Gender-based violence is violence which takes place primarily because of the gender or perceived gender of the victim. The term also covers crimes which are disproportionately committed against people of a particular gender. A gender-based crime may be committed against a person who is still in utero.
Gender-based violence is a big issue in the UK and around the world and is often an act of power or control. It is used to humiliate and dominate a person, so that the perpetrators can continue to have undue influence over the individual or individuals that are being targeted. Acts such as rape in war are also used as a way to dehumanise subjects.
Gender-based violence is sometimes referred to as Violence against Women, as these types of crimes have historically occurred against women. In recent years, the definition has been expanded to cover anyone who is experiencing crime due to their gender. As transgender issues have become more mainstream in recent years, there has been an increase in trans individuals reporting incidents of gender-based violence. The increase in reporting may suggest that trans individuals feel more confident about reporting gender-based crimes to the police which also helps when a victim wants to start legal action for criminal injury compensation.
Trans rights activists have previously argued that trans people under-reported gender-based incidents to the police due to a lack of acceptance within the law enforcement community. Although the situation is starting to improve, prejudices still lead to under reporting.
On a global scale, gender-based violence can be categorised in two ways:
- Violence by an individual (or group).
- Violence which is committed by the state (or sanctioned by the ruling bodies).
Examples of violence committed by individuals include;
- sexual harassment,
- sexual coercion,
- forced prostitution,
- domestic violence,
- prenatal selection,
- female infanticide.
In some places, the state (or ruling group) may allow (or fail to control) acts of gender-based violence. Examples of these acts of violence include;
- female genital mutilation (also known as female circumcision),
- forced abortion,
- forced sterilisation,
- forced marriage,
- forced pregnancy,
- honour based killings,
- sexual slavery,
- war rape.
China’s One Child policy could be considered as a form of state-enabled gender-based violence, because evidence shows that citizens are more likely to abandon or commit infanticide of female children.
There are many other examples of gender-based violence, including examples where women are subject to practices which force them to alter their appearance so that they conform to pre-determined beauty standards. Examples include; force-feeding and genital mutilation. Alternatively, acts of gender-based violence may be committed with the intention of disfiguring women, so that they no longer conform to societal beauty standards. These are acts of power and control.
Marital rape is an example of gender-based violence which was outlawed in the United Kingdom in 1991. Before that men were permitted to have sex with their wife without their explicit permission. The marriage license was considered to be adequate consent in these situations. Although women could technically commit spousal rape against their husbands, the issue was primarily faced by women who struggled to defend themselves against people who were physically stronger than they were. In most cases, it would be easier for men to prevent unwanted sex acts within marriage due to physiological differences.
Social Impacts of Gender-Based Violence
In areas where gender-based violence is prevalent, the groups which are being targeted may completely lack a voice. For example, women are effectively silenced in many areas because they are routinely affected by gender-based violence. In these areas, it is much harder for women to get positions of power or high-paying job roles. Groups that are victimised are unable to contribute socially, politically and economically to their community. This can make it even harder for these groups to change the system and end the cycle of violence.
Gender-based violence may also increase the strain on health resources. For example, HIV/AIDS rates are much higher in areas with high levels of gender-based violence against women. It is difficult to prevent the spread of these diseases when women are regularly infected as part of the cycle of violence. Children who are born as a result of gender-based violence may also be neglected or may subsequently be harmed by the abuser.