Glossaries (Gender Based Violence / Violence Against Women)

Here are two excellent glossaries we found online. They have many similar terms, but are written in different ways. Both are valuable, and we have shortened them slightly. The terms Gender-based Violence and Violence Against Women are often used interchangeably. If you would like to access the full glossaries here are the links!

Glossary 1 is from this amazing source:

It was written by the “The NGO Working Group on Violence Against Women” in 2004

We are grateful to the authors!

Violence against women in the family

The most common form of violence is the violence against women in the private sphere. Already before birth where son preference is current: sex-selective abortion and female infanticide take place. During childhood devaluation of girls, which results in practices such as enforced malnutrition, unequal access to medical care, incest, the sale of children by their parents for prostitution or bonded labour, female genital mutilation, early childhood marriage and other harmful traditional practices are common. Then throughout their adult lives, women suffer from physical or psychological violence: marital rape, battering, domestic murder, dowry and bride-price related violence, sati and honour killings. Older women may become victims of violence at the hands of family because of their age. In some countries old widows are chased away from the society as witches.

Although the distinct social, cultural and political contexts in which violence in the family exists give rise to different forms, its prevalence and pattern are remarkably consistent, spanning national and socio-economic borders and cultural identities. It frequently stems from the same root, their subordinate status and their subjugation as women. Violence happening in the domestic sphere is unfortunately often not treated by the authorities as a serious crime but as a private matter.

Dowry death: Killing a woman whose family fails to pay full dowry (some countries in Asia)

Dry sex: Inserting herbs into women’s vagina to keep it dry. Repeated sexual relation in this condition can cause pain and laceration (e. g. Southern Africa).

Early and childhood marriage: The marriage of children and adolescents below the age of 18, which can lead to poverty, health problems (fistula), early pregnancy and vulnerability to violence (e. g. Middle East and some African countries)

Forced marriage: Any situation in which women and girls are coerced, enticed, induced or tricked into marriage. Forced marriages are sometimes used to justify the sexual exploitation of children, especially young girls (e. g. Ethiopia, Turkey).

Female Genital Mutilation: Female genital mutilation (FGM), often referred to as ‘female circumcision’, comprises all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs whether for cultural, religious or other non-therapeutic reasons. There are different types of female genital mutilation known to be practised today. They include:

• Type I - excision of the prepuce, with or without excision of part or all of the clitoris;
• Type II - excision of the clitoris with partial or total excision of the labia minora;

  • Type III - excision of part or all of the external genitalia and stitching/narrowing of the vaginal opening ;

• Type IV – Infibulation: this is the removal of the clitoral hood, the clitoris, the labia minora, the labia majora and the stitching together of the two sides of the vulva, leaving a very small hole to permit the flow of urine and menstrual blood. The most common type of female genital mutilation is excision of the clitoris and the labia minora, accounting for up to 80% of all cases; the most extreme form is infibulation, which constitutes about 15% of all procedures.
• Type V – Unclassified types of FGM: includes pricking, piercing or incision of clitoris and/or labia; stretching of clitoris and/or labia; cauterization by burning of clitoris and surrounding tissues; scraping (angurya cuts) of the vaginal orifice or cutting (gishiri cuts) of the vagina; introduction of corrosive substances into the vagina to cause bleeding or herbs into the vagina with the aim of tightening or narrowing the vagina; any other procedures which fall under the definition of FGM given above (28 countries in Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia, communities in Sri Lanka, some countries in the Middle East, some communities in Europe, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand etc.).

Female infanticide: Female infanticide is the killing of a girl child within weeks of her birth (e.g. China, India & Bangladesh).

Forced labour including prostitution: The term "forced or compulsory labour" means all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty. Forced labour is a means of political coercion or education or a punishment for holding or expressing political views or views ideologically opposed to the established political, social or economic system; it is a method of mobilising and using labour for purposes of economic development, and a means of racial, social, national or religious discrimination.

Prostitution is the commercial sexual exploitation of human beings. It is mostly the exploitation of women and girls and is a fundamental violation of human rights. It constitutes a particular form of forced labour, coercion, violence and contemporary form of slavery (worldwide).

