This module is a resource for lecturers  




In the early 1990s, violence against women and girls was recognized as a form of discrimination, that “seriously inhibits women's ability to enjoy rights and freedoms on a basis of equality with men” (CEDAW Committee, 1992, GR 19, para 1). In its 2017 deliberation on violence against women, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) said that:

gender-based violence against women is one of the fundamental social, political and economic means by which the subordinate position of women with respect to men and their stereotyped roles are perpetuated. Throughout its work, the Committee has made clear that this violence is a critical obstacle to achieving substantive equality between women and men as well as to women’s enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Convention (CEDAW Committee, 2017, GR 35, para 10).

Particular forms of violence against women and girls have been recognized as violations of the right not to be tortured – even where the person inflicting that violence is a private citizen, such as an abusive husband or partner (A/HRC/7/3). Denial of safe and legal abortion where a woman has become pregnant as a result of rape has also been recognized as violating the right not to be tortured. (HR Committee, 2000, CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.10, para 11).

Human rights law requires that women and girl survivors have access to reparation for violence against women. The idea of "transformative reparation" for violence against women, is built on the understanding that violence against women is a cause and consequence of discrimination, and that this discrimination needs to be transformed into equality to achieve genuine reparation for individual women and society as a whole (Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, 2010) Transformative reparation seeks to provide individual remedies, including rehabilitation (both physical and psychological), and compensation, and to address the structural - particularly social and legal - causes of gender inequality and violence. Addressing these forms of discrimination seeks to ensure gender equality in societies, communities and families.


Learning outcomes

  • Understand gender-based violence against women and girls as a human rights violation, with legal, social, and inter-personal aspects, which is both a cause and consequence of gender discrimination.
  • Understand that taking a stand on gender-based violence against women and girls - and other forms of gender inequality affecting women - is action which redresses existing harm and injustice that affects women, it is not discriminatory against men; and taking action to secure equality for women and girls is entirely consistent with taking action on issues which affect men and boys (such as the prevalence of suicide).
  • Understand the concept of survivor agency - that all initiatives need to be undertaken in cooperation with survivors, using approaches that are safe, empowering and respectful.
  • Describe the structures (legal, social, economic, and political) which contribute to the prevalence of gender-based violence against women and girls, particularly gendered stereotypes; and engage critically with the attitudes which permit gender-based violence against women and girls to persist (attitudes which are sometimes held by perpetrators and by-standers).
  • Identify the factors that need to be addressed - media, communications; substantive and procedural law; institutions - police, judiciary, workplaces, places of education, public spaces; education for gender empowerment, particularly rights-based and scientifically accurate comprehensive sexuality education (for information on comprehensive sexuality education, see the factsheet from United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on comprehensive sexuality education 30 September 2016)
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