November 25th, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, marks the start of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence campaign globally. Each year, events and activities are held across the world during the 16 days to raise awareness about gender violence and advocate for ways to prevent and mitigate such violence. The 16 Days of Activism will come to a close on December 10th, International Human Rights Day.

What is GBV?

GBV refers to any harm perpetuated against a person’s will on the basis of gender – the socially ascribed differences between males and females. Women and girls are often the targets of GBV because of social norms and beliefs that reinforce their subordinate social status. Individuals who do not follow gender norms and roles in their societies – whether based on their sexuality or expression of their gender identity – may also experience GBV for simply not “fitting in”. Gender-based violence is rooted in unequal power relations between men, women, boys, and girls and is both a cause and a consequence of poverty and gender inequality. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in three women (35%) throughout the world has experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner. In some communities, such as Ethiopia and Peru, this number can be as high as 70%. Globally, WHO estimates that 150 million girls and 73 million boys under the age of 18 have experienced sexual violence.

What about Child Marriage?

Child marriage is considered to be a form of GBV. More than 64 million girls worldwide are child brides, with 46 per cent of women aged 20-24 in South Asia and 41 per cent in West and Central Africa reporting that they were married before the age of 18. Child marriage perpetuates poverty over generations and is linked to poor health, less educational attainment, and violence. The effects of child marriage are harmful not only to girls themselves, but also to families and communities.

What are the Consequences?

Gender-based violence violates several basic human rights and also has detrimental effects on individuals and societies as a whole. Health: GBV is a major cause of disability and death among women worldwide, and has serious health consequences that include death, physical injuries, unintended pregnancies and induced abortions, sexually transmitted infections such as HIV, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and the harmful use of substances such as tobacco, drugs and alcohol. Women who experience intimate partner violence (IPV) are twice as likely to experience depression and 16% more likely to have low birth-weight babies. Up to 50% of boys and girls who are exposed to GBV develop post-traumatic stress syndrome.

According to the World Bank, gender-based violence accounts for as much death and ill-health in women aged 15–44 years as cancer, and is a greater cause of ill-health than malaria and traffic accidents