Incest: Incest, sexual abuse occurring within the family, although most often perpetrated by a father, stepfather, grandfather, uncle, brother or other male in a position of family trust, may also come from a female relative. As with sexual abuse, incest is accomplished by physical force or by coercion. Incest takes on the added psychological dimension of betrayal by a family member who is supposed to care for and protect the child (worldwide).

Marital rape: Marital rape is any unwanted sexual acts by a spouse or ex-spouse, committed without consent and/or against a person's will, obtained by force, or threat of force, intimidation, or when a person is unable to consent. These sexual acts include intercourse, anal or oral sex, forced sexual behavior with other individuals, and other sexual activities that are considered by the victim as degrading, humiliating, painful, and unwanted (worldwide).

Naka: Naka is forcing women to marry several times for the family to get money or property (e. g. India).

Son preference: Son preference is a worldwide phenomenon although the degree and the manifestation vary. It is a form of discrimination that in some cultures takes a violent form such as the practice of prenatal sex selection leading to foeticide of girls, the lack of access of girls to food, education and health care (e. g. Asia).

Wife Inheritance: A brother in law or a cousin in law inherits a widow (many countries in Africa, Asia and Middle East).

Woman Battering: A "battered woman" is a woman who is beaten by her husband or partner. The batterer systematically uses physical violence, economic subordination, threats, isolation, and a variety of other behavioral controlling tactics to ensure she does what he wants her to do (worldwide).

II. Violence against women in the community

Abduction: Kidnapping girls by force from their family in order to violate, abuse and forcefully marry (e.g. Ethiopia).

At work place: Sexual harassment is a behaviour of sexual nature unwelcome to the one to whom it is addressed, which has become a condition of work and which creates a climate of hostility, humiliation or intimidation. It may assume the form of physical contacts, remarks and jokes with a sexual connotation, unwelcome invitations, and exhibitions of pornographic material of physical aggression (worldwide).

Caste based violence: Caste based violence is situation where women are raped exploited because of their gender and caste (e.g. Asia, Africa).

Forced dress code: Women forced to cover themselves or their head not to tempt men by showing their face or parts of their body (e.g. parts of Africa, Middle East, Asia, among some communities in the western world).

Forced feeding: Young girls are fed by force to gain weight and appear fat and obese for marrying a husband who considers this as beauty. The health consequences are multiple including hypertension malformation of the bones, diabetic etc. (e. g. Mauritania, Niger and Mali)

Honor killing: The killing or mutilation of a woman when she allegedly steps outside of her socially prescribed role, especially but not only, with regard to her sexuality and to her interaction with men outside her family (e.g. Africa, Asia, Latin America, Middle East, some communities in Europe).

Neck imprisoned in rings: The neck muscle is not allowed to develop as it is imprisoned by metal ring. An angry husband just needs to break the ring to let the head drop and the woman can die (e.g. Western and Southern Africa, Asia).

Lip plates: Women wearing huge plates of clay for protection and marriage ability. In some cases the hole is so big that it can pass through the head of the woman (e.g. Eastern Africa).

Polygamy: A man marrying more than one wife or temporary wives leading to insecurity of women and facilitating the spread of HIV/AIDS. It is illegal in most countries but still persists.

Rape: Rape is the sexual penetration, however slight of any part of the body of the victim with a sexual organ, or of the anal or genital opening of the victim with any object or any other part of the body. The invasion is committed by force, or by threat of force or coercion, such as that caused by fear of violence, duress, detention, psychological oppression or abuse of power, against such person or another person, or by taking advantage of a coercive environment, or committed against a person incapable of giving genuine consent (if affected by natural induced or age related incapacity). (Worlwide)

Sexual violence: Sexual violence is an overarching term used to describe any violence, physical or psychological, carried out through sexual means or by targeting sexuality. Sexual violence includes rape and attempted rape, and such acts as forcing a person to strip naked in public, forcing two victims to perform sexual acts on one another or harm one another in a sexual manner, mutilating a person's genitals or a woman's breasts, and sexual slavery (worldwide).

