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Gender-Based Violence

Embracing diversity through new LGBTI surveys in Thailand

Piotr Pawlak's picture
Photo: Talashow / Shutterstock

Social inclusion: a core development objective in its own right, the foundation for shared prosperity, and a major player in poverty alleviation.

As we observe the International Day for Tolerance this month, let’s remind ourselves that tolerance for diversity represents the first step on the path to social inclusion, and that diversity should not just be tolerated—it should be embraced and celebrated.
Yet, around the world, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI) people confront multifaceted challenges that prevent them from fully participating in markets, services, and spaces. In some countries, although tolerated, these groups are often at risk of increased discrimination, exclusion, violence, and other vulnerabilities. This robs them of dignity and prevents them from capitalizing on opportunities to lead a better life.
For instance, Thailand is a country with multiple regional linguistic, geographical and socio-economic diversities, natural beauty and historical riches, and many localized traditions and cultural practices. Often called the “Land of Smiles,” Thailand, in the eye of the outsider, is a paradise of tolerance, where many sexual orientations and gender identities/expressions are truly to be seen. However, while the demand and support for positive self-identity are growing in Thailand, people with diverse sexual orientations, gender expressions, and identities experience varying degrees of social inclusion.

Gender-based violence and HIV infection: Overlapping epidemics in Brazil

Kristin Kay Gundersen's picture

One woman is victimized by violence every 15 seconds in Brazil, with a total of 23% of all Brazilian women experiencing violence in their lifetime. There are many notable consequences affecting victims of gender-based violence, yet many health consequences of violence have not been widely addressed in Brazil. This leads to the question: Are victims of gender-based violence at a higher risk for HIV infection in Brazil?
Brazil has 730,000 people living with HIV, the largest number in Latin America and the Caribbean. Brazil is also one of 15 countries that account for 75% of the number of people living with HIV worldwide. Although the HIV epidemic in Brazil is classified as stable at the national level, incidence is increasing in various geographic regions and among sub-groups of women.
Rates of violence against women (VAW) are particularly high in the Southeastern and Southern regions of Brazil. These regions also have the highest HIV prevalence, accounting for 56% and 20% of all the people living with HIV in Brazil, respectively. Violence and HIV in Brazil are clearly linked, with 98% of women living with HIV in Brazil reporting a lifetime history of violence and 79% reporting violence prior to an HIV diagnosis.
Despite these statistics, there is limited research in Brazil examining VAW in relation to HIV. Accordingly, a bi-national collaboration of researchers from the University of California, San Diego, University of Campinas, São Paulo and the University of Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre developed an innovative study to investigate these intersecting epidemics.
The focus of the study is in the regions of Brazil with the highest rates of VAW and highest prevalence of HIV: São Paulo in the Southeastern region and Porto Alegre in the Southern region.
The aims of the research were to describe the contextual factors of violence victimization among women in Brazil and to examine the association with HIV infection.
The study merged two population-based studies with identical sampling methodologies conducted in the São Paulo and Porto Alegre, Brazil. Women ages 18-49 years were sampled from public health centers, including 2,000 women from São Paulo and 1,326 from Porto Alegre. These women were administered surveys that gathered extensive data on violence victimization and social-ecological factors on access to preventative health services.

Working to address gender-based violence in fragile situations

Diana J. Arango's picture
World Bank Senior Gender-Based Violence and Development Specialist Diana J. Arango shares insights into her work to operationalize gender-based violence prevention and response in fragile settings.

Why is gender important for development in environments affected by fragility, conflict and violence (FCV), in the context of your work?

Even though we know that 35% of women in the world have experienced physical or sexual violence at the hand of an intimate partner or sexual violence at the hand of a non-partner, we have yet to fully understand the complexity and different manifestations of gender-based violence (GBV) experienced by women and girls in conflict. 
Photo: Shutterstock

We do know that women and girls experience increased violence, because of the breakdown in social fabric that regulates the use of violence, the lack of security and services, and the reality of being forcibly displaced and living in areas where there is no protection. UNHCR estimates that globally, women and girls comprise about half of internally displaced or stateless populations.
We are learning that the Syrian crisis has led to increases in early marriage, and has severely limited women’s mobility. Girls are not given access to education because they are not allowed to leave their homes. Women in Iraq who are widowed enter into temporary marriages to collect dowry and provide food and shelter for their families. While in these temporary marriages, they are often sexually and physically assaulted. 
The increased vulnerability of women and girls in FCV and the entrenchment of norms and attitudes that contribute to violence and eat away at women’s autonomy are reasons why it is especially important to always bear in mind how FCV affects women and men, girls and boys differently. 
Tell us about your experience working in this area.

