• Shreya Sinha


Updated: Aug 28, 2020

By- Archit Vyas, 3rd Year Student at Gujarat National Law University, Gandhinagar

The persistence and prevalence of violence against women and children have been defined by UN Women as “a pandemic “and by the World Health Organization as a “public health problem of widespread proportions”, affecting at least 35 to 70 percent of women and children all over the globe according to national studies. [1]In 2013, the WHO stated that when more than one in three women worldwide (35.6%) have reported having faced sexual or physical violence then violence against women evidently “saturates all corners of the globe. Further, it puts women's health at risk, limits their participation in society, and causes great human grief. Given the high rates at which girls and boys experience violence, this presents a disturbing picture of the extent to which children have to live with the effect of violence, in the absence of support or services.

  • [2]Violence against women and children is a multifaceted problem with causes at the individual, close relationship, community, and societal levels, so it must be simultaneously opposed on several different levels. The societal ecological model serves a dual purpose in this regard, as each level in the model denotes a dimension where both risks and opportunities for prevention co-exist. Dealing with violence against women and children, therefore, involves implementing measures to:

  • create nurturing, sustainable and safe family environments, and provide dedicated help and support for families at risk of violence;

  • eradicate unsafe environments through physical changes;

  • diminish risk factors in public spaces (e.g. schools, gardens, restaurants ) to reduce the threat of violence;

  • discourse over gender inequities in relationships, the home, school, the workplace, etc.;

  • change the cultural attitudes and practices that back the use of violence;

  • implement legal frameworks that prohibit all forms of violence against children, women and limit youth access to harmful products, such as alcohol and firearms;

  • accessible quality response services for women and children affected by violence;

  • eradicate the cultural, social and economic inequalities that contribute to violence, close the wealth gap and ensure equitable access to goods, services, and opportunities; and

  • coordinate the actions of the multiple sectors that have roles to play in preventing and responding to violence against them.


1. Implementation and enforcement of laws

Developing and strengthening legal protections and policies for children and women, in combination with the means to enforce these protections, is a prudent step in preventing violence against them. [3]Support the development of a legal framework for effectively addressing violence against women and children. Ensure that legislation covers all forms of violence against women, including marital rape, age of consent, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment.

2. Norms and values

Changing attitudes and norms in society is an important part of preventing violence against women and children. However, it requires altering deep-rooted social and cultural norms and behaviours – in particular, the idea that some forms of violence are not only normal but sometimes justifiable. Examples include teachers hitting children because violent punishment is seen as legitimate; male peers coercing younger boys into gang violence as a “rite of passage”; girls forced to have sex because of the sexual entitlement felt by boys and men; accepting child marriage or wife-beating as normal, and girls and boys not reporting violence because of fear of stigma and shame.

3. Safe environments

Creating and maintaining safe community environments is an effective strategy for reducing violence against women and children. It focuses on community environments other than homes and schools, as these are covered in the “Parent and caregiver support” and “Education and life skills” strategies in this package. [4]The current evidence base supporting community-level interventions to prevent violence does not show the protective impact by age; therefore, for the purposes of the strategy, it is assumed that operative community-based interventions assist children, youth, and women alike.

4. Income and economic strengthening

[5]Income and economic strengthening interventions can benefit women and children by protecting them from maltreatment and reducing intimate partner violence, thereby curtailing the chances of women and children facing such violence, including the potential that they themselves become victims or perpetrators of violence.

The objective is to achieve substantial coverage of the poor and vulnerable and ensure that all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal socio-economic rights. For example, access to basic facilities, appropriate new technology, and financial services, including microfinance, ownership, and control over land and other forms of property, inheritance, natural resources.

5. Response and support services

Basic health services, such as emergency medical care for violence-related injuries and clinical care for victims of sexual violence must be in place. For example, including post-exposure prophylaxis against HIV in cases of rape when indicated, must be available before the provision of the more focused counselling and social services are contemplated. [6]Guidance on emergency medical care and on clinical care for victims of sexual violence is already available.

