Domestic violence (also named domestic abuse or family violence) is violence or other abuse by one person against another in a domestic setting, such as in marriage or cohabitation. It may be termed intimate partner violence when committed by a spouse or partner in an intimate relationship against the other spouse or partner, and can take place in heterosexual or same-sex relationships, or between former spouses or partners. Domestic violence can also involve violence against children, parents, or the elderly, and may be done for self-defense. It takes a number of forms, including physical, verbal, emotional, economic, religious, reproductive, and sexual abuse, which can range from subtle, coercive forms to marital rape and to violent physical abuse such as choking, beating, female genital mutilation and acid throwing that results in disfigurement or death. Domestic murders include stoning, bride burning, honor killings, and dowry deaths.
Globally, the victims of domestic violence are overwhelmingly women, and women tend to experience more severe forms of violence. In some countries, domestic violence is often seen as justified, particularly in cases of actual or suspected infidelity on the part of the woman, and is legally permitted. Research has established that there exists a direct and significant correlation between a country's level of gender equality and rates of domestic violence. Domestic violence is among the most underreported crimes worldwide for both men and women. Due to social stigmas regarding male victimization, men face an increased likelihood of being overlooked by healthcare providers.
Domestic violence occurs when the abuser believes that abuse is an entitlement, acceptable, justified, or unlikely to be reported. It may produce intergenerational cycles of abuse in children and other family members, who may feel that such violence is acceptable or condoned. Very few people recognize themselves as abusers or victims because they may consider their experiences as family conflicts that got out of control. Awareness, perception, definition and documentation of domestic violence differs widely from country to country. Domestic violence often happens in the context of forced or child marriage.
In abusive relationships, there may be a cycle of abuse during which tensions rise and an act of violence is committed, followed by a period of reconciliation and calm. Victims of domestic violence may be trapped in domestic violent situations through isolation, power and control, cultural acceptance, lack of financial resources, fear, shame, or to protect children. As a result of abuse, victims may experience physical disabilities, dysregulated aggression, chronic health problems, mental illness, limited finances, and poor ability to create healthy relationships. Victims may experience severe psychological disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Children who live in a household with violence often show psychological problems from an early age, such as avoidance, hypervigilance to threats, and dysregulated aggression which may contribute to vicarious traumatization.
Etymology and definitions
The first known use of the term domestic violence in a modern context, meaning violence in the home, was in an address to the Parliament of the United Kingdom by Jack Ashley in 1973. The term previously referred primarily to civil unrest, violence from within a country as opposed to violence perpetrated by a foreign power.[nb 1]
Traditionally, domestic violence (DV) was mostly associated with physical violence. Terms such as wife abuse, wife beating, and wifebattering were used, but have declined in popularity due to efforts to include unmarried partners, abuse other than physical, female perpetrators, and same-sex relationships.[nb 2] Domestic violence is now commonly defined broadly to include "all acts of physical, sexual, psychological or economic violence" that may be committed by a family member or intimate partner.
The term intimate partner violence is often used synonymously with domestic abuse or domestic violence, but it specifically refers to violence occurring within a couple relationship (i.e., marriage, cohabitation, or non-cohabitating intimate partners). To these, the World Health Organization (WHO) adds controlling behaviors as a form of abuse. Intimate partner violence has been observed in opposite and same-sex relationships, and in the former instance by both men against women and women against men.Family violence is a broader term, often used to include child abuse, elder abuse, and other violent acts between family members.
In 1993, The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women defined domestic violence as:
Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family, including battering, sexual abuse of female children in the household, dowry-related violence, marital rape, female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, non-spousal violence and violence related to exploitation.
Prior to the mid-1800s, most legal systems viewed wife beating as a valid exercise of a husband's authority over his wife. One exception, however, was the 1641 Body of Liberties of the Massachusetts Bay colonists, which declared that a married woman should be "free from bodilie correction or stripes by her husband."
Political agitation during the 19th century led to changes in both popular opinion and legislation regarding domestic violence within the United Kingdom, the United States and other countries. In 1850, Tennessee became the first state in the United States to explicitly outlaw wife beating.[need quotation to verify] Other states soon followed. In 1878, the UK Matrimonial Causes Act made it possible for women in the UK to seek legal separation from an abusive husband. By the end of the 1870s, most courts in the United States had rejected a claimed right of husbands to physically discipline their wives. By the early 20th century, it was common for police to intervene in cases of domestic violence in the United States, but arrests remained rare.
In most legal systems around the world, the issue of DV has been addressed only from the 1990s onwards; indeed, before the late-20th century, in most countries there was very little protection, in law or in practice, against DV. In 1993, the UN published Strategies for Confronting Domestic Violence: A Resource Manual. This publication urged countries around the world to treat DV as a criminal act, stated that the right to a private family life does not include the right to abuse family members, and acknowledged that, at the time of its writing, most legal systems considered DV to be largely outside the scope of the law, describing the situation at that time as follows: "Physical discipline of children is allowed and, indeed, encouraged in many legal systems and a large number of countries allow moderate physical chastisement of a wife or, if they do not do so now, have done so within the last 100 years. Again, most legal systems fail to criminalize circumstances where a wife is forced to have sexual relations with her husband against her will. [...] Indeed, in the case of violence against wives, there is a widespread belief that women provoke, can tolerate or even enjoy a certain level of violence from their spouses."
In recent decades, there has been a call for the end of legal impunity for domestic violence, an impunity often based on the idea that such acts are private. The Istanbul Convention is the first legally binding instrument in Europe dealing with domestic violence and violence against women. The convention seeks to put an end to the toleration, in law or in practice, of violence against women and DV. In its explanatory report it acknowledges the long tradition of European countries of ignoring, de jure or de facto, these forms of violence. At para 219, it states: "There are many examples from past practice in Council of Europe member states that show that exceptions to the prosecution of such cases were made, either in law or in practice, if victim and perpetrator were, for example, married to each other or had been in a relationship. The most prominent example is rape within marriage, which for a long time had not been recognised as rape because of the relationship between victim and perpetrator."
