The Platform


Gender-based violence affects every society regardless of socioeconomics.

Gender-based violence (GBV) is defined as “violence directed against a person because of that person’s gender or violence that affects persons of a particular gender disproportionately.” This can include “violence against women, domestic violence against women, men or children living in the same domestic unit. Although women and girls are the main victims of GBV, it also causes severe harm to families and communities.”

However, an important caveat to mention is that this violence isn’t just phyical. “[Gender-based violence] is not limited to physical violence and can include any word, action, or attempt to degrade, control, humiliate, intimidate, coerce, deprive, threaten, or harm another person. GBV can take many forms including cyber, physical, sexual, societal, psychological, emotional, and economic. Neglect, discrimination, and harassment can also be forms of GBV.”

Shockingly, one in eight young people reports experiencing sexual abuse, making it a pressing public health concern worldwide. The consequences of GBV can be devastating, causing long-term psychological, social, and physical harm. While global efforts to eliminate GBV barriers should be prioritized, initiatives to prevent and respond to youth violence must also be implemented.

Armed conflicts, natural disasters, and humanitarian crises can significantly weaken a society’s ability to protect women and girls from GBV. During such crises, rates of intimate partner violence tend to escalate. Armed groups often employ sexual violence as a tactic to advance their objectives. Women and girls may be forced into exchanging sex for basic necessities like food and money. In some countries, they may also be coerced or married off at a young age to support their families.

The Council of Europe states that GBV not only violates fundamental human rights but also perpetuates an unrelenting assault on human dignity. It diminishes an individual’s self-worth, self-esteem, and their right to live free from violence. GBV negatively impacts physical and mental health, leading to self-harm, social isolation, despair, and even suicide. Ensuring a safe and secure environment is a basic human right, and when it is compromised, individuals’ ability to function within their families, communities, and society as a whole is hindered. Gender-based violence obstructs the realization of personal well-being, fulfillment, and self-development.

Certain groups of women are particularly vulnerable, including minority members, Indigenous peoples, refugees, migrants, women living in rural or remote communities, impoverished women, women in institutions or detention, young girls, women with disabilities, elderly women, and those experiencing armed conflicts. UNICEF has provided evidence demonstrating the catastrophic short and long-term effects of gender-based violence on survivors’ physical and mental well-being. Such violence can result in severe physical injuries, unintended pregnancies, and the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Additionally, survivors often experience suicidal thoughts, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.

According to a World Bank report, gender-based violence is a global pandemic affecting one in three women during their lifetimes. Physical and/or sexual assault within intimate relationships has impacted 35% of women worldwide, while 7% have experienced sexual assault by individuals outside of a romantic relationship. Intimate partner violence accounts for up to 38% of female homicides worldwide. Shockingly, approximately 200 million cases involve female genital mutilation or cutting. The repercussions of this problem extend beyond the victims and their families, imposing significant social and economic costs.

According to UNICEF, between 2005 and 2022, parties involved in conflicts victimized at least 16,000 children through rape, forced marriage, sexual exploitation, and other forms of severe sexual violence. Girls are particularly affected, with 97 percent of victims from 2016 to 2020 being female. A Eurobarometer survey revealed that a majority of European citizens perceive domestic abuse as a frequent issue (74%), yet few openly discuss it.

Merely 12% of incidents were reported to the police, 7% to health or support agencies, and 18% mentioned a lack of evidence. Additionally, 26% of respondents believed it was not their concern, and 15% still considered domestic abuse a private matter.

In order to eradicate gender-based violence, it is imperative to educate the public about its causes, combat discriminatory practices, oppose sexual harassment, and establish safe spaces for victims. Government and legislative bodies should prioritize ensuring equitable access to education, empowering women in the workforce, defending reproductive rights, strengthening legal protections, and prioritizing the most marginalized populations.

UNICEF collaborates with governments, civil society, and United Nations partners to provide survivors with professional health services, dignity kits, emotional support, and safe spaces where they can seek care and protection. These safe spaces offer opportunities for women and girls to engage in empowerment activities and access vital information about their risks, rights, and needs. They also provide guidance on reporting sexual exploitation and abuse and seeking assistance. In many cases, safe spaces are the only sources of relevant and life-saving information available to women and girls.

On the other hand, the World Bank is committed to combating gender-based violence through funding, research, education, and partnerships with international stakeholders. Since 2003, the World Bank has collaborated with nations and partners to promote initiatives and information aimed at preventing and addressing GBV. The World Bank supports over $300 million in development projects addressing GBV in World Bank financed operations. These projects may be standalone or incorporate GBV components into sector-specific initiatives such as transportation, education, social protection, and forced displacement. Addressing GBV in operations is a top priority within the World Bank’s Gender Strategy, recognizing the magnitude of the challenge.

To effectively reduce GBV, global leaders and stakeholders from all sectors must develop tailored strategies and solutions. Establishing a community of practice focused on GBV mitigation is essential for addressing this global issue. Achieving a future with a 0% GBV rate requires a collective effort and a shared objective.

Jahedul Islam is a writer and researcher in public health. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in anthropology from the University of Chittagong and is currently pursuing a postgraduate diploma in Project Management (PGDPM) from the Academy of Business Professionals (ABP). He is a research assistant at Brac University's James P. Grant School of Public Health. At the regional and national levels, he has received the Best Writer Award three times.