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Gender and Violence

Hadia Pasha
Senior Student Counsellor
Aggression vs. Violence
 The act of initiating hostilities or invasion.
 The practice or habit of launching attacks.
 Hostile or destructive behavior or actions.
 the exercise or an instance of physical force, usually effecting or
intended to effect injuries, destruction, etc.
 an unjust, unwarranted, or unlawful display of force, esp such as
tends to overawe or intimidate
Gender-based Violence
Gender (socially prescribed roles) vs. Sex (physical differences)
Gender-based violence (GBV) is violence that is directed at an
individual based on her or his specific gender role in a society
It depends upon social acceptability of aggression in relation to
gender-prescribed behavioural norms
Violence against women is “any act of gender-based violence
that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or
psychological harm or suffering for women, including threats of
such acts, coercion, or arbitrary deprivations of liberty, whether
occurring in public or private life.”
--United Nations General Assembly 1993
Types of Violence
Institutional (legalized or systematized violence)
Structural (inherent in social, cultural or political
Group (mob, gangs, familial)
Individual (usually by partner)
 Physical: slapping, kicking, burning, strangulating,
 Sexual: coerced sex through force, threats,
intimidation etc.
 Psychological: isolation, verbal aggression,
humiliation, stalking, withholding funds, controlling
victim’s access to health care or employment, taking
children hostage, etc.
Myths and realities about GBV
Happens only to poor and Happens among people of all
marginalized women socioeconomic, educational and
racial profiles
Men cannot control Male violence is not genetically-
themselves based
Victims provoke the abuse Blaming the victim has the
through their inappropriate potential to cause harm to a
behavior survivor of violence; condones
the use of violence by men
Most women are abused by Most abused by people they
strangers. Women are safe know
when they are home
Life-cycle phases of Gender-based Violence
 Sex-selective abortion (China, India, Republic of Korea)
 Battering during pregnancy;
 Coerced pregnancy (for example, mass rape in war)
 Forced sterilization, abortion or use of contraceptives
 Female infanticide
 Emotional and physical abuse
 Differential access to food and medical care for girl infants.
 Child marriage
 Genital mutilation
 Sexual abuse by family members and strangers
 Differential access to food and medical care
 Child prostitution and trafficking
Life-cycle phases (contd.)
Adolescence & Adulthood:
 Dating and courtship violence
(acid-throwing in Bangladesh; date rape in the United States)
 Economically-coerced sex
(African schoolgirls having to take up with benefactors to afford school
 Sexual abuse in the workplace
 Rape
 Sexual harassment
 Forced prostitution
 Trafficking in women
 Honour killing
Life-cycle phases (contd.)
 Violence by spouse
 Marital rape
 Dowry abuse and murders
 Partner homicide
 Psychological abuse
 Abuse of spouse with disabilities

 Abuse of widows
 Elder abuse

Adapted from: Heise, Lori et al. (1994). Violence against Women: The Hidden Health Burden. Discussion Paper.
Washington, D.C.: The World Bank.
Theoretical Perspectives
Biological (hormones are primarily responsible)
Instinctual (innate aggressive tendency that needs to
be discharged)
Drives instigated by external stimuli (e.g. frustration-
aggression hypothesis)
Goal-oriented (Instrumental and hostile aggression
based on cognitive and affective elements)
Development of Violent Behaviours
Social Learning
(observational, direct experience, self-regulative influences)
Social-Cognitive models
(acquired through learning, contribute to interpretation of and
involvement in aggressive experiences, form consistent patterns
of aggression, are amenable to change)
Attachment processes
(unresponsive or unpredictable caregivers, insecure attachment
leading to anger and mistrust, resistant attachment leading to
difficulties in socialization)
Individual and Contextual Factors
Neuropsychological deficits
Gender Differences in Aggression
Both males and females were less likely to act aggressively against
another female than against a male
Females were more likely to perceive aggression as more
inappropriate than male
Females were likely to aim to repress aggression more than males
Females were more likely than males to feel guilt after an
aggressive act
Both genders differed in terms of how they interpreted, assessed,
and reacted to aggression-inducing situations
The percentage of males engaging in physical aggression is always
greater than females, but the difference disappears in verbal and
indirect aggression and in some forms of aggression women may
even have a higher percentage
Significance of Gender in violence
The patterns of violence against women are different
than violence against men
In many settings, society justifies, tolerates or ignores
violence against women because of traditional gender
norms and prejudices
In many countries, there are laws and forms of
implementing these laws, that minimize the
seriousness of acts of violence against women.
Homicides by Intimate Partners

% of total murders committed by opposite-sex

intimate partners (various studies)


60 Low figure
High figure

% of all murders of men % of all murders of women

Source: WHO’s World Report on Violence and Health, 2002

Attitudes in society
“Wife beating is an accepted custom … we are wasting our
time debating the issue.” (Parliamentarian, Papua New Guinea)
“Some women don’t feel loved if they are not beaten at
home. (Nurse, rural South Africa)
“If you are not a virgin, why do you complain? This is
normal.” (Assistant public prosecutor, Peru.)
“The boys never meant any harm to the girls. They just
wanted to rape.” (Deputy principal of a boarding school, Kenya)
“If it is a great mistake, then the husband is justified in
beating his wife. Why not? A cow will not be obedient
without beatings” (Husband in India)
A wife may love a husband who never beats her, but she
does not respect him” (Russian proverb)
Approval of Violence Against Women

Percent of men and women who approve of physical

violence against wives who refuse sex

Men Women



Egypt Egypt Ghana West bank Nicaragua Singapore New

(rural) (urban) and Gaza (rural) Zealand

Source: Heise et al., 1999

Weak Legislation
Don’t recognize violence in homes as a crime
Don’t recognize the concept of marital rape
Define sexual violence as a violation of custom or
honour rather than as a crime against a person
Use victim’s past to dismiss sexual crimes
Laws that characterize women as inferior to men
Laws that pardon rape if rapist marries victim
Helping the victims
Providing counselling and legal services
Hotline to report violence
Reproductive Health Centres
Shelter homes
Safety planning
 Non-judgemental attitudes from providers
 Emotional support
 Privacy and confidentiality
Preventing GBV
Informing women about their legal rights and referrals
to services in the community when necessary
Informing about links between GBV and health
Increasing the educational level of girls
Strengthening women economically
Changing gender stereotyping and attitudes
Creating safe environments for women
Carry out community-based education
Educate professionals in all sectors for gender
Other ways for addressing GBV
Research the epidemiology of GBV
Design and evaluate prevention and intervention
Advocate to change laws and their application
Collaborate with organizations from other sectors
(legal, rights, social services, etc.)