There has been increased attention given to specific forms of domestic violence, such as honor killings, dowry deaths, and forced marriages. India has, in recent decades, made efforts to curtail dowry violence: the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA) was enacted in 2005, following years of advocacy and activism by the women's organizations.Crimes of passion in Latin America, a region which has a history of treating such killings with extreme leniency, have also come to international attention. In 2002, Widney Brown, advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, argued that there are similarities between the dynamics of crimes of passion and honor killings, stating that: "crimes of passion have a similar dynamic [to honor killings] in that the women are killed by male family members and the crimes are perceived as excusable or understandable".
Historically, children had few protections from violence by their parents, and in many parts of the world, this is still the case. For example, in Ancient Rome, a father could legally kill his children. Many cultures have allowed fathers to sell their children into slavery. Child sacrifice was also a common practice. Child maltreatment began to garner mainstream attention with the publication of "The Battered Child Syndrome" by pediatric psychiatrist C. Henry Kempe. Prior to this, injuries to children—even repeated bone fractures—were not commonly recognized as the results of intentional trauma. Instead, physicians often looked for undiagnosed bone diseases or accepted parents' accounts of accidental mishaps such as falls or assaults by neighborhood bullies.:100–103
See also: Outline of domestic violence § Forms
Not all domestic violence is equivalent. Differences in frequency, severity, purpose, and outcome are all significant. Domestic violence can take many forms, including physical aggression or assault (hitting, kicking, biting, shoving, restraining, slapping, throwing objects, beating up), or threats thereof; sexual abuse; controlling or domineering; intimidation; stalking; passive/covert abuse (e.g., neglect); and economic deprivation. It can also mean endangerment, criminal coercion, kidnapping, unlawful imprisonment, trespassing, and harassment.
Main article: Physical abuse
Physical abuse is that involving contact intended to cause fear, pain, injury, other physical suffering or bodily harm. In the context of coercive control, physical abuse is to control the victim. The dynamics of physical abuse in a relationship are often complex. Physical violence can be the culmination of other abusive behavior, such as threats, intimidation, and restriction of victim self-determination through isolation, manipulation and other limitations of personal freedom. Denying medical care, sleep deprivation, and forced drug or alcohol use, are also forms of physical abuse. It can also include inflicting physical injury onto other targets, such as children or pets, in order to cause emotional harm to the victim.
Strangulation in the context of DV has received significant attention. It is now recognized as one of the most lethal forms of DV; yet, because of the lack of external injuries, and the lack of social awareness and medical training in regard to it, strangulation has often been a hidden problem. As a result, in recent years, many US states have enacted specific laws against strangulation.
Homicide as a result of domestic violence makes up a greater proportion of female homicides than it does male homicides. More than 50 percent of female homicides are committed by former or current intimate partners in the US. In the United Kingdom, 37 percent of murdered women were killed by an intimate partner compared to 6 percent for men. Between 40 and 70 percent of women murdered in Canada, Australia, South Africa, Israel and the United States were killed by an intimate partner. The World Health Organization states that globally, about 38% of female homicides are committed by an intimate partner.
During pregnancy, a woman is at higher risk to be abused or long-standing abuse may change in severity, causing negative health effects to the mother and fetus. Pregnancy can also lead to a hiatus of domestic violence when the abuser does not want to harm the unborn child. The risk of domestic violence for women who have been pregnant is greatest immediately after childbirth.
Acid attacks, are an extreme form of violence in which acid is thrown at the victims, usually their faces, resulting in extensive damage including long-term blindness and permanent scarring. These are commonly a form of revenge against a woman for rejecting a marriage proposal or sexual advance.
In the Middle East and other parts of the world, planned domestic homicides, or honor killings, are carried out due to the belief of the perpetrators that the victim has brought dishonor upon the family or community. According to Human Rights Watch, honor killings are generally performed against women for "refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, being the victim of a sexual assault, seeking a divorce" or being accused of committing adultery. In some parts of the world, where there is a strong social expectation for a woman to be a virgin prior to marriage, a bride may be subjected to extreme violence, including an honor killing, if she is deemed not to be a virgin on her wedding night due to the absence of blood.[nb 3]
Bride burning or dowry killing is a form of domestic violence in which a newly married woman is killed at home by her husband or husband's family due to their dissatisfaction over the dowry provided by her family. The act is often a result of demands for more or prolonged dowry after the marriage. Dowry violence is most common in South Asia, especially in India. In 2011, the National Crime Records Bureau reported 8,618 dowry deaths in India, but unofficial figures estimate at least three times this amount.
Main articles: Sexual abuse, Marital rape, and Sexual violence by intimate partners
Sexual abuse, is defined by World Health Organization as 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. It also includes obligatory inspections for virginity and female genital mutilation. Aside from initiation of the sexual act through physical force, sexual abuse occurs if a person is verbally pressured into consenting, unable to understand the nature or condition of the act, unable to decline participation, or unable to communicate unwillingness to engage in the sexual act. This could be because of underage immaturity, illness, disability, or the influence of alcohol or other drugs, or due to intimidation or pressure.
In many cultures, victims of rape are considered to have brought 'dishonour' or 'disgrace' to their families and face severe familial violence, including honor killings. This is especially the case if the victim becomes pregnant.
Female genital mutilation is defined by WHO as "all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons." This procedure has been performed on more than 125 million females alive today, and it is concentrated in 29 countries in Africa and Middle East.
Incest, or sexual contact between an adult and a child, is one form of familial sexual violence. In some cultures, there are ritualized forms of child sexual abuse taking place with the knowledge and consent of the family, where the child is induced to engage in sexual acts with adults, possibly in exchange for money or goods. For instance, in Malawi some parents arrange for an older man, often called "hyena", to have sex with their daughters as a form of initiation. The Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse was the first international treaty to address child sexual abuse occurring within the home or family.
Reproductive coercion (also called "coerced reproduction") are threats or acts of violence against a partner's reproductive rights, health and decision-making; and includes a collection of behaviors intended to pressure or coerce a partner into becoming a parent or ending a pregnancy. Reproductive coercion is associated with forced sex, fear of or inability to make contraceptive decision, fear of violence after refusing sex, and abusive partner interference with access to healthcare.
In some cultures, marriage imposes a social obligation for women to reproduce. In northern Ghana, for example, payment of bride price signifies a woman's requirement to bear children, and women using birth control face threats of violence and reprisals. WHO includes forced marriage, cohabitation, and pregnancy including wife inheritance within its definition of sexual violence. Wife inheritance, or levirate marriage, is a type of marriage in which the brother of a deceased man is obliged to marry his widow, and the widow is obliged to marry her deceased husband's brother.
