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11.21.2023

How Common Is Violence Against Women and Girls?

Gender-based violence is one of the most widespread human rights violations in the world. Here are some of the greatest GBV challenges that Project HOPE team members and local partners see in their communities, and how we’re addressing the global pandemic of violence against women and girls.

Gender-based violence (GBV) is one of the most pervasive yet hidden human rights violations in the world — and though GBV is a problem that impacts people of all genders, most victims are women and girls.

According to the UN, nearly one in three women has experienced physical or sexual violence. This is equivalent to 736 million women worldwide.

The risk of GBV is higher in contexts of conflict and crisis, in many of the countries and areas in which Project HOPE works. The physical, mental, social, and economic consequences of GBV are life-altering and can last for generations, and stigma keeps many survivors from seeking help or support.

To further understand the “global pandemic of violence against women and girls” — and how we put an end to it — we asked a few Project HOPE team members and local partners to share the current challenges in their communities and how Project HOPE’s work is making a difference. Read on to learn more.

Gustave Mulenda
Protection Technical Lead, Haiti

How prevalent is GBV in Haiti?

The data on violence against women in Haiti highlights an alarming issue that requires immediate attention. Close to one-third of women and girls ages 15 to 49 are victims of physical violence. This encompasses a range of acts such as physical assaults and deliberately inflicted mistreatment. 

More than one-third of women in relationships in Haiti experience domestic violence. These forms of violence can be emotional, physical, or sexual and occur within the context of intimate relationships. 

A major concern is that nearly 40% of reported violence cases result in severe injuries. This underscores the need for swift and effective interventions to protect the physical and mental health of the victims. 

Despite such alarming figures, few women dare to break the silence surrounding the violence they endure. The fear of retaliation, whether physical, social, or economic, discourages victims from sharing their experiences and seeking help. 

What are the most common forms of violence against women and girls?

According to UN Women, the most common forms of violence against women and girls in Haiti are lifetime physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence (26%), physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence in the last 12 months (nearly 14%), lifetime non-partner sexual violence, and child marriage (nearly 15%). 

How has the humanitarian crisis and collapse of the health system increased cases of GBV?

In humanitarian contexts, women bear a disproportionate burden. About 70% of the women we see in our work have experienced GBV in the context of crisis, compared to the global average of 35%. Humanitarian crises disrupt family and social networks, alter traditional gender roles, and dismantle existing protection structures. 

The consequences of these crises extend beyond immediate impacts, persistently affecting family and social dynamics. Existing inequalities toward women and girls are at risk of being exacerbated during and after a humanitarian crisis. The protective structures that are meant to ensure the safety of women are often compromised, creating an environment conducive to the persistence and intensification of GBV. 

It is crucial to implement specific and targeted measures to mitigate these adverse effects on women and girls in humanitarian situations. This involves recognizing and addressing gender imbalances, strengthening protection mechanisms, ensuring that humanitarian interventions account for the specific needs of women, and promoting a more equitable and sustainable recovery after a crisis. 

women walking down road
Humanitarian crises like the one in Haiti increase the risk of violence against women and girls. “The protective structures that are meant to ensure the safety of women are often compromised,” says Gustave Mulenda, Project HOPE’s Protection Technical Lead in Haiti. Photo by Nadia Todres for Project HOPE, 2023.

What are the greatest consequences and impacts of GBV on an individual’s health?

GBV has profound consequences on an individual’s health, affecting physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It can lead to injuries, reproductive health issues, and chronic conditions.  

Mental health impacts include PTSD, depression, and anxiety, with an increased risk of substance abuse and suicidal tendencies. Socially, survivors may face isolation and economic dependence. GBV also has inter-generational effects, impacting the health of children who witness or experience it.  

Addressing GBV requires a comprehensive, multi-sectoral approach involving legal, social, and health interventions to support survivors and prevent further instances of violence. 

In Haiti, as in many societies, there is stigma associated with receiving care for GBV. This stigma stems from cultural norms, blame and shame directed at survivors, fear of retaliation, lack of understanding about GBV, and insufficient support services.

Is there any stigma associated with receiving care?