[7]Treatment programs for juvenile offenders in the criminal justice system can also reduce the possibility of further violence on their part, and are called for in the UN model policies and practical actions on the elimination of violence against women and children in the field of crime prevention and criminal justice.

6. Education and life skills

Gains in education for both girls and boys, as measured by school enrolment and attendance, protect against both ill-treatment and perpetration of certain forms of violence, including childhood sexual violence, youth violence, partner violence, and childhood marriage. [8]Life skills training can prevent violence against women and children by improving their communication, conflict management, and problem-solving skills, and assisting them to build positive peer-to-peer relationships.


[9]As per the statistics, child and women abuse and maltreatment are still highly prevalent among the general population of the world. These findings lay down strong links between childhood experiences of abuse and the experience of violence against women in adults, and that this cycle of violence is determined by gender inequality and social norms.

It is important to recognize the importance of these macro-level factors with regard to both violence against women and children. This indicates that the environment in which a child develops is extremely essential for violence prevention, complementing other emerging evidence on the drivers of violence. Data gathering and a clearer understanding of the complex inter-relationship of many factors relating to violence are essential to achieving these goals.

At this stage, many countries worldwide lack the essential data to evaluate the progress against the violence and a much-needed direction for prevention and intervention is the need of the hour. It has to be stressed that interventions must change attitudes regarding violence in the home and society. It should further promote positive parenting practices, and tackle the inequality that allows the normalization of violence and male-controlled power over women and children. Violence does not occur in seclusion and it is necessary to recognize the interconnectedness of its different forms as they often share common root causes.

Upcoming research must

(i) identify opportunities and challenges across existing policies and programs that overlap both fields,

(ii) promote dialogue between violence against women-children practitioners and policy-makers, and

(iii) finding evidence on what works to accomplish mutually reinforcing results across both fields and scope opportunities for greater collaboration.

These three areas of research could eventually lead, promote and accelerate the achievement of the 2030 SDGs, i.e. to eradicate both violence against women and children.


[1] WHO. Global status report on violence prevention 2014 Geneva: World Health Organization; 2014. 2. Hillis S, Mercy J, Amobi A, et al. Global prevalence of past-year violence against children: a systematic review and minimum estimates. Paediatrics. 2016;137(3):e20154079

[2] Amnesty International (2006) Violence against Women: Not Inevitable, Never Acceptable. Amnesty International

[3] UN Secretary-General’s Campaign to End Violence against Women (2009) The Asia-Pacific UNiTE Campaign to End Violence against Women. Outcome Document and Proposed Strategic Directions. Regional Consultation Meetings on the UNSG UNiTE Campaign. United Nations

[4] Kyegombe N, Abramsky T, Devries K et al. What is the potential for interventions designed to prevent violence against women to reduce children’s exposure to violence? Findings from the SASA! Study, Kampala, Uganda. Child Abuse & Neglect. 2015;50:128–140

[5] Florence C, Shepherd J, Brennan I, Simon TR. An economic evaluation of anonymized information sharing in a partnership between health services, police, and local government for preventing violence-related injury. Injury Prevention. 2014;20:108-14

[6] Hillis SD, Anda RF, Felitti VJ, Nordenberg D, Marchbanks PA. Adverse childhood experiences and sexually transmitted diseases in men and women: a retrospective study. Paediatrics. 2000;106(1):E11

[7] Tharp AT, Degue S, Valle LA, Brookmeyer KA, Massetti GM, Matjasko JL. A systematic qualitative review of risk and protective factors for sexual violence perpetration. Trauma Violence & Abuse. 2012;14 (2):133–67

[8] Knerr W, Gardner F, Cluver L. Improving positive parenting skills and reducing harsh and abusive parenting in low- and middle-income countries: a systematic review. Prevention Science. 2013;14(4):352-63. doi: 10.1007/s11121-012-0314-1

[9] Child Protection in Crisis Network’s Livelihoods and Economic Strengthening Task Force. The impacts of economic strengthening programs on children. New York: Colombia University and Women’s Refugee Commission; 2011

(Disclaimer- The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of Child Rights Centre.)