Marital rape is non-consensual penetration perpetrated against a spouse. It is under-reported, under-prosecuted, and legal in many countries, due in part to the belief that through marriage, a woman gives irrevocable consent for her husband to have sex with her when he wishes. In Lebanon, for instance, while discussing a proposed law that would criminalize marital rape, Sheik Ahmad Al-Kurdi, a judge in the Sunni religious court, said that the law "could lead to the imprisonment of the man where in reality he is exercising the least of his marital rights." Feminists have worked systematically since the 1960s to criminalize marital rape internationally. In 2006, a study by the United Nations found that marital rape was a prosecutable offense in at least 104 countries Once widely condoned or ignored by law and society, marital rape is now repudiated by international conventions and increasingly criminalized. The countries which ratified the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, the first legally binding instrument in Europe in the field of violence against women, are bound by its provisions to ensure that non-consensual sexual acts committed against a spouse or partner are illegal. The convention came into force in August 2014.
Main article: Emotional abuse
Emotional abuse (or psychological abuse) is a pattern of behavior that threatens, intimidates, dehumanizes or systematically undermines self-worth. According to the Istanbul Convention, psychological violence is "the intentional conduct of seriously impairing a person’s psychological integrity through coercion or threats".
Emotional abuse includes minimising, threats, isolation, public humiliation, unrelenting criticism, constant personal devaluation, repeated stonewalling and gaslighting.Stalking is a common form of psychological intimidation, and is most often perpetrated by former or current intimate partners. Victims tend to feel their partner has nearly total control over them, greatly affecting the power dynamic in a relationship, empowering the perpetrator, and disempowering the victim. Victims often suffer from depression, putting them at increased risk of eating disorders,suicide, and drug and alcohol abuse.
Main article: Economic abuse
Economic abuse is a form of abuse when one intimate partner has control over the other partner's access to economic resources.Marital assets are used as a means of control. Economic abuse may involve preventing a spouse from resource acquisition, limiting what the victim may use, or by otherwise exploiting economic resources of the victim. Economic abuse diminishes the victim's capacity to support themselves, increasing dependence on the perpetrator, including reduced access to education, employment, career advancement, and assets acquirement. Forcing or pressuring a family member to sign documents, to sell things, or to change a will are forms of economic abuse.
A victim may be put on an allowance, allowing close monitoring of money is spent, preventing spending without perpetrator consent, leading to the accumulation of debt or depletion of the victim's savings. Disagreement about money spent can result in retaliation with additional physical, sexual or emotional abuse. In parts of the world where women depend on husbands' income in order to survive (due to lack of opportunities for female employment and lack of state welfare) economic abuse can have very severe consequences. Abusive relations have been associated with malnutrition among both mothers and children. In India, for example, the withholding of food is a documented form of family abuse.
Domestic violence occurs across the world, in various cultures, and affects people of all economic statuses; however, indicators of lower socioeconomic status (such as unemployment and low income) have been shown to be risk factors for higher levels of domestic violence in several studies.
There continues to be some debate regarding gender differences with relation to domestic violence. Limitations of methodology that fail to capture context (e.g., conflict tactics scale), disparate sampling procedures, respondent reluctance to self-report, and differences in operationalization all pose challenges to existing research.Normalization of domestic violence in those who experience covert forms of abuse, or have been abused by multiple partners, for long periods of time, reduces the likelihood of recognizing, and therefore reporting domestic violence.
Hamby's (2009) report found that both men and women use IPV for coercive control, but define and use control differently: women use control to gain autonomy in abusive relationships, whereas men use control to assert authority over their partner. A 2010 systematic review of the literature on women's perpetration of IPV concluded that with male partners, women's use of IPV is overwhelmingly in response to their partner’s violence either in self-defense or in retaliation.
A 2011 review by researcher Chan Ko Ling from the University of Hong Kong found that perpetration of minor partner violence was equal for both men and women but more severe partner violence was far likelier to be perpetrated by men. His analysis found that men were more likely to beat up, choke or strangle their partners while women were more likely to throw objects, slap, kick, bite, punch, or hit with an object. Researchers have also found different outcomes for men and women in response to intimate partner violence. A 2012 review from the journal Psychology of Violence found that women suffered disproportionately as a result of intimate partner violence, especially in terms of injuries, fear, and posttraumatic stress. The review also found that 70% of female victims in one study were "very frightened" in response to intimate partner violence from their partners, but 85% of male victims reported "no fear". The review also found that IPV mediated the satisfaction of the relationship for women but not for men. Researchers report that male violence causes great fear, "fear is the force that provides battering with its power" and "injuries help sustain the fear."
A 2013 review examined studies from five continents and the correlation between a country's level of gender inequality and rates of domestic violence. The authors found that when partner abuse is defined broadly to include emotional abuse, any kind of hitting, and who hits first, partner abuse is relatively even. They also stated if one examines who is physically harmed and how seriously, expresses more fear, and experiences subsequent psychological problems, domestic violence is significantly gendered toward women as victims. Many organizations have made efforts to use gender-neutral terms when referring to perpetration and victimization. For example, using broader terms like family violence rather than violence against women.
Laws on domestic violence vary by country. While it is generally outlawed in the Western world, this is not the case in many developing countries. For instance, in 2010, the United Arab Emirates's Supreme Court ruled that a man has the right to physically discipline his wife and children as long as he does not leave physical marks. The social acceptability of domestic violence also differs by country. While in most developed countries domestic violence is considered unacceptable by most people, in many regions of the world the views are different: according to a UNICEF survey, the percentage of women aged 15–49 who think that a husband is justified in hitting or beating his wife under certain circumstances is, for example: 90% in Afghanistan and Jordan, 87% in Mali, 86% in Guinea and Timor-Leste, 81% in Laos, 80% in Central African Republic. Refusing to submit to a husband's wishes is a common reason given for justification of violence in developing countries: for instance 62.4% of women in Tajikistan justify wife beating if the wife goes out without telling the husband; 68% if she argues with him; 47.9% if she refuses to have sex with him.
