What is violence against women

Background current

Physical or sexual violence is part of the everyday experience of women in many places. On November 25th, the United Nations is drawing attention to this grievance with many campaigns around the world with the "International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women".

At a demonstration in Athens against sexism and violence against women, a sign with the inscription: Don´t tell me what to wear, tell him not to rape! "Is shown (& copy picture-alliance, ZUMA Press)

They are beaten, coerced, groped or abused: The forms of violence against women are diverse. In Europe alone, according to an EU study from 2014, 33 percent of women will be victims of physical and / or sexual violence at some point in their lives. According to figures from the WHO (2017), it is even 35 percent of women worldwide.

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The European Union defines violence against women in the "Istanbul Convention" passed in 2011:

  • "Understood as a human rights violation and a form of discrimination against women and refers to all acts of gender-based violence that lead or can lead to physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm or suffering in women, including the threat of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty , be it in public or private life;

  • "Domestic violence" [means] all acts of physical, sexual, psychological or economic violence that occur within the family or household or between former or current spouses or partners, regardless of whether the perpetrator has the same place of residence Has or had a victim. "
In addition to physical and sexual violence, psychological and emotional violence also have serious consequences. The World Health Organization (WHO) names violence as one of the greatest health risks for women. Many women who experience violence find it difficult to participate in public life afterwards. They suffer from depression, lonely, impoverished - emotionally and materially. The violence often has cross-generational effects on the whole family. In Germany, which is in the middle of the European comparison in terms of the number of violent attacks on women, around 35 percent of women are victims of violence at some point after the age of 15.


Domestic violence

Worldwide, the form of so-called domestic violence, i.e. violence in partnerships against women, is the most widespread. In 2016, the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) presented figures from the 2015 reporting year on violence in couple relationships in Germany and at the same time pointed out the high number of unreported cases, as the victims often do not contact the police.

According to BKA statistics, a total of 127,000 women and men were threatened, stalked, injured, sexually coerced, raped or even murdered by their partners or ex-partners in 2015. 18 percent of the victims were men, 82 percent of the victims were women, i.e. over 104,000 women in Germany were affected by criminally relevant partnership violence in 2015. The EU study from 2014 comes to similar results. According to this, 25 percent of women in Germany have experienced violence in one form or another by their current or former partner.

So-called domestic violence affects women from all social classes and backgrounds. A study by the Federal Ministry for Family, Seniors, Women and Youth from 2013 emphasizes that "women in the middle and high educational and social classes are also victims of violence to a much greater extent than was previously known".

Sexual violence

12 percent of women over 15 years of age living in Germany have at some point in their life been victims of criminally relevant sexual assault. These include rape, attempted rape, and various forms of sexual assault. However, the transition from sexual harassment to criminally defined sexual coercion or rape is fluid and boundaries are therefore difficult to draw. Experts also assume a high number of unreported cases. This is shown, for example, by dark field studies in Schleswig-Holstein, Lower Saxony and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, which have shown that only a small proportion of well below ten percent of sexual assaults are reported to the authorities.

Rape as a weapon in war

While women can be victims of violence even in peaceful environments, the situation in war zones is devastating. Sexual violence is often deliberately used by the conflicting parties as an instrument of war tactics in order to demoralize the opponent and intimidate the population. Here, too, it mainly affects women and girls, but also men. Targeted rape, such as in the wars in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 1990s, in Congo, Rwanda and many other countries, has resulted in the United Nations Security Council passing several resolutions since 2008 that deal with sexual violence Deal with civilians in war zones. The UN has also created the office of Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict. Since 2017 it has been dressed by Pramila Patten, a lawyer from Mauritius.

Current protective measures

Six years after the signing of the first European convention to combat violence against women, the German Bundestag unanimously approved a draft law by the federal government in June 2017, the so-called "Istanbul Convention" ("Convention of the Council of Europe to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence "). From February 2018, the convention will also apply in Germany.

In addition, the Bundestag reformed German sex criminal law in July 2016. According to Paragraph 177 of the Criminal Code, anyone who clearly disregards the will of the victim is guilty of rape in the criminal sense. A criminal act does not only exist when sex is forced through violence or threats of violence. The paradigm shift towards the principle "no means no" is considered to be the most important achievement of the convention.

In addition to legal protection, there is also practical support in Germany. There are 350 women's shelters and 40 shelters across Germany. In addition, women's counseling centers in every federal state offer support in coping with critical life situations. The counseling focuses include violence in relationships, separation / divorce, crisis intervention and general life counseling. Depending on local offers, the women's counseling centers also offer help in cases of sexual violence.

Nationwide helpline for those affected (https://www.hilfetelefon.de/aktuelles.html): 08000 116 016 (Free phone number, which can also be used without cell phone credit.)

More on the subject:

Vanessa Guinan-Bank: After Cologne: Between a culture of welcome and a culture of rejection
Heike Rabe: Sexualized violence in reformed criminal law. A change in values ​​- at least in the law
Mithu M. Sanyal: Rape, BpB series, 2017
Jon Krakauer: The Shame of Missoula, BpB Series, 2017