I led the creation of the Violence Against Women and Girls Resource Guide which was developed and launched in partnership with the Global Women’s Institute (GWI) at George Washington University, and the Inter-American Development Bank in 2014. The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) joined the partnership in June 2015.
The guide was created to provide basic information on the characteristics and consequences of violence against women and girls, including operational implications. It offers guidance on how to integrate prevention and the provision of quality services to violence survivors within a range of sectoral projects. The guide highlights potential entry points and partners to engage with, while recommending strategies for integrating violence against women and girls into policies and legislation, sector programs and projects. The guide gathers existing global evidence and emerging promising practices, including those implemented by several teams across the World Bank.
In addition, we are partnering with the Sexual Violence Research Initiative out of the Medical Research Council of South Africa to address the dearth of evidence. The Development Marketplace for Innovations to Prevent Gender-Based Violence is funding innovation in GBV prevention and response around the world -- including in FCV countries. Two of the nine projects we funded last year are working with Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Turkey. The funding in Lebanon, for example, will help us better understand the drivers of early marriage and how men, women, boys and girls understand this phenomenon. This information will give us the data we need to design an intervention to address the root causes of early marriage.
How can we take this agenda forward?
The new World Bank Group Gender Strategy and commitments under the International Development Association (IDA) give us the opportunity to continue our research and improve our understanding of the different ways in which FCV affects women and men. We can also integrate into our operations measures to address GBV and increase economic opportunities as well as access to labor markets for women, while also increasing access to assets and services.
I hope to use my experiences of working for almost a decade in humanitarian settings and GBV to provide technical support and share examples of evidence-based interventions that we can use across the World Bank’s programs in FCV to help women and girls in these environments.

Campaign Art: End the Silence

Sangeetha Shanmugham's picture

People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Violence against women is a major hurdle to development, and unless its root causes are addressed, many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) will not be met. It’s an issue that stains the futures of millions of women and girls, every day, all over the world.
In a 2005 report, the World Health Organization stated that violence against women is a major threat to social and economic development. It has been linked to poverty, lack of education, gender inequality, child mortality and maternal illness. An unprecedented number of countries have laws against domestic violence, sexual assault and other forms of violence. Challenges remain however in implementing these laws, limiting women and girls’ access to safety and justice. Not enough is done to prevent violence, and when it does occur, it often goes unpunished.
Up to 7 in 10 women report having been physically or sexually abused at some point in their lifetime. Up to 50 per cent of sexual assaults are committed against girls under the age of 16. One in four women experiences physical or sexual violence during pregnancy.

Those are grim numbers and part of the problem is that violence against women is simply not recognized.

So how can we tackle this global issue? One way is by bringing more awareness to it.

Violence against older women is widespread but untallied

Cailin Crockett's picture
Along with partners across the globe, today we mark World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. This UN observance has since 2011 called attention to the often invisible abuse, violence, and neglect experienced by older people—mostly women—around the world.

Ending poverty means closing the gaps between women and men

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture

A woman in a Niger village cooks for her family. Photo © Stephan Gladieu/World Bank

For the first time in history, the number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen below 10%. The world has never been as ambitious about development as it is today. After adopting the Sustainable Development Goals and signing the Paris climate deal at the end of 2015, the global community is now looking into the best and most effective ways of reaching these milestones. In this five-part series I will discuss what the World Bank Group is doing and what we are planning to do in key areas that are critical for ending poverty by 2030: good governance, gender equality, conflict and fragility, creating jobs, and, finally, preventing and adapting to climate change.

The world is a better place for women and girls in 2016 than even a decade ago. But not for everyone, and definitely not everywhere: This is especially true in the world’s poorest, most fragile countries.
It’s also particularly true regarding women’s economic opportunities. Gender gaps in employment, business, and access to finance hold back not just individuals but whole economies—at a time when we sorely need to boost growth and create new jobs globally.

Researching violence against Syrian refugee women

Bassam Sebti's picture

He often used a stick or an iron wire to beat her. Her body was covered in bruises, sometimes in all kinds of colors. Hamada's husband, frustrated with losing his son and his job in warring Syria, directed his anger and depression towards the mother of his children.

It is a fact: War is one of many forms of violence to which women are subjected, and for some Syrian refugee women it is a prolongation of what has been happening already in their war-torn country.

They have been beaten, forced into having sex and asked to never talk about it or else get killed — by their own husbands.

