What is VAW?

Violence against Women (VAW) and girls (VAWG) is a serious violation of their human rights. It includes physical, sexual and psychological harm or threat of violence, coercion or depriving of liberty and can take place in public or private life. Violence against Women and Girls is not limited to any single country or region and often affects women and girls differently due to various socio-political, economic, cultural, religious, tribal and ethnic practices.


Who is affected?

Women and girls of every age, class, ethnicity, religion, caste and location can be and are affected.


Common types of Violence against Women (VAW)

There are many types of violence against women that include intimate partner violence, rape, marital rape, sexual abuse and violence and/or harassment, dowry related violence, non-spousal violence, violence against domestic workers, other forms of exploitation such as trafficking and pornography, harmful practices, justified by reference to social practice, culture, tradition, and/or religion.


Common types of Violence against Girls (VAG)

Violence against girls may include the above as well as female infanticide; early marriage and forced marriage.


Where can it take place?

Violence against women and girls can take place anywhere, whether at home in the family or in the community, at the workplace, public places and transport, and especially in times of natural disaster, internal conflict, war and public disturbances such as riots, and when there is internal displacement due to these situations.
Source: http://www.saynotoviolence.org/issue


Formal Definitions of VAW and GBV

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) provided the foundation for understanding violence against women and girls by highlighting the issue of discrimination.


It defined discrimination against women as:
“…any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field”.

The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, (Vienna Declaration, of 1993), was the first international document to recognize and define GBV.


It defined GBV as:

Article 1: Any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.

Article 2: Violence against women shall be understood to encompass, but not be limited to, the following:

  • Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family, including battering, sexual abuse of female children in the household, dowry-related violence, marital rape, female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, non-spousal violence and violence related to exploitation;
  • Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring within the general community, including rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere, trafficking in women and forced prostitution;
  • Physical, sexual and psychological violence perpetrated or condoned by the State, wherever it occurs.


The Declaration provides a broad definition of violence:

  • States cannot avoid their obligations to protect women from violence on grounds of tradition or religious considerations.
  • States have a wide range of responsibilities -including the duty to develop comprehensive preventive approaches, establish a national plan of action and the duty to establish an international network of co-operation. Source: http://www.un.org/documents/ga/res/48/a48r104.htm

The State is liable for conduct of both State and Non-state actors, covering violence in the public and private spheres.


Main Forms of Gender-based Violence or Violence against Women and Girls

Violence is usually categorized as

  • Physical
  • Emotional
  • Verbal
  • Sexual
  • Economic
  • Information and Communication Technology (Digital)

Women and girls may experience multiple forms of violence. For example in a case of domestic violence, a woman would typically experience physical, sexual, psychological and economic violence. However, even if a woman only experiences emotional/psychological violence or only one form of violence, it is still violence against women and should not be ignored.

To read more on Constitution & Institutions


Common Types of Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) in Sri Lanka: