal punishment of children by their parents remains legal in most
countries, but in Western countries that still allow the practice there are strict limits on what is
permitted. The first country to outlaw parental corporal punishment was Sweden (parents' right
to spank their own children was first removed in 1966,[270] and it was explicitly prohibited by law
from July 1979).

See also
 Outline of domestic violence
 Effects of domestic violence on children

 Parental abuse by children

 Relational disorder

 Reproductive coercion


 Christianity and domestic violence

 Islam and domestic violence


 Victimization

International human rights law

 Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence

Gender violence
 Overview
 Projects

 Publications

Gender-based violence describes acts which result in physical, sexual or mental harm or
suffering to women, according to the United Nations. It is a global issue, affecting thousands.
Women and girls are the most vulnerable to this form of violence but increasingly men and boys
are also affected. Tackling gender-based violence requires attention to a number of interrelated
areas, including prevention, treatment and legal frameworks.

At IDS we believe that work to end gender-based violence will be more successful if it harnesses
the power of collective action. Organised activism against gender-based violence is a key way of
creating transformative change on attitudes, norms and behaviours, as well as pushing for change
in policy and practice.

In our research, we specifically explore:


 Sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict states with a focus on Egypt and the Middle East
 Sexual and reproductive rights of women living with HIV

 Mobilising for positive change through collective action and engaging men

 Community-based approaches to tackling gender violence

 Sexuality and political power of pleasure

- See more at:


Victims of acid attack in Bangladesh