Nothing holds back women worldwide as much as gender-based violence. “Gender-based violence” (GBV) describes a wide range of persecution based on a person’s biological sex or gender identity as well as that person’s perceived conformity to cultural norms of masculinity and femininity.
GBV is physical, sexual and psychological abuse. It’s also economic deprivation and deprivation of liberty, whether inside or outside the home. It’s battery, dowry-related violence and rape, but it’s also harassment in the workplace or in school. Gender-based violence crosses every social and economic class, ethnicity, race, religion and education level.
One out of every 3 women worldwide will be the victim of gender-based violence. In conflict zones, those numbers increase greatly. Women are disproportionately victimized in civil unrest and election-related violence.
Sexual violence limits the educational opportunities and achievements of its victims, affecting their ability to support themselves and contribute to their communities. Women who have been victims of violence are also at a higher risk of HIV infection. In addition to being an affront to its victims’ essential human rights, GBV threatens public health, economic stability and security.
Among the greatest tools for fighting gender-based violence are education and awareness. Combating it means starting discussions among girls and boys about how our cultures treat women — from portrayals in the media to expectations of their roles within families. President Obama observed that “communities that give their daughters the same opportunities as their sons … are more peaceful, they are more prosperous, they develop faster, they are more likely to succeed.”