top of page
Definition of Violence against Women and Girls


It is important for the organisation to identify and define the problem of violence against women and girls as gendered and as such LBWP defines violence against women and girls as per the following: Article 1 of the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (DEVW), proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in its resolution 48/104 of 20 December 1993, defines the term "violence against women" as: "Any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private."


This means that violence against women and girls can be physical, sexual, psychological, verbal, emotional, coercive control and economic such as denying food, money or other vital resources. The definition includes domestic and sexual violence and harmful practices such as so-called honour-based violence, female genital mutilation and forced marriage. The perpetrators can and do include:  husbands, boyfriends, parents, those is positions of authority and responsibility and other state and institutional actors.


Women can be involved in perpetrating violence. For instance, mothers-in-law may be involved in violence in order to enforce accepted gender norms on their sons' wives and/or to ensure their obedience within a household. Women are often key players in the enactment and continuation of harmful traditional practices like female genital mutilation. It is important to remember that these harmful traditional practices are a product of social norms which aim to uphold perceived ‘cultural ideas’ about gender roles and social relations whether these are defined in culture however they prescribe to the understanding that culture is fixed in time. Where it is socially unacceptable for men to marry women, who have not undergone FGM, women have very little choice but to abide by this practice. Violence against women and girls is universal, it can be defined as culturally specific such as harmful traditional practices as described above, it can be perpetrated by the state and by families and individuals.

UK Government Definition of Domestic Violence


‘Any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality.’ This definition includes violence such as female genital mutilation (FGM), so-called ‘honour’ crimes, forced marriage and other acts of gender based violence. An adult is defined as any person aged 18 years or over. Family members are defined as mother, father, son, daughter, brother, sister and grandparents, whether directly related, in laws, or step family. From 1 April 2013, the definition was extended to include young people aged 16 and 17 and acts of coercive or controlling behaviour.


Whatever form it takes, domestic violence is rarely a one-off incident and should instead be seen as a pattern of abusive and controlling behavior through which the abuser seeks power over their victim. When focusing on individual acts, there is a general tendency to view different forms of abuse hierarchically. Most commonly, physical abuse is perceived as ‘more serious’ than emotional abuse. Evidence from survivors, however, strongly disputes this. Many abused women define the psychological effects of domestic violence as having a more profound effect on their lives than the physical violence, even where there has been life threatening or disabling physical violence. Therefore, to understand fully the issue of domestic violence it is more useful to focus not on specific incidents but instead on the abuser’s sense of entitlement and the patterns of power and control which underlie their behaviour.




Femicide is the murder of a woman for being a woman or the killing of females by males because they are females. It is a sexual and gender hate crime. Femicide is a global problem however data on femicide is still not adequately or accurately recorded.  




The term is commonly used in Latin America to identify the unequal and unjust treatment of women and girls within institutions and structures of law and justice and how such institutions, enable through actions and policies, consciously and unconsciously, the further mistreatment of women and girls resulting in a state of impunity against perpetrators.


Sexual Violence


Sexual Violence is any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting including but not limited to home and work. This definition includes rape, defined as the physically forced or otherwise coerced penetration of the vulva or anus with a penis, other body part or object – however the legal definition of rape may vary in different countries.


Child Sexual Abuse


This is a form of child abuse in which an adult or older adolescent uses a child for sexual stimulation. Any and all sexual behaviour by an adult towards a child is considered abuse because children are below the age of consent. Such behaviour includes rape, sexual assault, sexual kissing, fondling, suggestive statements, exposure of genitalia, exposure of a child to pornography and incest. Sometimes these unwanted activities are forced, but abusers can also manipulate the child's trust and emotions to compel them to co-operate.


Sexual Harassment in the Workplace or Educational Institution


Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA) occurs when poverty-stricken or otherwise vulnerable people are coerced into sexual relationships by men in power, positions of authority and control. This involves unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours and any other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. The victim is made to feel that if she does not submit, she may lose her job, get expelled, lose out on a job promotion or get poor academic grades. It may include assault, unwelcome touching, blocking movement, leering, sexual gestures, suggestive or obscene letters/notes, derogatory comments, jokes or slurs and display of sexually offensive objects or pictures. The end result is that it disrupts women and girls’ attainment in the workplace and/or education preventing them from accessing opportunities.


Forced Prostitution


Forced prostitution is also known as involuntary prostitution or sexual slavery that takes place as a result of coercion by a third party. It is the condition of control by one person or group of persons over another for the purpose of sexual exploitation.


Trafficking in Women


Human trafficking is the trade in humans most commonly for the purpose of forced labour, sexual slavery and commercial sexual exploitation. The Trafficking Protocol or the Palermo Protocol 2003 defines trafficking as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal, manipulation or implantation of organs.


