International Law and Immigration

Ca. Int'l Law Journal 2019, VOL. 27, NO. 2


Payal Sinha*

The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993) defines violence against women as, "any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in physical, sexual, or psychological harm and suffering to women. This includes threats of such acts, coercion, or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life."1 Violence against women includes domestic violence in the form of physical or financial abuse, rape and sexual violence, sexual harassment, female genital mutilation, acid attacks, stalking, female feticides, exclusion and deprivation of women from medical treatment and nutrition, trafficking and sexual exploitation, forced marriage, intimidation in the workplace, honor killing, and other violent acts committed against women that affect their well-being.2

These abuses can be categorized as interpersonal violence, which means the intentional use of physical force or power by a romantic partner, spouse, or family member that has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, or psychological harm.3Sexual violence is considered a subcategory of interpersonal violence, and involves an act of unwanted sexual activity imposed on another person, as a result of fear, age, disability, or other similar factors.4

Interpersonal violence and sexual violence against women are considered severe human rights violations under international law and have been recognized as such since 1993 by the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women.5 They have also been widely recognized as problems of pandemic proportions.6 According to the World Health Organization, "more than 35% of women worldwide experienced either physical and/or sexual violence by a partner, or non-partner sexual violence throughout their lifetime."7The estimates of intimate partner violence range from 23.2% in developed countries to around 37.7% for countries in the South Asian region.8 Although the international community has made significant headway in addressing this issue through the enactment of legislation to prevent violence against women and to prosecute perpetrators, many challenges remain.9

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