Gender-Based Violence

What Is Gender-Based Violence?

Gender-based violence (GBV) is any harm or violence that is perpetrated against a person or group of people on the basis of their biological sex (factual or perceived), gender, gender identity and/or sexual orientation. 

GBV can occur in the public or private sphere. It can include physical, sexual, psychological (emotional) or economic harm, as well as threats, coercion, manipulation or arbitrary deprivation of liberty. Examples of types of gender-based violence include domestic violence, sexual harassment, rape, female genital mutilation, honour killing, infanticide, forced and child marriages, online violence, and human trafficking.

Domestic violence Sexual harassment Rape Sexual assault

GBV can happen to and be perpetrated by anyone. Nevertheless, women and girls still constitute the majority of survivors of GBV. 

  • 1 in 3 women have experienced physical or sexual violence perpetrated by an intimate partner or sexual violence from a non-partner in their lifetime
  • Globally, approximately 137 women are killed by their partner or family member daily
  • Each year, 15 million girls are married before they reach the age of 18. This is 28 girls every minute


Perpetrators are often people who are known to the survivors, such as intimate partners, family members, friends, colleagues, figures of authority in the survivor’s community or institutional spaces etc. 


Causes of GBV

A combination of unequal power relations and patriarchal gender norms consist of the primary root causes of GBV. Men and women are expected to enact traditional gender roles – this includes the qualities that they should each have, how they should act with others, even what they can and cannot do across various contexts. For example, men are expected to be aggressive, macho and unemotional, whilst women are expected to be nurturing, submissive and emotional. In the case of GBV against women, GBV is perpetuated when violence is still largely perceived to be a permissible means to enforce women’s adherence to these gender roles – which only entrenches a vicious cycle of unequal gendered power relations in which men are superior over women and the use of violence to reinforce these relations.


Effects of GBV on the Survivor

Mental health 

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicidal behaviour, appetite and sleep disturbances, substance or drug misuse 

Physical, sexual and reproductive health

  • Injuries, unwanted pregnancies, abortions or sexually-transmitted infections, disability, increased vulnerability to chronic medical conditions such as cardiovascular diseases due to chronic stress


  • Stigma, rejection and isolation from family and community
  • Decline in academic or work performance or earnings, due to absenteeism, transfer or dismissal/expulsion


Effects of GBV on the Economy

  • Lost earnings, lost tax revenue, and opportunity costs. These are due to death and/or lost productivity from trauma or incarceration, by survivors and perpetrators. On a larger scale, this inflicts economic costs on businesses and organisations, but also prevents survivors and perpetrators from productively contributing to the economy 
  • Increased burden on the public healthcare system, social services, and criminal justice system
  • Long-term lost productivity and potential due to intergenerational effects of GBV on the children of survivors and/or perpetrators. To these children, exposure to violence can have negative repercussions in their development (emotional, social, psychological), which may impact on their educational attainment, employment as well as performance in either of or both of these areas


The consequences outlined above can lead to loss of a country’s gross domestic product (GDP). For gender-based violence against women, for example, research has shown that economic costs can amount from 1.2% to 2% of the global GDP – which is roughly equivalent to most developing countries’ annual spending on primary education.