For the helpless women, most of whom are mothers, the abuse has been taking physical, emotional and sexual forms.

So how do you address and understand the reasons behind this major, often undermined, issue that adds to the misery of the already miserable women refugees?


A team of researchers working with the Women and Health Alliance International non-profit organization is working on formative research to prevent intimate partner violence among Syrian refugees in Izmir, Turkey.

"Often, from a worldwide perspective, when we think about conflict, we think about the forms of violence that are highlighted in the media," said team member Jennifer Scott, a physician and researcher at Harvard Medical School.

"But what we are not talking about is what is happening in the household, and the types of violence that are related to stress, cultural norms, or social and gender norms," she added. 

To address this issue, Scott and her team talk with men, women, community leaders, policymakers and religious leaders. They ask questions about what is happening in the household, what sorts of violence women and girls experience, and how has this changed as a result of conflict and displacement.

The goal, she said, is to understand that this kind of violence does not have one dimension.

"It's really multiple layers that we need to understand," Scott said. "In our experience as researchers, when we offer women and men the opportunity to speak, they want to talk about it because it's a very important issue."  

The research project, set to start in June 2016, will take place at a community center in Izmir that offers services not only to Syrian refugees but also other refugees currently living in Izmir. The project will conduct focus group discussions and interviews among community and religious leaders to examine some of the factors that lead to intimate partner violence, and explore possible solutions.

The research data will inform the development of a future program to prevent intimate partner violence among displaced populations.

The World Bank Group and the Sexual Violence Research Initiative recently awarded this project and eight other teams from around the world a total of $1.2 million in recognition of their innovations to prevent gender-based violence.

Experts, communities convene to develop evidence-based approaches to prevent intimate partner violence in Honduras

Amber L. Hill's picture
The communities of Choloma, La Ceiba and el Progreso in Honduras all had one question in common:  "When can we get started?"

"We want solutions that work and we want them now," said a community leader from La Ceiba during a meeting with national and international experts on the adaptation of an evidence-based intervention to Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) in Honduras. La Ceiba is one of the cities most affected by violence in Honduras, which has the highest homicide rate in the world at 90.4 deaths/100,000 people. More specifically, rates of violence targeted towards women and girls are also alarmingly high:
  • A total of 27% of women aged 15-49 have experienced physical violence since the age of 15; some regions have rates up to 40%.
  • Similarly to other countries around the world, the vast majority of the perpetrators are intimate partners or ex-partners.
These statistics clearly demonstrate the need for interventions that seek to affect the root causes that underlie gender-based violence in Honduras.

The missing men in violence against women

Maria Correia's picture
Photo: Dominic Chavez/World Bank

To end violence against women, we must ask the fundamental question of what is going on with men – the main perpetrators of this violence – and why societies worldwide are producing so many violent men?

As we know from the seminal 2013 WHO report, gender violence has reached epidemic proportions:  fully one third of women worldwide – nearly one billion women – will experience physical violence from a male partner in their lifetimes.  The problem has persisted or even increased in rich and poor countries alike – across age groups, classes, cultures and races.  
The time has come to shift our thinking and approach to the perpetrators of this violence.  We need to turn our attention to the behavior and motivations of the men and ask a different set of questions. What is going on with the men who are committing these violent acts?  Why do so many men use violence against women and girls – particularly their own family members?  Why is men’s use of violence against women so commonplace across countries in the world today?  And how do institutions perpetuate the practice of men abusing and violating women? 

If you cannot say it, then draw it: comic books against gender-based violence in India

Ram Devineni's picture
(The author is a co-creator of the comic book “Priya’s Shakti”, a multimedia project that helps illuminate attitudes toward gender-based violence (GBV) through the Hindu mythological canon.)
Tushar Kamble with the comic book panel he drew about one of his teachers.

Before creating the comic book “Priya’s Shakti”  we spoke with several rape survivors and their accounts were critical in developing our story. What they told us had a profound impact on everyone involved. We knew we had to create a compelling and inspiring character – Priya, who is a survivor of rape and the hero of our comic book.
While finishing the comic book, we realized that the process of drawing Priya made us more sensitive and aware of the struggles of the real-life women we interviewed and who influenced our character. We wanted to share the power of storytelling and drawing with teenagers in India and elsewhere.
We observed that the internet and watching TV is a very passive endeavor and once it is over, the viewer is disconnected from what they experienced. But, drawing and especially telling the stories of survivors of gender-based violence was a very active process and had a lasting effect on the people who were involved. The more the person was engaged with the subject – the deeper their empathy was with them.