Womens Support Project

Violence against women

‘Violence against women’, sometimes referred to as “gender based violence”, covers a spectrum of behaviour.  The Scottish Government document "Safer Lives: Changed Lives" defines it as follows.

“Gender based violence is a function of gender inequality, and an abuse of male power and privilege. It takes the form of actions that result in physical, sexual and psychological harm or suffering to women and children, or affront to their human dignity, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life. It is men who predominantly carry out such violence, and women who are predominantly the victims of such violence. By referring to violence as ‘gender based’ this definition highlights the need to understand violence within the context of women’s and girl’s subordinate status in society. Such violence cannot be understood, therefore, in isolation from the norms, social structure and gender roles within the community, which greatly influence women’s vulnerability to violence.

Accordingly, violence against women encompasses but is not limited to:

  • Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family, within the general community or in institutions, including: domestic abuse, rape, incest and child sexual abuse
  • Sexual harassment and intimidation at work and in the public sphere; commercial sexual exploitation, including prostitution, pornography and trafficking
  • Dowry related violence
  • Female genital mutilation
  • Forced and child marriages
  • Honour crimes.

Activities such as pornography, prostitution, stripping, lap dancing, pole dancing and table dancing are forms of commercial sexual exploitation. These activities have been shown to be harmful for the individual women involved and have a negative impact on the position of all women through the objectification of women’s bodies. This happens irrespective of whether individual women claim success or empowerment from the activity. It is essential to separate sexual activity from exploitative sexual activity.

A sexual activity becomes sexual exploitation if it breaches a person’s human right to dignity, equality, respect and physical and mental wellbeing. It becomes commercial sexual exploitation when another person, or group of people, achieves financial gain or advancement through the activity.

The United Nations  Convention on the Elimination of Violence Against Women defines gender based violence as “violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman, or violence which affects women disproportionately.  It includes acts that inflict physical, mental or sexual harm or suffering, threats of such acts, coercion and other deprivations of liberty.”   The Convention also states that, “Violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women ... and that violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position to men.”

 For information on particular issues, including recommended reading and resources, please click onthe below links:

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