Sexual and gender-based violence

Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is an extreme manifestation of power inequalities and is both experienced and used by many men to exert control and power over women, children and other men. SGBV can be defined as violence directed at a person because of their gender and sexual identity, including acts of sexual, physical and mental harm, threat of such act, and other deprivations of freedom. Research shows that 35 percent of women worldwide have experience either physical and/or sexual violence, globally, as many as 38 per cent of all murders of women are committed by intimate partners (WHO 2013). Harmful traditional practices, such as female genital mutilation/cutting and forced and child marriage are deeply gendered and work to control girls’ and women’s’ sexuality. Globally girls who marry before 18 are more likely to experience domestic violence than their peers who marry later (UNICEF 2005), and over 125 million girls and women in the world have suffered female genital mutilation/cutting (WHO 2014). Violence against men and boys is a significant issue about which less is known, research from conflict affected contexts has shown, for example in Eastern-DRC up to 38.5 per cent of men had experienced sexual violence when looking across their whole lives (John Hopkins-Refugee Law Project 2014).

Sexual and gender based violence prevention efforts can be conceptualised within the framework of an ecological model: from micro-level approaches aimed at raising awareness and changing violence-related attitudes, to  higher level strategies that attempt to shift broader community and social norms and macro-level efforts to enact policy that fosters violence-free communities.  At the same time, prevention effort need to connect with responding to cases of violence, as an issue of human justice, recognising long-term and intergenerational dynamics of victimisation driving perpetration, as well as repeating patters in individual lives and relationships.  A global review of evaluated gender equity promotion programs, published by WHO (2007), concluded that programs with the strongest impacts on men’s behaviour and beliefs were those that explicitly addressed gender and masculinity-related norms.  The multi-faceted nature of the factors that influence partner violence highlights the need for a multi-sectoral response that combines development activities, including improved access to secondary education for girls and boys, with initiatives to transform gender norms and attitudes, address prior histories of abuse, and reduce harmful behaviours.

Case studies

'Living Peace: From conflict to coping in Democratic Republic of Congo' EMERGE Case study 7

How the Living Peace project in DRC uses group therapy to reduce sexual and gender based violence and promote equitable gender roles.

Learning aims

  1. Understanding sexual and gender-based violence in relation to the political, social and economic processes that drive gender inequality
  2. Evidence on the interplay between changing experiences of sexual and gender-based violence and the formal or informal institutions that govern men and women’s lives
  3. Evidence on the roles of boys and men in influencing or enabling interventions to address sexual and gender based violence in all its forms
  4. Best practice examples of where development interventions and approaches are engaging men and boys to effectively address sexual and gender-based violence