Gender based violence (GBV) is a major public health, equality and human rights issue which cuts across all of society. You can find information below on

  • a guide on intimate partner violence and abuse
  • the Scottish Government’s Equally Safe initiative
  • the National Gender Based Violence and Health Programme
  • our inequalites briefing for Community Planning Partnerships
  • Scotland's National Action Plan to Prevent and Eradicate Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
  • 79% of domestic abuse incidents reported in 2014-2015 had a female victim and male perpetrator.
  • 33% of 13-17 year old girls report some form of sexual violence or coercion in intimate partner relationships.
  • 95% of rapes or attempted rapes recorded by police in 2014-2015, where the gender was known, had a female victim.
  • 20% of children in the UK will have experienced domestic abuse by the time they reach 18.
  • 79% of forced marriages in the UK involved female victims.

You can read more data on GBV on the Scottish Public Health Observatory (ScotPHO) website (external).

Gender based violence and health inequalities

GBV covers a spectrum of abuse, predominantly against women and girls, which includes but is not limited to

  • stalking
  • domestic abuse
  • sexual harassment
  • childhood sexual abuse
  • rape and sexual assault
  • commercial sexual exploitation, including human trafficking
  • harmful practices such as female genital mutilation, forced marriage and so-called ‘honour’ based violence.

Gender inequality is a root cause of violence against women and girls. Despite the many advances being made, persistent inequalities remain between men and women.

Globally, two factors related to gender inequality are strongly associated with GBV

  • social norms supporting violence as a means of conflict resolution
  • the unequal position of women in relationships and society – violence occurs at higher levels in societies in which men are viewed as superior and possess the economic and decision making power.

These are reflected in the gender roles and behaviours that a society regards as appropriate for men and women.

Societal level factors include systems where men are socially, economically, politically and religiously superior to women. These gender norms have an impact on women’s roles, access to resources and involvement in decision making at all levels.

Interventions that are most likely to be effective in reducing health inequalities in relation to GBV include

  • changes to fiscal policies
  • the promotion of gender equality
  • structural changes to the relative positions of women and men in society.

National action

Equally Safe

The Scottish Government’s Equally Safe strategy (external website) aims to prevent and eradicate violence against women and girls. It recognises the need for a broad range of actions to address GBV and is designed to

  • deliver greater gender equality
  • ensure a swift, robust response to perpetrators of violence and abuse
  • promote early, effective intervention to prevent violence or mitigate its impact.

National Gender Based Violence and Health Programme

Our National Gender Based Violence and Health Programme supports NHSScotland’s  implementation of Equally Safe. The programme’s website provides guidance for health workers, information for service users, plus resources and signposts to other support organisations.

Programme activity at a national level includes

  • ensuring that Equally Safe and the national strategy for learning disability, The Keys to Life (external website), take a joint approach to tackling GBV
  • supporting routine enquiry about domestic abuse and risk assessment by health visitors through the Scottish Government’s Universal Health Visiting Pathway (external website).

National Action Plan to Prevent and Eradicate FGM

The Scottish Government's National Action Plan to Prevent and Eradicate FGM (external website) sets out an agreed range of actions to be taken forward by Scottish Government and its partners. We supported the development of multi-agency FGM guidance and a service specification for healthcare staff.

You will also find advice and support about FGM on the Scottish Government’s One Scotland website.

Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015

The Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 (external website) gives victims of trafficking rights to access support and assistance. A national strategy will be produced as required by the legislation.

Forensic examination standards

Work on implementing the national minimum standards on forensic examination of rape and sexual assault is being carried out by the Scottish Government, NHS, Police Scotland and third sector organisations. These standards aim to provide access to timely and victim centred forensic medical examinations following sexual assaults.

Local action

At a community level, reducing abuse often involves multiple exposure to a range of interventions over time. Proven interventions that support longer term prevention of abuse include

  • early years interventions
  • school based programmes
  • support and outreach to enhance protection and reduce re-victimisation
  • collaboration between agencies to provide a coordinated response with a focus on increased identification (e.g. routine enquiry) and provision of tailored advocacy.

Our inequalities briefing details the steps Community Planning Partnerships (CPPs ) can take to address GBV.

You may also be interested in our brief guide to intimate partner violence and abuse. It specifically looks at the scale of the problem of intimate partner violence and abuse against women. It considers the underlying causes and the impact that it has. It also draws upon evidence for ways to effectively prevent, identify and reduce intimate partner violence and abuse.

You can contact us with any questions about our work on GBV.