By Vanja Kovac

From November 25 to December 10, Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) is joining the “16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence” campaign, an annual global effort to raise awareness and call for the elimination and prevention of gender-based violence (GBV).

The theme for this year’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign is ”UNITE! Activism to End Violence against Women and Girls.” 

Here are five things to know about gender-based violence:  

1. It’s a Structural Issue

Gender-based violence is deeply rooted in structural gender inequalities and remains one of the most serious violations of human rights. It is the most prevalent form of gender-based discrimination. It harms the security and safety of its victims and hinders them from participating equally in society. Societal norms, stereotypes, and attitudes around gender contribute to the “normalization” of GBV.   

2. Women and Girls are Disproportionately Affected 

Gender-based violence and violence against women and girls (VAWG) are terms that are often used interchangeably, but VAWG is more specific than GBV because it only applies to people who identify as women. It has been widely recognized that women and girls are disproportionately affected by GBV, while men and boys can be and are victims of GBV as well. GBV is violence that is directed against a person based on their gender and can include numerous manifestations, but the most widespread forms are sexual, physical, psychological, and economic violence committed in either the private or the public sphere. This can take a variety of forms such as intimate partner violence, sexual violence, child marriage, female genital mutilation, and so-called “honor crimes.” These different forms are not mutually exclusive and multiple instances of violence can happen simultaneously and reinforce one other.  

3. Sexual Violence is Predominant

It is estimated that one in three women will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, and during times of crisis and displacement, the threat of GBV increases exponentially for women and girls. Around 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence, 90 percent of rape victims are women, 80 percent of adult victims know their rapist, and over 90 percent of perpetrators never face criminal punishment. Globally, 35 percent of murders of women are committed by an intimate partner, and 200 million women have experienced female genital mutilation.

4. It Costs A Lot

The cost of GBV is extremely expensive. It is estimated that it costs trillions of dollars every year on spending around healthcare, psychosocial counseling, legal services, and lost wages. This is comparable to the total amount of military spending by all countries each year. In 2016, UN Women found the global cost of GBV to be $1.5 trillion and rising, whereas global military expenditures were $1.8 trillion in 2018 according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. The World Bank in 2018 found that GBV against women can cost countries up to 3.7 percent of GDP, which is more than double what governments spend on education.

5. Everyone Plays a Role in Prevention and Elimination

Prevention and elimination of GBV require a country-specific, community-based, and multi-sectoral approach. It is also important to combat gender norms of discrimination that are the root causes of GBV in terms of changing attitudes or questioning gender roles and stereotypes that make GBV acceptable in society. Whole communities should be engaged, including men and boys, to promote gender equality and foster positive and non-violent behavior.  


Vanja Kovac is the Gender Advisor at CIVIC.