See also: Violence against women § Domestic violence
The United Nations Population Fund found violence against women and girls to be one of the most prevalent human rights violations worldwide, stating that "one in three women will experience physical or sexual abuse in her lifetime." Violence against women tends to be less prevalent in developed Western nations, and more normalized in the developing world.
Wife beating was made illegal nationally in the United States by 1920. Although the exact rates are disputed, there is a large body of cross-cultural evidence that women are subjected to domestic violence significantly more often than men. In addition, there is broad consensus that women are more often subjected to severe forms of abuse and are more likely to be injured by an abusive partner, and this is exacerbated by economic or social dependence.
The United NationsDeclaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993) states that "violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, which has led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women, and that violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men". The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women classifies violence against women into three categories: that occurring in the family (DV), that occurring within the general community, and that perpetrated or condoned by the State.
The Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women defines violence against women as "any act or conduct, based on gender, which causes death or physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, whether in the public or the private sphere". Similarly with the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, it classifies violence against women into three categories; one of which being DV – defined as violence against women which takes place "within the family or domestic unit or within any other interpersonal relationship, whether or not the perpetrator shares or has shared the same residence with the woman".
The Maputo Protocol adopted a broader definition, defining violence against women as: "all acts perpetrated against women which cause or could cause them physical, sexual, psychological, and economic harm, including the threat to take such acts; or to undertake the imposition of arbitrary restrictions on or deprivation of fundamental freedoms in private or public life in peace time and during situations of armed conflicts or of war".
The Istanbul Convention states: ""violence against women" is understood as a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination against women (...)". (Article 3 – Definitions). In the landmark case of Opuz v Turkey, the European Court of Human Rights held for the first time that gender-based domestic violence is a form of discrimination under the European Convention.
According to one study, the percentage of women who have reported being physically abused by an intimate partner vary from 69% to 10% depending on the country. In the United States, it is estimated that intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime. The latest research (2017) by the CDC found that over half of all female homicides are committed by intimate partners, 98 percent of whom are men.
Femicide is usually defined as the gender-based killing of women by men, although the exact definitions vary. Femicides often occur in the context of DV, such as honor killings or dowry killings. For statistical purposes, femicide is often defined as any killing of a woman. The top countries by rate of femicide are El Salvador, Jamaica, Guatemala, South Africa and Russia (data from 2004–09). However, in El Salvador and Colombia, which have a very high rate of femicide, only three percent of all femicides are committed by a current or former intimate partner, while in Cyprus, France, and Portugal former and current partners are responsible for more than 80% of all cases of femicide.
Main article: Domestic violence against men
Domestic violence against men includes physical, emotional and sexual forms of abuse, including mutual violence. Male domestic violence victims may be reluctant to get help for various reasons. One study investigated whether women who assaulted their male partners were more likely to avoid arrest even when the male contacts police, and found that, "police are particularly unlikely to arrest women who assault their male partners." The reason being that they "assume that the man can protect himself from his female partner and that a woman's violence is not dangerous unless she assaults someone other than her partner". Another study concluded there is "some support for qualitative research suggesting that court personnel are responsive to the gendered asymmetry of intimate partner violence, and may view female intimate violence perpetrators more as victims than offenders." Despite this, arrests of female victims who fight back remains a widespread problem.
A consistent finding throughout the literature is that the majority of women arrested for IPV perpetration against male partners are victims using violence to resist and defend themselves against their batterers.
See also: Parental abuse by children
Adolescents and young adults
Main article: Teen dating violence
Among adolescents, researchers have primarily focused on heterosexual Caucasian populations. The literature indicates that rates are similar for the number of girls and boys in heterosexual relationships who report experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV), or that girls in heterosexual relationships are more likely than their male counterparts to report perpetrating IPV. Ely et al. stated that, unlike domestic violence in general, equal rates of IPV perpetration is a unique characteristic with regard to adolescent dating violence, and that this is "perhaps because the period of adolescence, a special developmental state, is accompanied by sexual characteristics that are distinctly different from the characteristics of adult." Wekerle and Wolfe theorized that "a mutually coercive and violent dynamic may form during adolescence, a time when males and females are more equal on a physical level" and that this "physical equality allows girls to assert more power through physical violence than is possible for an adult female attacked by a fully physically mature man."
While the genders engage in IPV at about equal rates, females are more likely to use less dangerous forms of physical violence (e.g. pushing, pinching, slapping, scratching or kicking), while males are more likely to punch, strangle, beat, burn, or threaten with weapons. Males are also more likely to use sexual aggression, although both genders are equally likely to pressure their partner into sexual activities. In addition, females are four times more likely to respond as having experienced rape and are more likely to suffer fatal injuries inflicted by their partner, or to need psychological help as a result of the abuse. Females are more likely to consider IPV a serious problem than are their male counterparts, who are more likely to disregard female-perpetrated IPV. Along with form, motivations for violence also vary by gender: females are likely to perpetrate violence in self-defense, while males are likely to perpetrate violence to exert power or control. The self-defense aspect is supported by findings that previous victimization is a stronger predictor of perpetration in females than in males. Other research indicates that boys who have been abused in childhood by a family member are more prone to IPV perpetration, while girls who have been abused in childhood by a family member are prone to lack empathy and self-efficacy; but the risks for the likelihood of IPV perpetration and victimization among adolescents vary and are not well understood.
For the journal, see Violence Against Women (journal).
Violence against women (VAW), also known as gender-based violence, is, collectively, violent acts that are primarily or exclusively committed against women. Sometimes considered a hate crime, this type of violence targets a specific group with the victim's gender as a primary motive. This type of violence is gender-based, meaning that the acts of violence are committed against women expressly because they are women. The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women states, "violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women" and "violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men."
Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, declared in a 2006 report posted on the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) website:
Violence against women and girls is a problem of pandemic proportions. At least one out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime with the abuser usually someone known to her.
Violence against women can fit into several broad categories. These include violence carried out by "individuals" as well as "states". Some of the forms of violence perpetrated by individuals are: rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment, reproductive coercion, female infanticide, prenatal sex selection, obstetric violence, and mob violence; as well as harmful customary or traditional practices such as honor killings, dowry violence, female genital mutilation, marriage by abduction and forced marriage. Some forms of violence are perpetrated or condoned by the state such as war rape; sexual violence and sexual slavery during conflict; forced sterilization; forced abortion; violence by the police and authoritative personnel; stoning and flogging. Many forms of VAW, such as trafficking in women and forced prostitution are often perpetrated by organized criminal networks.