In Haiti, as in many societies, there is stigma associated with receiving care for GBV. This stigma stems from cultural norms, blame and shame directed at survivors, fear of retaliation, lack of understanding about GBV, and insufficient support services. 

How do we put an end to GBV in Haiti? What needs to happen?

A comprehensive and collaborative approach is needed to put an end to GBV in Haiti. This includes raising awareness through education, legal reforms, and enforcement; establishing and enhancing support services for survivors; promoting economic empowerment for women; engaging communities in discussions about gender norms; strengthening health care services; collecting data for informed decision-making; collaborating internationally; utilizing media for positive messaging; and fostering leadership and advocacy.  

How is Project HOPE working to prevent and respond to GBV?

Project HOPE is working to prevent and respond to GBV by raising awareness and providing case management, financial support, and dignity kits. 

Awareness serves as a preventive measure against GBV, helping members of the population become aware of the extent of the damage caused by these forms of violence, whether physical, sexual, emotional/psychological, etc. Educating people, supporting survivors, and changing attitudes are essential goals. We regularly conduct awareness campaigns in mobile clinics, utilizing various media such as local radio and displays to share messages on the various forms of GBV, where survivors can find help, and how to deal with the stigma that comes with being a survivor. Collaboration with community leaders, educators, and influential figures helps amplify our messages. 

Project HOPE also supports survivors by providing case management, psychosocial care by social workers, and medical care during clinics. We conduct case follow-ups and make referrals as needed. 

With informed consent, Project HOPE provides financial support to survivors in need of transport and medical certificates, and since July 2023, we have also been providing support to organize technical working groups in collaboration with other GBV responders in the field. These coordinating meetings are attended by organizations including the Ministry of Gender and UNFPA. We also distribute dignity kits in communities that are vulnerable to GBV. 


Chilobe Kambikambi
Country Representative, Zambia

How prevalent is GBV in Zambia? Has the likelihood of experiencing GBV increased in recent years?

According to the 2018 Zambia Demographic Health Survey, 47% of women ages 15 to 49 have experienced some kind of physical violence in their lifetime. Over time, the Government of the Republic of Zambia (GRZ) and cooperating partners have demonstrated a commitment to preventing and responding to GBV, but GBV remains a key driver of the HIV epidemic and persists through harmful gender norms, gender inequality, and the culture of silence among survivors.  

Violence is higher among women and children (the majority of them girls), and Zambia’s police report in February 2023 indicated a sharp increase in GBV cases in 2022. GBV cases continue to escalate due to society’s general acceptance and justification of GBV. In the 2018 ZDHS report report, 52% of women and 46% of men reported thinking men are justified in beating women.  

The perpetrators of violence are mostly people close to the survivors, like husbands and partners (65%), mothers and stepmothers (27%), fathers and stepfathers (19%), sisters and brothers (18%), and other relatives (14%). As a result, most GBV cases are not reported and 52% of women never seek help.  

What are the most common forms of violence against women and girls in Zambia?

Violence against women and girls is a pervasive issue globally, and Zambia is no exception. The forms of violence can vary, and it’s important to note that these issues are complex and multifaceted. Some of the most common forms of violence against women and girls in Zambia include domestic violence, sexual violence, and child marriage.  

It’s crucial to recognize that these forms of violence are interconnected and addressing them requires a comprehensive and coordinated approach involving the government, civil society, and the community. 

What are the greatest consequences and impacts of GBV on an individual’s health?

Gender-based violence can have severe and lasting consequences on an individual’s health — physical, mental, and reproductive. The impacts may vary depending on the type, severity, and duration of the violence, as well as the individual’s resilience and support systems.  

Physical health impacts include immediate injuries and trauma and reproductive health issues including sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like HIV, unwanted pregnancies, and gynecological issues. GBV can also contribute to the development or exacerbation of chronic health conditions such as cardiovascular problems, gastrointestinal issues, and chronic pain syndromes. Mental health issues include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.  

GBV can lead to social isolation, as survivors may withdraw from friends, family, and social activities, and may also lead to substance abuse as a way to cope with the emotional pain and distress. GBV can also have an impact on employment, affecting a survivor’s ability to work and thus leading to financial instability. 

