Gender-based violence: UniSAFE’s definition

Definitions of gender-based violence

The term ‘gender-based violence’ (GBV) is used to capture all forms of gender-based violence: physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence, economic violence, sexual harassment, harassment on the grounds of gender, and environmental harassment – in both online and offline contexts. This is consistent with scholarly research and an international understanding, where the concept of gender-based violence describes and includes a continuum of violence, violations, and violent behaviours and attitudes on the basis of sex and gender and always intersects with other dimensions of inequalities, such as age, ethnicity, disability, and sexuality (Hearn et al. 2020; Bondestam & Lundqvist 2019; Strid et al. 2021). Gender-based violence encompasses but is not limited to the following types of violence:

  • Physical violence, including kicking, beating, pushing, slapping, and hitting, etc.

  • Sexual violence, including sexual acts, attempts to obtain a sexual act, sexual assaults, or acts otherwise directed against a person’s sexuality without the person’s consent, occurring in both online and offline contexts.

  • Psychological violence, including psychologically abusive behaviours, such as controlling, coercion, verbal abuse, and blackmail and takes place in both online and offline contexts.

  • Economic and financial violence, including acts or behaviours that cause an individual economic harm. Economic violence can take the form of property damage, restriction of access to financial resources, education or the labour market, or a failure to fulfil certain economic responsibilities. The control mechanisms may include controlling the victim’s access to healthcare services, employment, etc.

  • Harassmentincludes both sexual harassment and gender harassment and takes place in both online and offline contexts:  
      • Sexual harassmentis unwanted verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature, such as touching, comments on a person’s looks or body, stalking, sending [sharing] images with sexual content, or sexist jokes. Sexual harassment is not the same as sexual assault, although the two can and often do overlap
      • Gender harassmentis harassment on the grounds of sex but without sexual connotations, such as diminishing or hateful comments, exclusion, silencing, or stereotypical prejudices.
  • Online violence, abuse, and violation can take many forms, such as cyberstalking, cyberbullying, internet-based sexual abuse, non-consensual distribution of sexual images and text, certain features of which arise from the nature of ICTs, e.g., instantaneousness, asynchronicity, personalisation, global connectivity, reproducibility of images, the blurring of the ‘real’ and the ‘representational’. 
  • Organisational (gender-based) violence: In addition to the forms of GBV that centre more on individuals, there are also important manifestations of GBV on the collective, group, and organisational levels of universities and research organisations. This can apply in a direct sense, such as abuse of feminist students or of Gender Studies as a discipline, or in a less direct sense, such as laissez-faire or authoritarian management that facilities, or even condones, individual GBV, or the existence of group/organisational cultures that promote GBV directly or indirectly, e.g., use of pornography, lad culture.