Sati: It is a bereaved widow burnt on her husband’s funeral ceremony (e.g. India).

Trokosi: Young girls being sacrificed to the gods, but they are not being slaughtered on the altar. They are given to fetish shrines, forced under threat of death to live as domestic and sexual slaves. Their crimes are simply being related to a family member who committed a petty offense, often generations before the girls’ births (e.g. Nigeria, Togo, Ghana, Benin).

Devadasi, Deuki and Devaki: Girls offered to temple to provide full services including forced prostitution (e.g. India, Nepal).

Virginity testing: In order to present a woman as a virgin on her marriage day, she is subjected to pressure, and put under control both by her family and societal norms. However, a man is free and never made to suffer any of the above. A woman found to be a virgin on her first night of marriage is seen as a respectable person while one suspected to have lost her virginity is shamed and rejected. Sometimes she is forced to go back to her own family (e. g. Middle East, East Africa).

Women trafficking: Trafficking in women and girls means the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring and receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force and other forms of coercion, of abduction. Deception, the abuse of power on a person in position of vulnerability or of giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person lead to exploitation. It includes forced prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or removal of organs. The consent of the victims of trafficking shall be irrelevant (worldwide).

III. Violence against women by the State

Women are subject to all forms of state violence, but also to gender – specific forms of state violence perpetrated by law enforcement officials or other security or military personnel. This can include rape, sexual abuse and harassment, virginity testing, forced abortion etc.

Gender-specific Torture and Ill Treatment: Gender often has a considerable impact on the form that torture takes, the circumstances in which it occurs, its consequences, and the availability of and access to remedies for its victims. Rape, threat of rape, electro-shock to the genitals and strip searching of women detainees by male guards are frequently the forms that such gender-specific torture takes place. In societies where a woman's sexuality is a reflection of family "honour", these forms of torture and ill treatment are rarely reported.

In Prison: The already vulnerable position of the prisoner is compounded by gender, and places women in detention in particular danger. The most differentiated element of gender-specific state violence is its sexualisation. Although, men are also subjected to sexual violence, these forms of state violence are more consistently perpetrated against women. A clear contributing factor to sexual violence against women in prison is that in many states male correctional staff are allowed to supervise female inmates, to undertake body searches, and to be present where female inmates are naked. Another underlying source of sexual violence is the lack of separation between men and women inmates.

Situations of armed conflict: During times of war women have always been targeted for sexual violence. Rape and enforced impregnation are weapon of war, a means of ethnic cleansing, a means of humiliating men and their family honour. In turn, women are often ostracized from the family and the community because they have been raped. It is an international crime against humanity (Rome statute of the International Criminal Court).

Rape and sexual violence: See violence by the community.
When the rape is committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against a civilian population, when the perpetrator knows that, it is a crime agaisnt humanity (ICC)

Refugees and displaced women: According to the UNHCR, more than 75% of displaced persons are women and their children, they are subjected to physical and sexual violence as much during their flight as when they arrive in the country of asylum, be it from members of the armed forces, immigration agents, bandits, pirates, local populations, individuals belonging to rival ethnic groups or other refugees (worldwide).

Violence against women’s reproductive rights: At the International Conference on Population and development held in Cairo in 1994, the right of men and women to be informed and to have access to safe, available, affordable and acceptable methods of choice for regulation of fertility was upheld and confirmed. The right of access to appropriate health care services that will enable women to go safely through pregnancy and childbirth was accepted for couples to have a healthy infant. The denial of this right violates the bodily integrity of women (worldwide).

Hate Crime: A crime motivated by the race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender identity, disability, or sexual orientation of the victim

Glossary 2 is from this fantastic source:

It was put together by WAVE (Women Against Violence Europe), see and UNFDP Regional Office for Eastern and Central Asia, see

We are grateful to the authors!

Bride kidnapping: The act of taking a woman or girl against her will through deception or force and using physical or psychological coercion to force her to marry one of her abductors (HRW 2006).

Child marriage (or early marriage): The union of two persons at least one of whom is under 18 years of age (CoE PA 2005).