There are also inter-generational impacts — children who witness or experience GBV in the household may suffer from long-term emotional and behavioral issues, perpetuating the cycle of violence. 

woman holding small child
Violence against women can have long-term generational impacts that affect children. “Children who witness or experience GBV in the household may suffer from long-term emotional and behavioral issues, perpetuating the cycle of violence,” says Chilobe Kambikambi, Project HOPE’s country director in Zambia. Photo by James Buck for Project HOPE, 2022.

Is there any stigma associated with receiving care?

Survivors may face societal stigma and judgment, hindering their ability to seek help and support. There is less stigma among females, however males shy away from GBV services because it is seen as a signal of weakness, and they fear being laughed at by the public.  

We must encourage community involvement in preventing GBV by fostering a culture of mutual respect and gender equality, engaging men and boys in active participation to challenge traditional gender norms, promoting healthy masculinity, and establishing support networks and hotlines for reporting incidents.

How do we put an end to GBV in Zambia? What needs to happen?

Addressing GBV in Zambia requires a multi-faceted and comprehensive approach involving various stakeholders. Efforts are being made at both national and international levels to address GBV through legal reforms, awareness campaigns, and support services for survivors. Laws against GBV must be strengthened and reinforced; this includes reviewing and updating existing legislation, and ensuring legal frameworks are in place to protect victims, prosecute perpetrators, and provide appropriate penalties for offenders. Law enforcement officials and judicial personnel must also be trained to handle GBV cases sensitively and efficiently, and establish special courts or units to expedite GBV cases to ensure timely justice for victims.  

Public awareness and education are also important. We must conduct widespread awareness campaigns in schools, markets, and across various social media platforms on GBV, its consequences, and available support services. Gender equality and GBV prevention education must also be integrated into school curriculums. We must encourage community involvement in preventing GBV by fostering a culture of mutual respect and gender equality, engaging men and boys in active participation to challenge traditional gender norms, promoting healthy masculinity, and establishing support networks and hotlines for reporting incidents.  

Through economic empowerment programs like skills training, entrepreneurship initiatives, and access to credit, we can further reduce women’s vulnerability to GBV. In workplaces, policies must address GBV; there must be training for employees and a safe reporting mechanism in place. 

Support services including counseling, medical assistance, and safe shelters must be strengthened and expanded. These services must be accessible, confidential, and culturally sensitive. There should also be greater collaboration with media in disseminating information on prevention and support services, and responsible reporting on GBV issues.  

How is Project HOPE working to prevent and respond to GBV?

Project HOPE is working with a variety of stakeholders, most notably government institutions, churches, and traditional leadership, in reaching out to the masses with messages on GBV and ways to respond when cases are identified. We’re working with health institutions to ensure survivors have the trauma counseling they need to rediscover their potential, and with the Ministry of Education to conduct GBV awareness sessions in schools. We’re also working with GBV “one stop” centers to ensure survivors have access to GBV services and ongoing support, and with social welfare to assist survivors in need of safe homes.   


Marta Stoian
Senior MHPSS Coordinator, Ukraine

How prevalent is GBV in Ukraine? Has violence against women and girls become more common since the full-scale invasion in 2022?

In Ukraine, GBV is widespread and systematic, and 90% of victims are women.  

GBV was prevalent among conflict-affected people before the full-scale invasion, with IDP women reporting a higher prevalence of GBV compared to non-displaced women. 

Before the 2022 invasion, at least 22% of women ages 15 to 49 had experienced one form of GBV at least once in their lifetime. Since February 2022, the risk of GBV, including conflict-related sexual violence (CSVR) and sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA), sex trafficking, domestic violence, and other forms, has sharply increased.  

Women and girls who are fleeing the war, or who are detained at border crossing points, in collective centers, and in shelters are at higher risk of GBV and related health problems.  

One of the main challenges faced by survivors of GBV is access to quality services, including safe spaces and psychosocial counseling. Two-thirds of households in Ukraine don’t know where to seek help for GBV, and 27% of households in the hardest-hit eastern regions report that support services simply don’t exist. 

woman holding hand over heart
Casa Marioarei, Project HOPE’s local partner in Moldova, provides support to women and children survivors of domestic violence. When Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, the organization began offering psychosocial support and livelihood trainings for Ukrainian refugees as well. Photo by Marie Arago for Project HOPE, 2023

What are the most common forms of violence against women and girls?

