Gender-based Violence

TPO Foundation Director, Associate Professor Zilka Spahić Šiljak, PhD, emphasized the importance of establishing mechanisms for the prevention of gender-based violence and the promotion of gender equality at universities, which should result in a change in the general and organisational culture in the academic community. “This is the first step we have taken with the support of the Embassy of the United Kingdom, and now follows a large number of activities that we will carry out in cooperation with partner universities.”

Gender-based violence is violence directed against a person because of their gender, gender identity, or gender expression, or violence that affects persons of a particular gender disproportionately. This can result in physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, or economic harm to the victim.

Gender-based violence includes gender-based harassment and sexual violence.

The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993) defines it as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”

Gender-based violence (any form of physical, sexual, psychological, economic and social violence perpetrated against a person or group of people because of their sex or gender, including threats of such acts, regardless of whether they occur in public or private life at the individual or institutional level, as well as any form of violence that disproportionately affects persons of a certain gender.

The World Health Organisation, in its 2002 World Report on Violence and Health, states that sexual violence is “any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances directed against a person’s sexuality, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim or their condition. It is characterised by the use of force, threats or blackmail to endanger the welfare and/or the life of the victim or persons close to them.”

Gender-based harassment

Gender-based harassment is unwanted and inappropriate behaviour that belittles, humiliates, or degrades a person in his or her role as a man or woman based on a person’s assigned gender. It includes unwanted verbal, non-verbal, and/or physical behaviour associated with a person’s gender. Therefore, it is a type of harassment that is committed as a result of the gender roles of women and men in society, i.e., gender roles that are considered to be performed by women and men. Gender-based harassment occurs if a person is bullied for behaviour that is perceived as stereotypically characteristic of their gender, or because the behaviour contradicts stereotypical notions of masculinity (gender roles and characteristics of men) and femininity (gender roles and characteristics of women).

Gender-based harassment can involve behaviour that aims to impose and/or reinforce traditional heterosexual gender norms, e.g., dominant men – subordinate women. Unlike sexual harassment, gender-based harassment is not generally motivated by sexual interest or intent. It is more often based on hostility, and represents an attempt to create an environment in which the person being harassed feels unwelcome. In some cases, gender-based harassment may take the same form as harassment based on sexual orientation, or so-called homophobic harassment.

Examples of gender-based harassment are the following:

  • making gender-related comments about someone’s physical characteristics or mannerisms (e.g., stating that a woman’s place is in the home or is unfit for a particular job),
  • making comments or treating someone badly because they do not conform with stereotypical gender roles,
  • rough and vulgar humour or language related to gender,
  • gender-based verbal abuse, threats, or mockery of someone,
  • gender-based belittling of employees and students, resulting in a hostile atmosphere.

Sexual violence

The most frequent forms of sexual violence are the following:

  1. Sexual harassment and/or bullying are one of the most frequent forms of sexual violence that include unwanted sexual behaviour that does not necessarily involve physical contact, by which a person is put into an uncomfortable and humiliating position, and causes a feeling of shame. In most cases, such behaviour is repetitive, taking place over a longer period of time, and the victim cannot find a way out of the situation. The most frequent forms would be unwelcome sexual comments and advances, inappropriate attention, touching someone inappropriately, sexist, insulting and discriminating comments and jokes, spreading rumours about a person.
  2. Sexual abuse and/or forced sexual conduct include many forms of sexual violence that are more serious than sexual harassment, but are still not in the category of rape under the existing legislation. They include unwanted sexual conduct elicited by the use of force and/or threats involving physical contact with the offender – unwanted and forced touching of an intimate part of the body, sexual activities manipulated through lies, threats, pressure, and forced masturbation.
  3. Rape is the most serious form of sexual violence involving coerced penetration of the vulva, anus and/or the mouth using a penis, other body parts, and/or objects. It is regarded as a profoundly difficult and traumatic experience with serious consequences for the victims. In terms of the perpetrator, we can differentiate between rape as part of domestic violence (rape within marriage), rape in relationships/dating relationships, rape by strangers, gang rape, rape during armed conflicts and war.