Violence Against Women: The Different Types, the Laws, and How It Can Be Ended

When women’s human rights are violated, this is classed as violence against women (VAW), and it results in women’s inequality.

Sadly, violence against women is both common and widespread, affecting women of all ages, social classes, religions, ethnicities, abilities, and sexualities. Most of the cases of abuse and violence are committed by men these women know.

To understand how violence against women can be prevented, it’s important to understand what different types there are and what legalities are involved.

What is Violence Against Women?

Violence against women can be in economic, emotional, sexual, or physical forms. But the most common are sexual violence, intimate partner violence, psychological/emotional violence, and sexual harassment.

Domestic violence statistics indicate that around 35% (over 1 in 3) women will experience non-partner sexual violence and either sexual intimate or physical partner violence in their lifetime.

Intimate partner violence makes up the majority of this violence. Nearly a third of women around the world who have been in a relationship report some kind of sexual and/or physical violence from their partner throughout their lives.

Worldwide, almost 38% of women who are murdered are killed by their intimate male partner.

Other Types of Violence Against Women

Other forms of violence against women include sexual trafficking, sexual exploitation, and other practices like child or forced marriage and female genital cutting/mutilation.

Around the world, approximately 130 million women and girls have experienced genital mutilation or cutting. And 80% of people who are trafficked are women.

Other less recorded forms include femicide, economic abuse, prenatal sex selection, crimes committed for “honor,” political violence, female infanticide, acid-throwing, dowry-related violence, and elder abuse.

Certain groups of girls and women, such as those with disabilities, migrants, HIV-positive women, and those in areas of conflict, may be at more risk than others.

Common Trends in Violence Against Women

Equally, many women experience more than one kind of abuse or violence. And the recurring trends in these cases of male violence include tactics of degradation, humiliation, and control, alongside the women taking the blame and the man taking no responsibility.

Unfortunately, other commonalities include very low conviction rates and significant under-reporting; long-term economic, psychological, and social consequences, and historic failure by different countries and political powers to prevent these acts of violence against women.

One of the ways the US is trying to combat it is through The Violence Against Women Act.

What is the Violence Against Women Act? 

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in the US aims to combat these types of violence while offering protection to women who have been abused by providing the legal system with more judicial tools.

It initially came into play in 1994 after being signed by President Bill Clinton and has been reauthorized several times.

Today, the main federal law is the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013. This law offers support and services for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. For example, the law offers free rape exams, legal aid, programs that meet the needs of women from different ethnicities and races and immigrant women, and no charge for civil protection orders or prosecution in domestic violence.

Ending Violence Against Women 

To establish the effectiveness of response and prevention programs, there is a growing number of studies taking place. However, to strengthen the response and prevention of violence against women, more resources are required, which includes primary prevention that stops these crimes from happening.

Some evidence does suggest that counseling and advocacy interventions in place to help survivors of domestic violence in high-income countries are effective at limiting the number of cases. Equally, when trained nurses conduct home visitation programs this has shown potential for reducing domestic violence cases. However, the success of these programs is yet to be investigated in settings that have poor resources.

In low-resource situations, strategies that do seem to have potential include empowering women socially and economically through skills training; promoting relationship and communication skills within communities and couples; reducing harmful use of and access to alcohol; transforming harmful social and gender norms by educating men and women about the detrimental impact of power relationships and unequal gender.

The World Health Organization campaign on violence against women also suggests that legislation needs enforcing and enacting to create policies that bolster gender equality by:

  • Ending discrimination laws in ownership of assets and inheritance laws
  • Ending discrimination against women in custody, divorce, and marriage laws
  • Improving the access women have to paid employment
  • Establishing and resourcing national policies and plans that address the issues of violence against women

Overall, the key to reducing and preventing violence against women altogether is to bring numerous sectors together to create a multi-faceted approach. This includes using health care systems to identify early cases of abuse and educate the public about the unacceptance of violence against women.

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