The Issues

Gender-Based Violence—a Cruel Reality

Violence against women and girls is the most widespread violation of human rights—globally and locally. It devastates individual lives, corrodes communities, and cripples human progress.

Today, millions of women and girls live in fear, pain, hunger, and sickness simply because they were born female. Around the world, at least one woman in every three has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime. In the United States, about 25% of women suffer domestic violence, with ongoing health problems that have been linked to the effects of living in a war zone1.

The types of violence described below are widespread forms of cruelty used to subjugate women and girls that we have encountered through our work. Other forms of violence against women and girls exist and the descriptions below are not a comprehensive survey of this violence. Additional resources are included in our Education page.

Types of Gender-Based Violence

Worldwide facts about gender-based violence

In the next decade, more than 100 million girls worldwide will marry before their 18th birthday. Some will be as young as eight or nine; many will marry against their will.2

There are an estimated 100 million to 140 million women and girls who have been subjected to female genital mutilation. Currently, about three million girls, the majority under 15 years of age, undergo the procedure every year.3

Every year, in 65 countries combined, more than 250,000 cases of rape or attempted rape are recorded by police.4

Every year, 5,000 women and girls throughout the world are murdered by members of their own family in the name of honor.5

An estimated 11,000 to 16,000 women, representing one-third to one-half of all foreign fiancé(e)s admitted to the United States each year, may have met their husbands through IMBs.6

Internationally, 700,000 to two million women are trafficked across borders annually. The volume of trafficking grew by almost 50 percent from 1995 to 2000.7

Around the world, at least one woman in every three has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Most often, the abuser is a member of her own family.8

A wave of genocide created 500,000 widows in Rwanda. After the genocide, many widows were further victimized by their husbands’ male relatives.9

Forced Marriage

All over the world, women and girls are forced to marry against their will. 82 million girls who now live in developing countries and are between the ages of 10 and 17 will be married before their 18th birthday. Most of these marriages take place in the world’s poorest nations; parents and families often justify marrying off their young daughters… Read More

Female Genital Mutilation

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is the name given to cultural practices that involve the complete or partial removal of the external genitalia. Today, it is mainly practiced in African countries and a few Asian and Middle Eastern countries. Eighteen African countries have prevalence rates of 50% or higher… Read More

Torture and Rape

Sexual assault, rape, and torture are often used to oppress, dominate, and punish women and girls. One out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Rape is also increasingly a weapon of war. Read More

Domestic and Intimate Partner Violence

Immigrant women in the United States are especially vulnerable to domestic and intimate partner violence because they may not speak English, are isolated from support networks of family and friends, and are unfamiliar with their rights in this country. Abusers may threaten that if they seek refuge, they will be deported… Read More

Honor Crimes

Honor crimes are acts of violence, often murder, predominantly committed by men against female family members who are perceived to have brought dishonor upon the family. A woman can be targeted for a variety of reasons, including: refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, being the victim of a sexual assault… Read More

Abuse and Exploitation through the International Marriage Broker (IMB) Industry

In recent years, the IMB industry has exploded in response to a demand by some American men for a “traditional” wife from countries such as the Philippines and Russia. Based on 2007 immigration statistics, between 11,000 and 16,500 foreign brides may enter the United States every year as a result of IMB matches. Read More


Each year, between 600,000 and 800,000 people—mostly women and children—are recruited by force, fraud or coercion into modern-day slavery (labor or sexual exploitation) and trafficked across national borders. Millions more are trafficked within their own countries. Read More

Widow Rituals

Between 7 and 16 percent of all adult women worldwide are widows. Millions of widows of all ages endure extreme poverty, ostracism, violence, homelessness, poor health, and discrimination. Some forms of violence against older women are based on cultural practices that specifically target widows, who are often regarded as insignificant without their husbands. Read More


Click below to view all of our citations:, “Quarter of US women suffer domestic violence,” Feb 7, 2007.

2UNFPA, “Married Adolescents Ignored in Global Agenda,” press release, June 4, 2004,

3WHO, Female Genital Mutilation Factsheet,, last visited June 8, 2007.

4UNODC, “Total Recorded Rapes,” The Eighth United Nations Survey on Crime Trends and the Operations of Criminal Justice Systems (2001 – 2002), Table 2.8.

5UNFPA, “Chapter 3: Ending Violence Against Women and Girls,” State of the World Population 2000,

6Tahirih Justice Center, Frequently Asked Questions about the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act of 2005, Statistic derived from US Citizenship and Immigration Services, “Nonimmigrant Admissions by Class of Admission: Fiscal Years 1998 to 2007,” Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, 2007,, Table 25, Column K, Row 77.

7Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces, Women in an Insecure World, 12, last visited June 8, 2007.

8The Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, “Ending Violence Against Women,” Populations Reports: Issues in World Health, Series L, No.11, XXVII, Population Information Program, December 1999.

921 UN Division for the Advancement of Women, Women 2000, Widowhood: invisible women, secluded or excluded. (December 2001): 9.