Domestic violence: “All acts of physical, sexual, psychological or economic violence within the family or domestic unit or between former or current spouses or partners, whether or not the perpetrator shares or has shared the same residence with the victim” Article 3 Istanbul Convention). The two main forms of domestic violence are intimate partner violence between current or former spouses or partners and inter-generational violence which typically occurs between parents and children (Istanbul Convention Explanatory Report).

Economic violence: Economic violence is used to deny and control a woman’s access to resources, including time, money, transportation, shelter, insurance, food or clothing. Acts of economic violence include: prohibiting a woman from working; excluding her from financial decision making in the family; withholding money or financial information; refusing to pay bills or maintenance for her or the children; and destroying jointly owned assets (adapted from Warshaw/Ganley 1996).

Empowerment: The process of helping women to feel more in control of their lives and able to take decisions about their future, as articulated in Dutton’s empowerment theory. Dutton notes that battered women are not “sick”, rather they are in a “sick situation” and responses need to demonstrate an understanding, and take into account, their differing needs for support, advocacy and healing. Empowerment is a key feature of advocacy interventions and of some psychological (brief counseling) interventions (Dutton 1992, cited in WHO 2013).

Forced marriage: The union of two persons at least one of whom has not given their full and free consent to the marriage (CoE PA 2005).

Gender: The socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women. While sex and its associated biological functions are programmed genetically, gender roles and the power relations they reflect are a social construct – they vary across cultures and through time, and thus are amenable to change. Gender roles and characteristics do not exist in isolation, but are defined in relation to one another and through the relationship between women and men, girls and boys (adapted from MWIA 2002, WHO undated).

Gender-based violence: Violence “that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately” (CEDAW GR 19, Article 3 Istanbul Convention). This [glossary] uses the terms “gender-based violence” and “violence against women” interchangeably.

Gender-biased sex selection: Gender-biased sex-selection in favour of boys may take place before a pregnancy is established, during pregnancy through prenatal sex detection and selective abortion, or following birth through infanticide or child neglect (OHCHR/UNFPA/UNICEF/UN Women/WHO 2011). Pre-natal sex selection refers to the practice of using medical techniques to choose the sex of offspring. This term “sex selection” encompasses a number of practices including selecting embryos for transfer and implantation following in vitro fertilization, separating sperm, and selectively terminating a pregnancy (WHO Genomic resource centre).

Harmful practices: All practices done deliberately by men on the body or the psyche of other human beings for no therapeutic purpose, but rather for cultural or socio-conventional motives and which have harmful consequences on the health and the rights of the victims. Examples of harmful practices include early/forced marriages, female genital mutilation/cutting, gender-biased sex-selection and widowhood rites (adapted from UN Women Virtual Knowledge Centre).

“Honour” killings: A practice in which women and girls suspected of defiling their family's honour by their misconduct can be killed by their brother, father, uncle or another relative who thus restores the said honour. Honour killings are executed for instances of rape, infidelity, flirting or any other instance perceived as disgracing the family's honour, and the woman is then killed by a male relative to restore the family's name in the community. The allegation of misconduct alone is considered enough to defile a man's or family's honour, and is therefore enough to justify the killing of the woman. The men who commit the murder typically go unpunished or receive reduced sentences (UN Women Virtual Knowledge Centre).

Intimate partner violence: Behaviour by an intimate partner that causes physical, sexual or psychological harm, including acts of physical aggression, sexual coercion, psychological abuse and controlling behaviours. It covers violence by both current and former spouses and other intimate partners (WHO 2013).

Perpetrator: A person, group, or institution that directly inflicts, supports and/or condones violence against a person or a group of persons.

Physical violence: The use of physical force that results in bodily injury, pain, or impairment. The severity of injury ranges from minimal tissue damage, broken bones to permanent injury and death. Acts of physical violence include: slapping, shoving, pushing, punching, beating, scratching, choking, biting, grabbing, shaking, spitting, burning, twisting of a body part, forcing the ingestion of an unwanted substance; restraining a woman to prevent her from seeking medical treatment or other help; and using household objects to hit or stab a woman, using weapons like knives or guns (adapted from Warshaw/Ganley 1996).

