What is gender-based violence?

Gender-based violence (GBV) is a dark reality in all countries and all economic and social groups. It disproportionately impacts women and girls and has short- and long-term effects on survivors’ health, dignity and security. Violence against girls and women can take place anywhere, including at home, at school, within communities, in public institutions and at work.

Definition of GBV: Gender-based violence refers to harmful acts directed at an individual based on their gender. It is rooted in gender inequality, the abuse of power and harmful norms.


There are many types of gender-based violence:
  • rape and attempted rape
  • sexual abuse
  • sexual exploitation
  • child, early or forced marriage
  • domestic violence
  • trafficking
  • female genital mutilation
  • early and forced pregnancy
  • emotional
  • economic

The impact of COVID-19 on GBV

For girls and women, especially those living in low-income countries, the pandemic has exacerbated already existing gender inequalities and increased the incidence of GBV. This secondary impact of the pandemic will have long-lasting and devastating consequences for many years to come:

The different forms of gender-based violence


Sexual violence

Sexual violence includes pressuring or forcing someone to perform sexual acts (from kissing to sex) against their will or making sexual comments that make someone feel humiliated or uncomfortable. It does not matter if the person has previously consented to sexual behaviour – consent must be given at the time of the act.


Physical violence

Physical violence is the use of physical force, such as hitting, slapping, kicking, burning, pushing, etc.

emotional VIOLENCE 

Emotional or psychological violence

Emotional or psychological violence is often the most difficult form of violence to identify. It may include humiliating, threatening, insulting and pressuring as well as expressions of jealousy or possessiveness, such as controlling someone’s decisions and activities. It can also include restricting someone’s movements. This form of violence can be verbal or non-verbal.


Economic violence

Economic violence is when someone else exercises complete control over a person’s money and other economic resources. This type of violence is a way of exerting power and can be used to control someone’s movements, by keeping them from meeting with friends, for example.

Why gender-based violence happens

 A woman wearing a shayla, sitting on a bed, looking to the side

  • Unequal power relations: Gender-based violence is inflicted by abusers who believe that their sex or gender entitles them to use (or threaten to use) force or power over someone else with the intent to cause them harm or control their behaviour.
  • Low social status and value of women and girls (and people who do not conform to the gender binary).
  • Gender stereotypes and norms that justify violence.
  • Because it is often condoned by governments or considered “normal”.

What Plan International is doing to address gender-based violence

Gender-based violence happens when there is an unequal power relationship between girls or women and boys or men. Plan International runs programs that help equalize the power in relationships so that everyone is valued equally and can reach their full potential.

Here is what Plan International is doing to boost the social position of girls and women and reduce gender-based violence:

Advocating with lawmakers and community partners to promote gender equality and challenge gender-based violence such as child marriage and female genital mutilation.

Providing safe spaces where youth can openly discuss sensitive topics like self-esteem, sexuality and relationships. These discussions help develop positive attitudes toward gender equality

Developing opportunities for women to come together to talk about gender equality and tackle gender norms that lead to gender-based violence.

Facilitating discussions among men to address negative masculinity like gender-based violence and to reflect on gender equality.


Donate to help reduce gender-based violence

Your donation today can reduce the number of girls and women who experience GBV.

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