The most common forms of violence include sexual violence (such as rape, attempted rape, and sexual exploitation), intimate partner violence, and psychological violence (such as sexual threats and humiliation, both in person and online). Sexual harassment is also a common form of GBV, which can occur in private or public places, as is economic violence, which is a form of domestic violence. It includes the deliberate deprivation of housing, food, clothing, other property, funds, or documents or the ability to use them; abandonment of care; obstruction in obtaining necessary treatment or rehabilitation services; prohibition to work or study; forced labor; and other offenses of an economic nature. 

What are the biggest consequences and impacts of gender-based violence on human health?

The main consequences of GBV are physical, which include trauma, chronic pain, somatic problems, and disability, as well as sexual and reproductive health consequences like bleeding, infections, and various other complications.  

Emotional and psychological consequences like depression, anxiety, fear, despair, helplessness, shock, and PTSD are equally common, serious, and long-lasting, as are the economic consequences. In the very worst cases, the consequences are fatal — the end of a life.  

Is there a stigma associated with seeking help for gender-based violence?

Survivors often refrain from seeking help and avoid disclosure because of a culture of silence and possible public stigmatization, a sense of impunity, a lack of confidentiality, and a common perception that intimate partner violence is a private matter. 

Often, the social and economic status of men is higher than that of women, so women fear repeated abuse if they disclose or seek help. 

children doing art therapy in a safe space
In Ukraine, Project HOPE’s mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) centers offer safe spaces to promote a community-based approach to addressing GBV-related issues. Photo by Nikita Hlazyrin for Project HOPE, 2023

How can we end gender-based violence in Ukraine? What needs to be done?

To end GBV, it will be very important to raise awareness and disseminate information about GBV against women and girls and conflict-related sexual violence. Education should start with the family and in school with the introduction of programs on gender equality and violence.  

Local early warning and protection mechanisms must be established in cooperation with local authorities. In addition, safe spaces must be created for women and girls, and support centers that offer psychological, legal, and medical assistance for victims must be established.  

Legal frameworks that protect victims must be supported and strengthened, and the public must be actively engaged and involved in all of these efforts. It is very important that all of these measures interact with each other, forming a systemic approach to addressing GBV. 

As of the beginning of September 2023, Project HOPE had supported 78,856 Ukrainians with various MHPSS services, including 17,388 people (23% men, 77% women, and 80% IDPs) with GBV prevention services.

How does Project HOPE work to prevent and respond to GBV?

Project HOPE’s mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) centers offer safe spaces for women and girls to promote a community-based approach to addressing GBV-related issues. The objective is to offer a survivor-centered, women and girl-led approach. These spaces are designed to meet the specific needs of women and girls and offer multidimensional forms of support, including psychological counseling and support with local employment and housing resources, as well as referrals to protection services. 

Project HOPE has also established remote psychological support (tele-counseling) for frontline health workers and patients in areas where full staffing by psychologists is not possible due to the dangers of active conflict. The goal of this activity, which includes remote assessments and referrals, is to alleviate suffering and enhance the coping mechanisms of both health workers and patients while receiving care at facilities in zones of conflict and during transport to safer locations. 

As of the beginning of September 2023, Project HOPE had already supported up to 78,856 Ukrainians with various MHPSS services. The team has reached 17,388 people (23% men and 77% women, 80% of whom were IDPs) with GBV prevention services. The team has also delivered SGBV training in secondary health facilities for general practitioners, specialists, and nurses. 


Marco Antonio
Country Lead, Honduras

How prevalent is GBV in Honduras? Has the likelihood of experiencing GBV increased in recent years, and if so, why?

Honduras has the highest femicide rate in the Latin American region, at 6.2 per 100,000 inhabitants.  

Cases of GBV significantly increased during the pandemic. A total of 384 women lost their lives to violence between 2022 and March 2023, and the lack of investigation and impunity surrounding most of these cases aggravates GBV. 

