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What is gender-based violence, and how can we stop it?

Gender-based violence (GBV) includes physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, and psychological abuse, threats, coercion, and economic or educational deprivation. GBV most commonly comes in the form of violence against women. This type of violence is experienced by women in every corner of the earth and debilitates developing and war-torn nations.

Dr. Lina Abirafeh, the Executive Director of the Arab Institute for Women (AIW), has worked on GBV prevention and response for almost two decades. To get some expert advice for our 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, we sat down with Dr. Abirafeh to talk about how we can work against GBV both globally and in our everyday lives.

How do you explain GBV to someone who has no knowledge of the term?


Typically, we discuss GBV as male violence against females; after all, 1 out of 3 women has experienced or will experience violence at the hands of males in their lifetimes. This is the most egregious and longest-running human rights violation today and can include anything from intimate partner violence to sexual violence and harassment.


What is a common misconception people have about GBV?

Often, people believe that GBV doesn’t affect them, isn’t their problem, is inevitable, or is deserved. GBV is everyone’s responsibility, problem, and duty to eradicate. And it happens everywhere even if we don’t know it or see it. We must open our eyes and pay attention in order to see its frequency and danger and the damage it causes. Additionally, we must change the belief that GBV is the victims’ responsibility or fault. The responsibility belongs entirely to the perpetrator.

GBV affects us all, even in the US. What kind of actions can be taken by everyday citizens to educate and prepare themselves to prevent it?


People have to know what GBV is. Violence manifests itself in several ways, and we often ignore it or even laugh it off. This issue is never a joke. Harmful norms like “locker-room talk” are never acceptable as they, too, are forms of GBV. We need to be able to identify GBV in our everyday lives, define it, be clear about it, and stop it when we see it.

Thanks to Dr. Abirafeh for joining us during these 16 Days of Activism. Her lifelong commitment to combatting violence against women and her words remind us that ending gender-based violence takes effort from everyone.

16 Days of Activism ends on December 10! See what actions you can take to get involved.