The World Health Organization (WHO), in its research on VAW, has analyzed and categorized the different forms of VAW occurring through all stages of life from before birth to old age.
In recent years, there has been a trend of approaching VAW at an international level, through instruments such as conventions; or, in the European Union, through directives, such as the directive against sexual harassment, and the directive against human trafficking.
The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, also known as the Istanbul Convention, provides the following definition of violence against women:
"violence against women" is understood as a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination against women and shall mean all acts of gender-based violence that result in, or are likely to result in, physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life
Although the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) includes VAW in its General Recommendations 12 and 19, and the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action mentions VAW at paragraph 18, it was the 1993 United Nations General Assembly resolution on the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which became the first international instrument to explicitly define VAW and elaborate on the subject. Other definitions of VAW are provided by the 1994 Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women and by the 2003 Maputo Protocol.
In addition, the term gender-based violence refers to "any acts or threats of acts intended to hurt or make women suffer physically, sexually or psychologically, and which affect women because they are women or affect women disproportionately". The definition of gender-based violence is most often "used interchangeably with violence against women", and some articles on VAW reiterate these conceptions by suggesting that men are the main perpetrators of this violence. Moreover, the definition stated by the 1993 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women also supported the notion that violence is rooted in the inequality between men and women when the term violence is used together with the term 'gender-based.'
In Recommendation Rec(2002)5 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the protection of women against violence, the Council of Europe stipulated that VAW "includes, but is not limited to, the following":
- a. violence occurring in the family or domestic unit, including, inter alia, physical and mental aggression, emotional and psychological abuse, rape and sexual abuse, incest, rape between spouses, regular or occasional partners and cohabitants, crimes committed in the name of honour, female genital and sexual mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, such as forced marriages;
- b. violence occurring within the general community, including, inter alia, rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in institutions or elsewhere trafficking in women for the purposes of sexual exploitation and economic exploitation and sex tourism;
- c. violence perpetrated or condoned by the state or its officials;
- d. violation of the human rights of women in situations of armed conflict, in particular the taking of hostages, forced displacement, systematic rape, sexual slavery, forced pregnancy, and trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation and economic exploitation.
These definitions of VAW as being gender-based are seen by some to be unsatisfactory and problematic. These definitions are conceptualized in an understanding of society as patriarchal, signifying unequal relations between men and women. Opponents of such definitions argue that the definitions disregard violence against men and that the term gender, as used in gender based violence, only refers to women. Other critics argue that employing the term gender in this particular way may introduce notions of inferiority and subordination for femininity and superiority for masculinity. There is no widely accepted current definition that covers all the dimensions of gender based violence rather than the one for women that tends to reproduce the concept of binary oppositions: masculinity versus femininity.
The history of violence against women remains vague in scientific literature. This is in part because many kinds of violence against women (specifically rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence) are under-reported, often due to societal norms, taboos, stigma, and the sensitive nature of the subject. It is widely recognized that even today, a lack of reliable and continuous data is an obstacle to forming a clear picture of violence against women.
Although the history of violence against women is difficult to track, it is clear that much of the violence was accepted, condoned and even legally sanctioned. Examples include that Roman law gave men the right to chastise their wives, even to the point of death, the burning of witches, which was condoned by both the church and the state.
The history of violence against women is closely related to the historical view of women as property and a gender role of subservience. Explanations of patriarchy and an overall world system or status quo in which gender inequalities exist and are perpetuated are cited to explain the scope and history of violence against women. The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993) states, "violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women, and that violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men."
According to the UN, "there is no region of the world, no country and no culture in which women's freedom from violence has been secured." Several forms of violence are more prevalent in certain parts of the world, often in developing countries. For example, dowry violence and bride burning is associated with India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. Acid throwing is also associated with these countries, as well as in Southeast Asia, including Cambodia. Honor killing is associated with the Middle East and South Asia. Female genital mutilation is found mostly in Africa, and to a lesser extent in the Middle East and some other parts of Asia. Marriage by abduction is found in Ethiopia, Central Asia and the Caucasus. Abuse related to payment of bride price (such as violence, trafficking and forced marriage) is linked to parts of Sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania. (Also see lobolo.)
Certain regions are no longer associated with a specific form of violence, but such violence was common until quite recently in those places; this is true of honor-based crimes in Southern/Mediterranean Europe. For instance, in Italy, before 1981, the Criminal Code provided for mitigating circumstances in case of a killing of a woman or her sexual partner for reasons related to honor, providing for a reduced sentence.
Invoking culture to explain particular forms of violence against women risks appearing to legitimize them. There is also debate and controversy about the ways in which cultural traditions, local customs and social expectations, as well as various interpretations of religion, interact with abusive practices. Specifically, cultural justifications for certain violent acts against women are asserted by some states and social groups within many countries claiming to defend their traditions. These justifications are questionable precisely because the defenses are generally voiced by political leaders or traditional authorities, not by those actually affected. The need for sensitivity and respect of culture is an element that cannot be ignored either; thus a sensitive debate has ensued and is ongoing.
There has also been a history of recognizing the harmful effects of this violence. In the 1870s, courts in the United States stopped recognizing the common-law principle that a husband had the right to "physically chastise an errant wife". The first state to rescind this right was Alabama in 1871. In the UK the right of a husband to inflict moderate corporal punishment on his wife to keep her "within the bounds of duty" was removed in 1891.
In the 20th and 21st centuries, and in particular since the 1990s, there has been increased activity on both the national and international levels to research, raise awareness and advocate for the prevention of all kinds of violence against women. Most often, violence against women has been framed as a health issue, and also as a violation of human rights. A study in 2002 estimated that at least one in five women in the world had been physically or sexually abused by a man sometime in their lives, and "gender-based violence accounts for as much death and ill-health in women aged 15–44 years as cancer, and is a greater cause of ill-health than malaria and traffic accidents combined."
Certain characteristics of violence against women have emerged from the research. For example, acts of violence against women are often not unique episodes, but are ongoing over time. More often than not, the violence is perpetrated by someone the woman knows, not by a stranger. The research seems to provide convincing evidence that violence against women is a severe and pervasive problem the world over, with devastating effects on the health and well-being of women and children.
