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The link between gender inequality and violence against women

2 minutes

Approximately 95% of all victims of violence — whether women or men — experience violence from a male perpetrator. 

Experiences of violence are also different for male and female victims – men experience violence mostly from other men in public spaces, and women experience violence mostly from men they know (usually a current or ex-partner) in private contexts. Women are more likely than men to be afraid of, hospitalised by, or killed by an intimate partner. 

To prevent violence against women, our understandings must account for these ‘gendered’ patterns. 

Gender inequality

Gender inequality is when unequal value is afforded to men and women and there’s an unequal distribution of power, resources and opportunity between them. 

It has historical roots in laws or policies formally constraining the rights and opportunities of women. It is maintained through more informal ways. These include: 

  • social norms such as the belief that women are best suited to care for children
  • practices such as differences in childrearing practices for boys and girls
  • structures such as pay differences between men and women.

How is gender inequality related to violence against women?

There is no single cause of violence against women. But current international evidence, outlined in Change the Story: a shared framework for the primary prevention of violence against women and their children in Australia, tells us that higher levels of violence against women are consistently associated with lower levels of gender equality in both public life and personal relationships. 

Within this broader context, Change the story identifies four specific, gendered drivers of this violence: 

  • condoning violence, particularly by excusing or trivialising it, or ‘blaming the victim’
  • men’s control of decision-making, and limits to women’s independence in public life and relationships
  • rigid gender roles and stereotyped constructions of masculinity and femininity
  • male peer relations that emphasise aggression and disrespect towards women.

Gender inequality is always influential as a driver of violence against women, but it is not experienced in the same way by every woman. Other forms of social, political and economic inequalities can affect how gender inequality is expressed. 

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