Gender-based Violence still shrouded in secrecy despite staggering global prevalence

Despite such devastating effects as undermining the health, dignity, security, and autonomy of its victims and staggering global prevalence, gender-based violence is still shrouded in a culture of silence.

Victims of violence also suffer sexual and reproductive health consequences, including forced and unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, traumatic fistula, sexually transmitted infections including HIV, and even death.

According to the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Guidelines for Gender-based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Settings, Gender-based Violence is an umbrella term for any harmful act that is perpetrated against a person’s will, and that is based on socially ascribed (gender) differences between males and females.

Photo courtesy of VOA news

Common types of GBV include; Rape, Sexual Assault, Physical Assault, Forced marriage (includes early marriage), Psychological/ Emotional Abuse and Denial of Resources, Opportunities or Services.   

Here are some of the heartbreaking statistics associated with gender-based violence,

  • It is estimated that 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their lives.
  • Women who have been physically or sexually abused by their partners are more than twice as likely to have an abortion, almost twice as likely to experience depression, and in some regions, 1.5 times more likely to acquire HIV, as compared to women who have not experienced partner violence
  • Although little data is available—and great variation in how psychological violence is measured across countries and cultures—existing evidence shows high prevalence rates.

  • Globally, one out of every five women will become a victim of rape or attempted rape over the course of her lifetime.
  • Worldwide, almost 750 million women and girls alive today were married before their 18th Child marriage is more common in West and Central Africa, where over 4 in 10 girls were married before age 18, and about 1 in 7 were married or in union before age 15. Child marriage often results in early pregnancy and social isolation, interrupts schooling, limits the girl’s opportunities and increases her risk of experiencing domestic violence
  • Around 120 million girls worldwide (slightly more than 1 in 10) have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point in their lives. By far the most common perpetrators of sexual violence against girls are current or former husbands, partners or boyfriends
Photo courtesy of the Daily Mail Zambia


  • At least 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in the 30 countries with representative data on prevalence. In most of these countries, the majority of girls were cut before age 5
  • Adult women account for 51 percent of all human trafficking victims detected globally.
  • Eighty-two percent of women parliamentarians who participated in a study conducted by the Inter-parliamentary Union in 39 countries across 5 regions reported having experienced some form of psychological violence while serving their terms.
  • Psychological violence was defined as remarks, gestures, and images of a sexist or humiliating sexual nature made against them or threats and/or mobbing to which they might have been subjected. They cited social media as the main channel through which such psychological violence is perpetrated; nearly half of those surveyed (44 percent) reported having received death, rape, assault or abduction threats towards them or their families
  • In the majority of countries with available data, less than 40 percent of the women who experience violence seek help of any sort. Among women who do, most look to family and friends and very few look to formal institutions and mechanisms, such as police and health services. Less than 10 percent of those women seeking help for experience of violence sought help by appealing to the police


  • In 2014, 23 percent of non-heterosexual women (those who identified their sexual orientation as lesbian, bisexual or other) interviewed in the European Union indicated having experienced physical and/or sexual violence by both male and female non-partner perpetrators, compared with five percent of heterosexual women[1].
  • In a survey of 3,706 primary school children from Uganda, 24 percent of 11 to 14-year-old girls with disabilities reported sexual violence at school, compared to 12 percent of non-disabled girls
  • Evidence suggests that certain characteristics of women, such as sexual orientation, disability status or ethnicity, and some contextual factors, such as humanitarian crises, including conflict and post-conflict situations, may increase women’s vulnerability to violence

Root cause of GBV

Gender discrimination, abuse of power and lack of respect for human rights explains the root cause of all forms of Gender Based Violence. Other contributing factors include but not limited to war, poverty, drugs abuse, lack of information, and natural disasters among others.

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The silence conspiracy

The silence conspiracy is often by people who religiously follow their culture, religion, family members eager to see their daughters remain in marriages glaring evidence that the marriages are dysfunctional. Some women keep silent for fear of spoiling their images of a perfect life or those of their husbands. There are also those who have high profile careers and fear being humiliated once everyone knows that they are emotionally, physically or sexually abused by their husbands or partners.

In some instances, the women are from rural areas and are unaware of their rights and hence end up suffering in silence. On the flipside, there are also academics that do not want the world to know that they are also victims; they hide their pain behind the lavish lifestyles and live in denial, making excuses for the abuser.

Apart from the domestic violence, today, around the world, conflicts continue to ravage and tear apart innocent lives. Many are left for the dead, injured, devastated and sick while the property is destroyed. Everyone caught up in the crisis-affected contexts, including, forcibly displaced persons, refugees, migrants and asylum seekers also face existing and increased risks of Gender-based Violence in their efforts to earn a living. Libya is no exception.

Despite this conspiracy, there are several strides that have been made as far as GBV is concerned and you can get help if you speak out at large or talk to people who care.

Strides made in the fight against Gender-based violence


  •   At least 140 countries have passed laws on domestic violence, and 144 have laws on sexual harassment. However, even when laws exist, this does not mean they are always compliant with international standards and recommendations or implemented. Still, 37 countries exempt rape perpetrators from prosecution when they are married to or subsequently marry the victim [2]
  • Availability of data on violence against women has increased significantly in recent years. Since 1995, more than 100 countries have conducted at least one survey addressing the issue. More than 40 countries conducted at least two surveys in the period between 1995 and 2014, which means that, depending on the comparability of the surveys, changes over time could be analysed .
  • Kenya has the gender violence Recovery Center (GVRC) in hospitals such as the Kenyatta National hospital, Nairobi Women’s hospital, Coast Province General Hospital (CPGH). Mombasa, Kenya. You can visit these hospitals to get all the help you need in case of kind of GBV.
  • The Kenya police also started the Directorate of community policing, gender and child protection that is meant to protect victims of GBV. You can find these departments in all police stations.


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