Some of the most important milestones on the international level for the prevention of violence against women include:
- The 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which recognizes violence as a part of discrimination against women in recommendations 12 and 19.
- The 1993 World Conference on Human Rights, which recognized violence against women as a human rights violation, and which contributed to the following UN declaration.
- The 1993 UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women was the first international instrument explicitly defining and addressing violence against women. This document specifically refers to the historically forever-present nature of gender inequalities in understanding violence against women. (Include current 2nd paragraph here). This Declaration, as well as the World Conference of the same year, is often viewed as a "turning point" at which the consideration of violence against women by the international community began to be taken much more seriously, and after which more countries mobilized around this problem.
- The 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, linking violence against women to reproductive health and rights, and also providing recommendations to governments on how to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls.
- In 1996, the World Health Assembly (WHA) declared violence a major public health issue, and included in the subtypes recognized were intimate partner violence and sexual violence, two kinds of violence often perpetrated as violence against women. This was followed by a WHO report in 2002 (see below). The UN also created the Trust Fund to Support Actions to Eliminate Violence Against Women.
- In 1999, the UN adopted the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and designated November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
- In 2002, as a follow-up of the WHA declaration in 1996 of violence as a major public health issue, the World Health Organization published the first World Report on Violence and Health, which addressed many types of violence and their effect on public health, including forms of violence affecting women particularly strongly. The report specifically noted the sharp rise in civil society organizations and activities directed at responding to gender-based violence against women from the 1970s to the 1990s.
- In 2004, the World Health Organization published its "Multi-country study on Women's Health and Domestic Violence against Women", a study of women's health and domestic violence by surveying over 24,000 women in 10 countries from all regions of the world, which assessed the prevalence and extent of violence against women, particularly violence by intimate partners, and linked this with health outcomes to women as well as documenting strategies and services that women use to cope with intimate-partner violence.
- The 2006 UN Secretary General's "In-depth study on all forms of violence against women", the first comprehensive international document on the issue.
- The 2011 Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, which is the second regional legally-binding instrument on violence against women and girls.
- In 2013, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) adopted, by consensus, Agreed Conclusions on the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls (formerly, there were no agreed-upon conclusions).
- Also in 2013, the UN General Assembly passed its first resolution calling for the protection of defenders of women's human rights. The resolution urges states to put in place gender-specific laws and policies for the protection of women's human rights defenders and to ensure that defenders themselves are involved in the design and implementation of these measures, and calls on states to protect women's human rights defenders from reprisals for cooperating with the UN and to ensure their unhindered access to and communication with international human rights bodies and mechanisms.
Additionally, on the national level, individual countries have also organized efforts (legally, politically, socially) to prevent, reduce and punish violence against women. As a particular case study, here are some developments since the 1960s in the United States to oppose and treat violence against women:
- 1967: One of the country's first domestic violence shelters opened in Maine.
- 1972: The country's first rape help hotline opened in Washington, D.C.
- 1978: Two national coalitions, the National Coalition Against Sexual Assault and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, were formed, to raise awareness of these two forms of violence against women.
- 1984: The U.S. Attorney General created the Department of Justice Task Force on Family Violence, to address ways in which the criminal justice system and community response to domestic violence should be improved.
- 1994: Passage of the Violence Against Women Act or VAWA, legislation included in the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, sponsored by then-Senator Joseph Biden, which required a strengthened community response to crimes of domestic violence and sexual assault, strengthened federal penalties for repeat sex offenders and strengthened legislative protection of victims, among many other provisions.
- 2000: President Clinton signed into law the VAWA of 2000, further strengthening federal laws, and emphasizing assistance of immigrant victims, elderly victims, victims with disabilities, and victims of dating violence.
- 2006: President Bush signed into law the VAWA of 2006, with an emphasis on programs to address violence against youth victims, and establishing programs for Engaging Men and Youth, and Culturally and Linguistically Specific Services.
- 2007: The National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline opened.
- 2009: President Obama declared April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
- 2013: President Obama signed into law the VAWA of 2015, which granted Native American tribes the ability to prosecute non-Native offenders, and regulated reports of sexual assault on college campuses.
Other countries have also enacted comparable legislative, political and social instruments to address violence against women. Experts in the international community generally believe, however, that solely enacting punitive legislation for prevention and punishment of violence against women is not sufficient to address the problem. For example, although much stricter laws on violence against women have been passed in Bangladesh, violence against women is still rising. Instead, it is thought that wide societal changes to address gender inequalities and women's empowerment will be the way to reduce violence against women.
Effect on society
According to an article in the Health and Human Rights Journal, regardless of many years of advocacy and involvement of many feminist activist organizations, the issue of violence against women still "remains one of the most pervasive forms of human rights violations worldwide".:91 The violence against women can occur in both public and private spheres of life and at any time of their life span. Violence against women often keeps women from wholly contributing to social, economic, and political development of their communities. Many women are terrified by these threats of violence and this essentially influences their lives so that they are impeded to exercise their human rights; for instance, they fear contributing to the development of their communities socially, economically and politically. Apart from that, the causes that trigger VAW or gender-based violence can go beyond just the issue of gender and into the issues of age, class, culture, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and specific geographical area of their origins.
Importantly, other than the issue of social divisions, violence can also extend into the realm of health issues and become a direct concern of the public health sector. A health issue such as HIV/AIDS is another cause that also leads to violence. Women who have HIV/AIDS infection are also among the targets of the violence.:91 The World Health Organization reports that violence against women puts an undue burden on health care services, as women who have suffered violence are more likely to need health services and at higher cost, compared to women who have not suffered violence. Another statement that confirms an understanding of VAW as being a significant health issue is apparent in the recommendation adopted by the Council of Europe, violence against women in private sphere, at home or domestic violence, is the main reason of "death and disability" among the women who encountered violence.:91
In addition, several studies have shown a link between poor treatment of women and international violence. These studies show that one of the best predictors of inter- and intranational violence is the maltreatment of women in the society.
