This report analyses the causes and consequences of multiple forms of discrimination as regards violence against women. It also considers inter-gender and intra-gender differences, arguing that a one-size-fits-all programmatic approach is insufficient for combating gender-based violence. A holistic approach is critical for addressing the interconnections between violence against women, its causes and consequences, and multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.
Even though all women are at risk of experiencing violence, not all women are equally susceptible to acts of violence. Individual women’s productive and reproductive activities are impacted by forms of interpersonal and structural violence which intersect with various factors such as immigration, trade and economic policy, social and economic development, civil and political development, legal protection, conflict and security concerns. Discrimination based on race, ethnicity, national origin, ability, socio-economic class, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, culture, tradition and other realities often intensifies acts of violence against women.
Policymakers and other stakeholders need to adopt a holistic approach to conceptualising and addressing the issue. This approach:
- Underscores the interdependence and indivisibility of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.
- Situates violence against women on a continuum, acknowledges the structural aspects and factors of discrimination, and analyses social and economic hierarchies between women and men and also among women.
- Demonstrates that programmatic responses to violence against women cannot be considered in isolation from the context of individuals, households, communities or states.
- Reveals critical aspects of intra-gender discrimination and inequality, which have been invisible in efforts to treat all women homogenously in the responses to violence.
- Demonstrates how interpersonal and structural forms of violence are related, reproduced and generated.
Using a holistic approach to end violence against women improves the ability of policymakers, non-state actors and others to see the interconnections between multiple forms of discrimination and the generation of different forms of violence. In pursuing a holistic approach to understanding discrimination and violence against women, it is important to:
- Include analysis of the right to an adequate standard of living and a focus on bodily integrity rights, education, civil and political engagement and individual self-determination.
- Pay attention to the violence of ideological restrictions. These can be used to justify physical violence against women or to restrict women’s choices in ways that make submission to violent acts necessary to access resources and to demonstrate community membership.
- Focus on the structural aspects of discriminatory violence against identifiable subgroups of women, and its connection to structural and institutional inequalities.
In addition, systematic, comprehensive, multisectoral and sustained efforts are needed to develop national strategies and concrete programmes and actions. UN efforts at gender mainstreaming need to adopt a twin-track approach of both mainstreaming and specificity. This should take into account women’s inter- and intra-gender equality and their right to be free of all forms of violence.