Alarming global trends in gender-based violence

On November 25, we observed the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. But on the same day, the UN published a report on gender-related killings of women and girls. A chilling reality on the global stage is revealed by the report.

Alarming global trends in gender-based violence

Representative image

On November 25, we observed the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. But on the same day, the UN published a report on gender-related killings of women and girls. A chilling reality on the global stage is revealed by the report. In 2022, 48,800 women and girls became victims of fatal violence at the hands of their intimate partners or family members. On average, more than 133 women or girls lose their lives every day due to familial or personal partner violence.

This alarming statistic, accounting for approximately 55 per cent of the overall 88,900 female homicide victims recorded in 2022, paints a harrowing picture of the extent of gender-based violence worldwide. As the world grappled with various challenges, the scourge of violence against women persisted. While global homicides predominantly target men, constituting 80 per cent of cases in 2022, women bear the disproportionate brunt within the domestic sphere, accounting for 66 per cent of all victims of intimate partner killings. This pervasive gender-based violence transcends geographical boundaries. In a significant shift, Africa surpassed Asia in 2022 as the region with the highest absolute number of girls and women killed, recording an estimated 20,000 victims.

This marked the first time Africa had claimed this dubious distinction since 2013. Moreover, Africa recorded the highest rates of female intimate partner and familyrelated homicides globally, reaching 2.8 victims per 100,000 female population. Asia followed closely, with an estimated 18,400 women or girls falling victim to such violence in 2022. The Americas recorded 7,900 cases, Europe registered 2,300, and Oceania reported around 200 such killings. Discrepancies in absolute numbers among world regions can be attributed to differences in population size.


Data from populous Asian and African countries with available trend information indicate some reductions in gender-related killings over the past decade, with occasional reversals. For instance, India has seen a gradual decline in violent deaths related to gender-related factors. At the same time, Pakistan has shown long-term reductions in female victims of “honour crimes” that are committed to protecting the reputation of a family by male family members against female family members.

The male relatives of a family set the “honour” code. However, challenges persist in certain regions, such as Eastern Europe, where elevated rates continue despite an overall decline. When a young girl or woman has no right to refuse to enter a marriage, the marriage can be deemed a “servile marriage.” A young woman might be given in exchange for money. She is saleable. She is inherited by another person when her husband dies.

Young girls and women are forced to marry wealthy older men to become sexual and domestic slaves. The tradition of servile marriage is still practised in Ethiopia, instrumentalised by the rape of underage girls. Other recorded forms of servile marriage include instances of girls being pledged to priests in Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Nigeria to atone for offences committed by family members; in certain South Asian countries, a young girl is sometimes “bought” by paying a bride price and without the permission of the girl. Girls in servile marriages are often abused physically and sexually by their rapists, their buyers. The roots of this pervasive violence against women often lie in stereotypical gender norms that grant men perceived entitlement to dominate women.

Controlling behaviours, dictating actions, deciding on sexual activities, and prescribing dress codes are manifestations of this dominance. Individuals harbouring such views are more predisposed to resort to lethal violence against women. Other contributing factors include low educational attainment, experiences of childhood abuse or violence, and problematic alcohol use.

Gender inequality persists in various ways in the digital world despite significant progress in recent decades – the persistence of gender inequalities is attributed to several factors. Gender inequality intersects with various forms of discrimination, exacerbating the challenges faced by women. Deep-seated gender stereotypes and discriminatory social norms limit women’s choices, opportunities, and agency while reinforcing traditional gender roles. The role of gender stereotypes and assumptions shape interpersonal interactions and perpetuate gender inequalities.

These stereotypes influence how people perceive and relate to each other personally and professionally. Moreover, the persistence of gender inequalities is reinforced by the slow change of deeply ingrained gender stereotypes compared to material arrangements. While social beliefs eventually respond to material changes, cultural lag occurs, meaning people rely on traditional gender beliefs when confronted with new and uncertain circumstances.

This perpetuates gender imbalances, creating a male chauvinism atmosphere. In patriarchy, men hold primary power and dominance, both economically and politically. Gender-based hierarchies, sexism, and the subordination of women characterise patriarchy. The patriarchy also perpetuates gender norms and stereotypes, restricting women’s agency and limiting their social, political, and economic opportunities. Women are often relegated to unpaid domestic labour and lower-paying, undervalued jobs, while males occupy positions of power and authority. Race, class, and sexuality influence women’s experiences of patriarchal exploitation and oppression.

Considering World Economic Forum data, the global gender gap has closed to 68.4 per cent by 2023, indicating progress towards achieving gender parity. However, there are significant disparities in achievement across countries and regions. Only 6.2 per cent of countries have managed to close the gender gap beyond 80 per cent, with most being in Europe, which suggests that there is still much work to be done in other parts of the world. More than half of the countries have achieved closure of the gap between 70 and 79 per cent, which includes countries like the USA, UK, France, UAE, Bangladesh, and Vietnam.

These countries have made significant strides but still have room for improvement. The dominance of countries with democratic institutions in achieving gender parity is notable. Still, it is essential to address the few countries with authoritarian rule that lag in closing the gender gap. Disturbingly, 3.5 per cent of countries have only completed the gender gap of less than 60 per cent, leaving a considerable gender gap.

This category includes countries like Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan, indicating the urgent need for focused efforts to promote gender equality in these regions. The remaining 40 per cent of countries, including India, China, Nepal, and Bhutan, fall into the category that has achieved gender parity in the 60-69 per cent range. While progress is being made, there is still work to be done to bridge the gap further in these countries.

Considering WEF data, the estimation that it will take 131 years to reach full gender parity is concerning and highlights the need for accelerated efforts to close the gender gap. The prediction that 100 per cent gender parity is expected to be achieved by the middle of the 2100s indicates the long-term nature of this issue. The regional breakdown showing that South Asian countries will take nearly 150 years to close the 100 per cent gender gap is alarming and calls for targeted interventions in this region. The alarming data on genderbased violence against women demands urgent global attention. Efforts to address and eliminate violence against women must be intensified, encompassing comprehensive strategies that challenge societal norms, provide education on healthy relationships, and ensure legal frameworks protect victims.

As the world collectively observes the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, it serves as a poignant reminder that the fight against gender-based violence goes on and requires unwavering commitment and collaboration on a global scale. The sobering statistics of 2022 underscore the imperative for immediate and sustained efforts to create a world where women and girls are free from the pervasive threat of violence within their homes and communities.

(The writer is an international economic consultant.)