WHO's typology table
Throughout the life cycle
|Phase||Type of violence|
|Pre-birth||Sex-selective abortion; effects of battering during pregnancy on birth |
|Infancy||Female infanticide; physical, sexual and psychological abuse|
|Girlhood||Child marriage; female genital mutilation; physical, sexual and |
psychological abuse; incest; child prostitution and pornography
|Adolescence and adulthood||Dating and courtship violence (e.g. acid throwing and date rape); economically coerced sex (e.g. school girls having sex with "sugar daddies" in return for school fees); incest; sexual abuse in the workplace; rape; sexual harassment; forced prostitution and pornography; trafficking in women; partner violence; marital rape; dowry abuse and murders; partner homicide; psychological abuse; abuse of women with disabilities; forced pregnancy|
|Elderly||Forced "suicide" or homicide of widows for economic reasons; sexual, |
physical and psychological abuse
Significant progress towards the protection of women from violence has been made on international level as a product of collective effort of lobbying by many women's rights movements; international organizations to civil society groups. As a result, worldwide governments and international as well as civil society organizations actively work to combat violence against women through a variety of programs. Among the major achievements of the women's rights movements against violence on girls and women, the landmark accomplishments are the "Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women" that implies "political will towards addressing VAW " and the legal binding agreement, "the Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)". In addition, the UN General Assembly resolution also designated 25 November as International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
Another typology: over time
This similar typology from an academic journal article on violence against women shows similarly the different types of violence perpetrated against women according to what time period in a women's life the violence takes place. However, it also classifies the types of violence according to the perpetrator. One important point to note is that more of the types of violence inflicted on women are perpetrated by someone the woman knows, either a family member or intimate partner, rather than a stranger.
Violence against women can take a number of forms:
Main article: Rape
Rape is a type of sexual assault, usually involving sexual intercourse. Rape is usually perpetrated by men against boys, women, and girls; women are usually assaulted more often than boys and girls and usually all by someone they know.
Internationally, the incidence of rapes recorded by the police during 2008 varied between 0.1 in Egypt per 100,000 people and 91.6 per 100,000 people in Lesotho with 4.9 per 100,000 people in Lithuania as the median. According to the American Medical Association (1995), sexual violence, and rape in particular, is considered the most underreported violent crime. The rate of reporting, prosecution and convictions for rape varies considerably in different jurisdictions. Rape by strangers is usually less common than rape by persons the victim knows.
Victims of rape can be severely traumatized and may suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder; in addition to psychological harm resulting from the act, rape may cause physical injury, or have additional effects on the victim, such as acquiring of a sexually transmitted infection or becoming pregnant.
Violence against victims
Following a rape, a victim may face violence or threats of violence from the rapist, and, in many cultures, from the victim's own family and relatives. Violence or intimidation of the victim may be perpetrated by the rapist or by friends and relatives of the rapist, as a way of preventing the victims from reporting the rape, of punishing them for reporting it, or of forcing them to withdraw the complaint; or it may be perpetrated by the relatives of the victim as a punishment for "bringing shame" to the family. This is especially the case in cultures where female virginity is highly valued and considered mandatory before marriage; in extreme cases, rape victims are killed in honor killings. Victims may also be forced by their families to marry the rapist in order to restore the family's "honor". In Lebanon, the Campaign Against Lebanese Rape Law - Article 522 was launched in December 2016 to abolish the article that permitted a rapist to escape prison by marrying his victim.
Main article: Marital rape
Marital rape, also known as spousal rape, is non-consensual sex perpetrated by the victim's spouse. Once widely condoned or ignored by law, spousal rape is now repudiated by international conventions and increasingly criminalized. Still, in many countries, spousal rape either remains legal, or is illegal but widely tolerated and accepted as a husband's prerogative. The criminalization of marital rape is recent, having occurred during the past few decades. Traditional understanding and views of marriage, rape, sexuality, gender roles and self determination have started to be challenged in most Western countries during the 1960s and 1970s, which has led to the subsequent criminalization of marital rape during the following decades. With a few notable exceptions, it was during the past 30 years when most laws against marital rape have been enacted. Some countries in Scandinavia and in the former Communist Bloc of Europe made spousal rape illegal before 1970, but most Western countries criminalized it only in the 1980s and 1990s. In many parts of the world the laws against marital rape are very new, having been enacted in the 2000s.
In Canada, marital rape was made illegal in 1983, when several legal changes were made, including changing the rape statute to sexual assault, and making the laws gender neutral. In Ireland spousal rape was outlawed in 1990. In the US, the criminalization of marital rape started in the mid-1970s and in 1993 North Carolina became the last state to make marital rape illegal. In England and Wales, marital rape was made illegal in 1991. The views of Sir Matthew Hale, a 17th-century jurist, published in The History of the Pleas of the Crown (1736), stated that a husband cannot be guilty of the rape of his wife because the wife "hath given up herself in this kind to her husband, which she cannot retract"; in England and Wales this would remain law for more than 250 years, until it was abolished by the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords, in the case of R v R in 1991. In the Netherlands marital rape was also made illegal in 1991. One of the last Western countries to criminalize marital rape was Germany, in 1997.
The relation between some religions (Christianity and Islam) and marital rape is controversial. The Bible at 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 explains that one has a "conjugal duty" to have sexual relations with one's spouse (in sharp opposition to sex outside marriage, which is considered a sin) and states, "The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another..." Some conservative religious figures interpret this as rejecting to possibility of marital rape. Islam makes reference to sexual relations in marriage too, notably: "Allah's Apostle said, 'If a husband calls his wife to his bed (i.e. to have sexual relation) and she refuses and causes him to sleep in anger, the angels will curse her till morning';" and several comments on the issue of marital rape made by Muslim religious leaders have been criticized.
Main article: Domestic violence
Women are more likely to be victimized by someone that they are intimate with, commonly called "intimate partner violence" or (IPV). Instances of IPV tend not to be reported to police and thus many experts believe that the true magnitude of the problem is hard to estimate. Women are much more likely than men to be murdered by an intimate partner. In the United States, in 2005, 1181 women, in comparison with 329 men, were killed by their intimate partners. In England and Wales about 100 women are killed by partners or former partners each year while 21 men were killed in 2010. In 2008, in France, 156 women in comparison with 27 men were killed by their intimate partner.
According to WHO, globally, as many as 38% of murders of women are committed by an intimate partner. A UN report compiled from a number of different studies conducted in at least 71 countries found domestic violence against women to be most prevalent in Ethiopia.