Harmful Practices


Harmful traditional practices are forms of violence which have been committed primarily against women and girls in certain communities and societies for so long that they are considered, or presented by perpetrators, as part of accepted cultural practice. Harmful practices can include FGM, FM, wife inheritance, son preference and HBV.


Many factors shape understanding about gender, gender roles and families and their make-up including social, political, economic, environmental and personal. A person’s culture and belief is not the only factor. Norms and understandings are shaped and re-shaped and developed over time. From a historical perspective, gender is not transfixed and beliefs about gender roles have changed dramatically, challenging our perception about acceptance and tolerance of what is thought to be conventions and norms. Within many cultures and belief systems there are multiple references to gender which form many different ideas. Many cultures challenge patriarchal views especially when violence occurs in the name of culture.


FM has existed throughout history. For example, propertied classes used forced marriage to ensure hereditary rights. While some of these marriages may have been arranged, some were also forced. Regardless of race, faith and culture there are examples of young people being forced to marry by families if the young woman is pregnant. In the south of the USA for example, this was called the ‘shotgun marriage’. Arranged marriages happen more frequently in South Asian culture than forced marriage. It is important to respect a women and girls and this includes their identity however culture and belief systems cannot be used to minimise harm to a women and girls in any way.


Where there are safeguarding concerns those need to be explored using the tools and methods available to you. Safeguarding women and girls should not conflict with or contradict practice defined by culture and belief systems. Most cultures and belief systems challenge abuse and violence. There is no absolute that some cultures and belief systems justify violence and abuse. No society is devoid of culture or belief. The dominant culture throughout the world is patriarchal and culture can be intertwined in creating justification for abuse. Examples include: male/female division of labour, reliance of female as caregiver of children, maintenance of women in home, control/influence over way women dress and their reproductive systems, man is ‘king of castle’ mentality, unequal pay for work done by women / the glass ceiling and male dominated political and economic systems.


Patriarchal culture inevitably validates violence as an acceptable, even desirable, attribute of masculinity while it simultaneously devalues women and all attributes considered feminine, such as nurturing - not just of persons but also of relationships. If violence is considered legitimate, specific acts of violence against individuals who are socially devalued by the dominant culture (including but not only women) automatically become even more acceptable.


Female Genital Mutilation


Female genital mutilation (FGM) (also called cutting) is a procedure where female genitals are deliberately cut, injured or changed for non-medical reasons. Various reasons are used to justify the practice of FGM including perseverance of culture, a right of passage, to decrease women’s sexual desire and enhance male sexual pleasure. The practice is banned under the UK FGM Act 2003 making FGM illegal and a violations of human rights.


Forced Marriage


According to the Forced Marriage Act (2007) a person is forced into marriage if ‘another person forces them to enter into marriage (whether with them or with another person) without their free and full consent’. The Act goes on to explain that ‘force’ includes coercion by threats or other psychological means. Under the Act forcing a person into marriage including by aiding, abetting, counselling, procuring, encouraging or assisting another person to force, or to attempt to force a person to enter into a marriage are all behaviours which are unacceptable in the law.


A forced marriage is not the same as an arranged marriage. In arranged marriages, the families of both spouses take a leading role in arranging the marriage but the choice whether or not to accept the arrangement remains with the potential spouses. In forced marriages, one or both parties do not consent. Arranged marriages are not unlawful.


Forced marriage was criminalised in 2014. The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2015 makes it a criminal offence to force someone to marry This includes taking someone overseas to force them to marry (whether or not the forced marriage takes place), marrying someone who lacks the mental capacity to consent to the marriage (whether they’re pressured to or not), and breaching a Forced Marriage Protection Order is also a criminal offence. The civil remedy of obtaining a Forced Marriage Protection Order through the family courts will continue to exist alongside the new criminal offence, so victims can choose how they wish to be assisted.  

Honour Based Violence


There is no standard definition of so-called honour crimes, which are also called honour-based violence. The use of the word ‘honour’ refers to the motivation for the violence rather than a specific type or form of violence and can include collusion in the act of violence from the community. The definition of domestic violence states that so-called honour crimes are included within domestic violence. Therefore the abuse involved in so-called honour crimes can involve psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional violence. The ‘honour’ can refer to family honour (both the birth family and that of in-laws), of the spouse, and/or of the community. There is also no specific offence of honour based crime. It is an umbrella term to encompass various offences covered by existing legislation. Honour based violence (HBV) can be described as a collection of practices, which are used to control behaviour within families or other social groups to protect perceived cultural and religious beliefs and/or honour. Such violence can occur when perpetrators perceive that a relative has shamed the family and/or community by breaking their honour code. It is a violation of human rights and may be a form of domestic and/or sexual violence. There is no, and cannot be, honour or justification for abusing the human rights of others.


bottom of page