Post-traumatic stress disorder: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may develop after a person is exposed to one or more traumatic events, such as sexual assault, serious injury, or the threat of death. The diagnosis may be given when a group of symptoms, such as disturbing recurring flashbacks, avoidance or numbing of memories of the event, and hyper arousal continue for more than a month after the traumatic event (APA 2013).

Psychological violence: An action or set of actions that directly impair the woman’s psychological integrity. Acts of psychological violence include: threats of violence and harm against the woman or somebody close to her, through words or actions (e.g. through stalking or displaying weapons); harassment and mobbing at the work place; humiliating and insulting comments; isolation and restrictions on communication (e.g. through locking her up in the house, forcing her to quit her job or prohibiting her from seeing a doctor); and use of children by a violent intimate partner to control or hurt the woman (e.g. through attacking a child, forcing children to watch attacks against their mother, threatening to take children away, or kidnapping the child). These acts constitute both, violence against children as well as violence against women (adapted from Warshaw/Ganley 1996).

Rape: The physically forced or otherwise coerced penetration of the vulva or anus with a penis, other body part, or object, although the legal definition of rape may vary and, in some cases, may also include oral penetration (WHO 2002, cited in WHO 2013).

Sexual assault: A subcategory of sexual violence, sexual assault usually includes the use of physical or other force to obtain or attempt sexual penetration. It includes rape, defined as the physically forced or otherwise coerced penetration of the vulva or anus with a penis, other body part, or object, although the legal definition of rape may vary and, in some cases, may also include oral penetration (WHO 2002, cited in WHO 2013).

Sexual harassment: “Any form of unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person, in particular when creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment” (Article 2 Directive 2006/54/EC). At the work place, sexual harassment often takes two forms: when the harasser makes a job benefit - such as a pay rise, a promotion, or even continued employment - conditional on the person acceding to demands to engage in some form of sexual behavior; or when the harasser’s conduct creates a hostile and intimidating working environment for the person concerned (adapted from ILO undated).

Sexual violence: Any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed against a person’s sexuality, using coercion, by any person, regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting, including, but not limited to, home and work (WHO 2002, cited in WHO 2013).

Survivor/victim: Refers to a woman or girl who has experienced any form of GBV. International law defines “victim” as “any natural person who is subject to [violence against women or domestic violence]” (Article 1 Istanbul Convention). Both terms are often used synonymously. In order to underline that women and girls who experienced violence are not “passive” victims but are actively trying to stop violence and seeking protection and support (WAVE 2008), the present [glossary] uses the term “survivor”, with the exception of references to terminology used in international human rights standards or context-specific terminology (for instance when referring to homicide).

Trafficking in women: (Тhe UN publication uses the term "trafficking in person" but due to the specificity of [this glossary] the term "trafifcking in women is used")
The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a woman, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over a woman, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs. The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a child for the purpose of exploitation shall be considered “trafficking in persons” even if this does not involve any of the coercive means listed above (adapted from UN 2000).

Violence against women: “Any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life (Article 1 DEVAW). Violence against women encompasses, among others: “(a) Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family; including battering, sexual abuse of female children in the household, dowry-related violence, marital rape, female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, non-spousal violence and violence related to exploitation; (b) Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring within the general community; including rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere, trafficking in women and forced prostitution; (c) Physical, sexual and psychological violence perpetrated or condoned by the State, wherever it occurs” (Article 2 DEVAW). This [glossary] uses the terms “gender-based violence” and “violence against women” interchangeably.

A Few More Terms

These terms were put together by the young women working on the Girl-talk-Girl project. Please send more terms to us via email (, and we can upload them to the application and/or to our website. We thank you!

Gender stereotypes: Representation of the behavior and characteristics of men and women, which explains the anatomy and anatomical differences

Gender roles: Ideas about the patterns of behavior of men and women

Misogyny: Hatred towards women and the rejection of all that is considered female until aversion

Myths about gender-based violence: The stereotypical attitudes towards violence against women, which usually blame shift on women victims of violence

Sexism: Discrimination against people based on gender