In Western Europe, a country that has received major international criticism for the way it has dealt legally with the issue of violence against women is Finland; with authors pointing that a high level of equality for women in the public sphere (as in Finland) should never be equated with equality in all other aspects of women's lives.
A study by Pan American Health Organization conducted in 12 Latin American countries found the highest prevalence of domestic violence against women to be in Bolivia.
Though this form of violence is often portrayed as an issue within the context of heterosexual relationships, it also occurs in lesbian relationships, daughter-mother relationships, roommate relationships and other domestic relationships involving two women. Violence against women in lesbian relationships is about as common as violence against women in heterosexual relationships.
The American Psychiatric Association planning and research committees for the forthcoming DSM-5 (2013) have canvassed a series of new Relational disorders, which include Marital Conflict Disorder Without Violence or Marital Abuse Disorder (Marital Conflict Disorder With Violence).:164, 166 Couples with marital disorders sometimes come to clinical attention because the couple recognize long-standing dissatisfaction with their marriage and come to the clinician on their own initiative or are referred by an astute health care professional. Secondly, there is serious violence in the marriage that is -"usually the husband battering the wife".:163 In these cases the emergency room or a legal authority often is the first to notify the clinician. Most importantly, marital violence "is a major risk factor for serious injury and even death and women in violent marriages are at much greater risk of being seriously injured or killed (National Advisory Council on Violence Against Women 2000)".:166 The authors of this study add, "There is current considerable controversy over whether male-to-female marital violence is best regarded as a reflection of male psychopathology and control or whether there is an empirical base and clinical utility for conceptualizing these patterns as relational.":166
Recommendations for clinicians making a diagnosis of Marital Relational Disorder should include the assessment of actual or "potential" male violence as regularly as they assess the potential for suicide in depressed patients. Further, "clinicians should not relax their vigilance after a battered wife leaves her husband, because some data suggest that the period immediately following a marital separation is the period of greatest risk for the women. Many men will stalk and batter their wives in an effort to get them to return or punish them for leaving. Initial assessments of the potential for violence in a marriage can be supplemented by standardized interviews and questionnaires, which have been reliable and valid aids in exploring marital violence more systematically.":166
The authors conclude with what they call "very recent information":167, 168 on the course of violent marriages, which suggests that "over time a husband's battering may abate somewhat, but perhaps because he has successfully intimidated his wife. The risk of violence remains strong in a marriage in which it has been a feature in the past. Thus, treatment is essential here; the clinician cannot just wait and watch.":167, 168 The most urgent clinical priority is the protection of the wife because she is the one most frequently at risk, and clinicians must be aware that supporting assertiveness by a battered wife may lead to more beatings or even death.:167, 168
Honor killings are a common form of violence against women in certain parts of the world. In honor killings, women and girls are killed by family members (usually husbands, fathers, uncles or brothers) because the women are believed to have brought shame or dishonor upon the family. These killings are a traditional practice, believed to have originated from tribal customs where an allegation against a woman can be enough to defile a family's reputation. Women are killed for reasons such as refusing to enter an arranged marriage, being in a relationship that is disapproved by their relatives, attempting to leave a marriage, having sex outside marriage, becoming the victim of rape, dressing in ways that are deemed inappropriate.
Honor killings are common in countries such as Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Yemen. Honor killings also occur in immigrant communities in Europe, the United States and Canada. Although honor killings are most often associated with the Middle East and South Asia, they occur in other parts of the world too. In India, honor killings occur in the northern regions of the country, especially in the states of Punjab, Haryana, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. In Turkey, honor killings are a serious problem in Southeastern Anatolia.
The custom of dowry, which is common in South Asia, especially in India, is the trigger of many forms of violence against women. Bride burning is a form of violence against women in which a bride is killed at home by her husband or husband's family due to his dissatisfaction over the dowry provided by her family. Dowry death refers to the phenomenon of women and girls being killed or committing suicide due to disputes regarding dowry. Dowry violence is common in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. In India, in 2011 alone, the National Crime Records Bureau reported 8,618 dowry deaths, while unofficial figures suggest the numbers to be at least three times higher.
Main article: Forced marriage
A forced marriage is a marriage in which one or both of the parties is married against their will. Forced marriages are common in South Asia, the Middle East and Africa. The customs of bride price and dowry, that exist in many parts of the world, contribute to this practice. A forced marriage is also often the result of a dispute between families, where the dispute is 'resolved' by giving a female from one family to the other.
The custom of bride kidnapping continues to exist in some Central Asian countries such as Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and the Caucasus, or parts of Africa, especially Ethiopia. A girl or a woman is abducted by the would be groom, who is often helped by his friends. The victim is often raped by the would be groom, after which he may try to negotiate a bride price with the village elders to legitimize the marriage.
In some countries, notably Mauritania, young girls are forcibly fattened to prepare them for marriage, because obesity is seen as desirable. This practice of force-feeding is known as leblouh or gavage.
The practice goes back to the 11th century, and has been reported to have made a significant comeback after a military junta took over the country in 2008.
Abuse related to son-preference
Son preference is a custom rooted in gender inequality that is prevalent in many countries and found across religions and classes. Although preference for a specific sex of the child may be common in an abstract way in many cultures, when such preference is so strong as to lead to the rejection of the child or to violence against the mother, this crosses the line into domestic violence, child abuse and violence against women. Such forms of son preference are common especially in parts of South Asia, East Asia and the Caucasus. Manifestations of such practices include sex selective abortion, female infanticide, female child abandonment, as well as favoring sons with regard to allocating of family resources.
China and India have a very strong son preference. In China, the one child policy was largely responsible for an unbalanced sex ratio. Sex-selective abortion, as well as rejection of girl children is common. The Dying Rooms is a 1995 televisiondocumentary film about Chinese state orphanages, which documented how parents abandoned their newborn girls into orphanages, where the staff would leave the children in rooms to die of thirst, or starvation. Another manifestation of son preference is the violence inflicted against mothers who give birth to girls.
Main article: Acid throwing
Acid throwing, also called acid attack, or vitriolage, is defined as the act of throwing acid onto the body of a person "with the intention of injuring or disfiguring [them] out of jealousy or revenge". The most common types of acid used in these attacks are sulfuric, nitric, or hydrochloric acid. Perpetrators of these attacks throw acid