Gender refers to social differences between males and females, while sex refers to physical differences between males and females.

Gender is determined by social factors, including history, culture, tradition, societal norms, and religion.

Gender norms differ in different cultures and determine roles, responsibilities, opportunities, privileges, limitations, and expectations.

Gender definitions can change and be changed over time.

Gender Based Violence (GBV)

Violence that is directed against a person on the basis of gender. It constitutes a breach of the fundamental right to life, liberty, security, dignity, equality between women and men, non-discrimination and physical and mental integrity. (Council of Europe, 2012)

While women and girls are most impacted, GBV also refers to violence against men, boys, and sexual minorities or those with gender-nonconforming identities.

Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG)

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. (UN General Assembly, 1993)

VAWG takes many forms, including sexual, physical, and psychological abuse. It occurs in the home, on the streets, in schools, workplaces, farm fields, and refugee camps, during times of peace as well as in conflicts and crises

Article 2 of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) notes that violence against women includes sexual, physical, and psychological violence in the:

  • Family: such as battering, sexual abuse of children, female genital mutilation/cutting, and rape;
  • Community: such as sexual abuse, sexual harassment and intimidation, trafficking, and forced prostitution; and
  • State: such as poorly drafted or unenforceable laws for violence against women, law enforcement agents who violate women, the lack of facilities and education for prevention and treatment of women exposed to violence, the sanctioning and reinforcement of unequal gender relations. The state’s indifference and neglect in creating opportunities for women in regard to employment, education, participation and access to social services also perpetuates gender-based violence.

Sexual Violence

Any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, or other act directed against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting. 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 (WHO, 2012).

Sexual Exploitation

Any actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, differential power, or trust, for sexual purposes, including, but not limited to, profiting monetarily, socially, or politically from the sexual exploitation of another.

Sexual Harrasment

Unwelcomed sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. (UN Secretary General, 2008)

“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).

Child Marriage

A formal marriage or informal union of a person or people under the age of 18.

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).


The killing of a woman or girl, in particular by a man, on account of her gender. Murdering a woman in the name of honour is a form of femicide.


Murder in the Name of Honour (aka "Honour Killings")

A practice in which women and girls suspected of defiling their family’s honour by their supposed misconduct is killed by their brother, father, uncle or another relative who thus restores the said honour. So-called “honour killings” are executed following 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 considered 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).



Someone – usually a woman or girl – who has experienced any form of GBV. Both terms are often used synonymously or interchangeably, but use of the word survivor underlines that women and girls who experienced violence are not “passive” victims but are actively trying to stop violence and seeking protection and support.


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