Why Gender-based Violence Remains a Human Rights Violation

On this page, we critically discuss why gender-based violence remains a human rights violation today.

Gender-based violence (GBV) remains a critical human rights violation due to several key reasons:

  1. Infringement of Basic Human Rights: GBV directly violates fundamental human rights, including the right to life, liberty, and security of person as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Victims of GBV are deprived of their ability to live free from violence and fear.
  2. Discrimination Based on Gender: GBV inherently involves discrimination based on gender, targeting individuals primarily because of their gender identity or expression. This discrimination is a violation of the principle of equality and non-discrimination, central to human rights law.
  3. Impact on Health Rights: GBV has severe physical and psychological effects on victims, impeding their right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. These effects can be long-term and life-altering.
  4. Barrier to Social and Economic Participation: Victims of GBV often face barriers to participation in economic, social, and cultural life. This includes impediments to accessing education, employment, and social assistance, undermining their rights to work and to education.
  5. Legal and Institutional Failures: Persisting GBV reflects and reinforces failures in legal and institutional frameworks to protect victims and prosecute offenders. When states fail to adequately address GBV, they are failing in their duty to protect individuals from human rights violations.
  6. Societal Impact: GBV not only affects individuals but also has a profound impact on the broader society, reinforcing gender stereotypes and perpetuating cycles of violence and inequality.

Therefore, addressing GBV is crucial not only for the direct victims but for the advancement of gender equality and human rights globally. This necessitates comprehensive efforts including legal reform, education, and cultural change to challenge and change the conditions that allow GBV to continue.

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Infringement of Basic Human Rights

Gender-based violence (GBV) directly violates fundamental human rights, including the right to life, liberty, and security of person as highlighted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Victims of GBV are often trapped in cycles of violence that endanger their lives and mental well-being. For example, in cases of domestic abuse, the constant threat and act of violence can lead to severe anxiety and a perpetual state of fear, undermining the victim’s ability to lead a secure and autonomous life. This deprivation of basic security and freedom is a clear violation of their most fundamental human rights.

Discrimination Based on Gender

Gender-based violence is a form of discrimination that targets individuals based on their gender identity or expression. This discrimination breaches the core human rights principle of equality and non-discrimination. An illustrative case could be the violence faced by transgender individuals, who are often targeted because of their gender non-conformity. This type of violence not only causes physical and emotional pain but also systematically ostracizes them from parts of social, professional, and public life, reinforcing their marginalization and the discrimination they face.

Impact on Health Rights

The impact of GBV on health rights is profound and multifaceted, encompassing severe physical and psychological effects. Victims may suffer from physical injuries, sexual and reproductive health issues, and serious mental health disorders such as PTSD, depression, and anxiety. For instance, survivors of sexual violence may experience long-term reproductive health issues such as chronic pain, sexually transmitted infections, and unwanted pregnancies, significantly impacting their right to the highest attainable standard of health. The psychological trauma can likewise alter their life course, often requiring long-term medical and psychological care. This enduring impact on health underscores how GBV fundamentally impedes the human right to health.

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Barriers to Social and Economic Participation

Victims of gender-based violence (GBV) often encounter significant barriers to social and economic participation. These barriers can severely restrict access to education, employment, and social assistance, undermining fundamental human rights to work and education. For example, a victim of domestic violence may find it difficult to maintain regular employment due to physical injuries or psychological trauma, or may need to frequently miss work to attend legal proceedings or therapy sessions. In the educational sphere, young girls who experience GBV, such as sexual harassment in school, may skip classes or drop out entirely, significantly affecting their educational outcomes and future opportunities.

Legal and Institutional Failures

Persisting GBV often highlights the failures of legal and institutional frameworks to protect victims and prosecute offenders effectively. These failures include inadequate laws, lack of enforcement, and cultural biases within the justice system that prevent fair treatment of GBV cases. For instance, in many countries, laws against domestic violence are either weak, not comprehensive, or not properly enforced, allowing perpetrators to continue their abuse with impunity. This not only fails the victims but also sends a broader societal message that such violence is tolerated, undermining trust in legal systems and perpetuating the cycle of violence.

Societal Impact

The effects of GBV extend beyond individual victims, having a profound impact on broader society. It reinforces harmful gender stereotypes and contributes to a culture of violence and inequality. For example, societal norms that condone male violence against women as an assertion of masculinity perpetuate a cycle where young boys and men learn to emulate such behaviors, viewing them as acceptable. Similarly, media portrayals that trivialize GBV or blame victims can influence public perceptions and behaviors negatively, making it harder for victims to come forward and receive support. This perpetuation of gender stereotypes and inequalities weakens social cohesion and hinders the progress toward gender equality and respectful interpersonal relationships across the community.