These figures reflect a grave reality in Honduras: a woman is killed every 18 hours. Nearly 60% of the violent deaths of women are in urban areas, and nearly half of these women are between ages 18 and 59.  

Why is it that Honduras has the highest number of femicides in Latin America?

Little investigation, a lack of research, and a lack of prevention strategies perpetuate GBV in Honduras, where 7,186 women have died violently since 2005.  

According to official records, 95% of murders remain unpunished in Honduras. The high level of impunity hinders any chances for peace, justice, and development. 

The director of the Violence Observatory, Migdonia Ayestas, has said that many women are killed “with hatred (and) contempt” in the patriarchal context of Honduras, and the numbers continue to increase as perpretators remain unpenalized.  

What are the most common forms of violence against women and girls?

Violence against women in Honduras is widespread. Honduras has alarming rates of femicide, rape, and assault suffered by women, both inside and outside the home.  

What are the greatest consequences and impacts of GBV on an individual’s health?

Victims of GBV suffer from myriad mental and physical conditions. The main consequences include psychological damage such as depression, PTSD, suicidal attempts, and physical injuries like abdominal pain, gastrointestinal disorders, headaches, low back pain, or fibromyalgia. 

There are also social and economic damages. Victims may find it difficult to work as a result of physical ailments and thus not be able to earn a living. Socially, the victim can become fearful and insecure, which gets in the way of their ability to relate with or connect to new people.  

young girl's feet in Colombia
In addition to impacting a person’s physical health, violence can have lasting impacts on psychological, emotional, and social health. Photo by Marie Arago for Project HOPE, 2022.

Is there any stigma associated with receiving care?

In Honduras, many women don’t prioritize seeking help because GBV is often perceived as a normal behavior. Social norms of tolerance of violence mean that, in most cases, people and institutions do not take action to punish aggressors. Women who experience violence also see others who go through the same thing and not seek help. This reinforces the notion that it is not reasonable or necessary to request support.  

How do we put an end to GBV in Honduras? What needs to happen?

We must improve our responses to GBV to encourage more women to access appropriate services. Strategies include better communication campaigns with concrete messages based on the realities of women who survive the various types and forms of violence on a daily basis. Communications should focus on eradicating the social norms and stigma that prevent women from making the decision to seek support, and use images that represent the diversity of women and the different expressions of violence, especially those that are more common and difficult to identify.  

We also need to better promote existing care services, indicating where and when to turn, the steps involved in the process, as well as a clear call to action. In this case: seek support. 

The quality of care must also be improved, and this will help deconstruct the stigma carried by women who suffer GBV. People on the front lines must be trained and have clear protocols in place to avoid risky approaches to care that place shame and responsibility for violence on those who suffer it. It is important to keep in mind that when a woman arrives at a care center or makes contact to ask for support, she has had to overcome many barriers, and the people and officials of the institutions she goes to must show warmth, empathy, and flexibility. Let’s remove the obstacles, judgments, and prejudices so that these women don’t give up on their path out of violence, and let’s respect their decisions in this process, because getting to a care center or contacting a service provider is more than a first step — it is a triple leap.  

How does Project HOPE work to prevent and respond to GBV?

Project HOPE has worked to prevent and respond to GBV since 1977, starting with a project to promote the Law Against Domestic Violence and then the promotion of sexual and reproductive rights as part of the Village Health Banks program.  

Project HOPE has also provided support to the Ministry of Health, facilitating psychosocial counseling as well as the implementation of community activities for health promotion and education. This included the preparation of educational materials on the prevention of domestic violence, which reached more than 25,000 women between ages 18 and 75. 

Today we are providing supplies and support to hospitals and shelters and are planning to initiate a response for migration which will include prevention, case management and referrals, as well as migrant and hygiene supply kits for women and families.  

It is important to keep in mind that when a woman arrives at a care center or makes contact to ask for support, she has had to overcome many barriers, and the people and officials of the institutions she goes to must show warmth, empathy, and flexibility.


Adasba
Project HOPE’s partner in Honduras

From your perspective, how prevalent is GBV in Honduras?

Honduras is one of the most violent countries. Undoubtedly, the likelihood of experiencing GBV increased during and since the COVID-19 pandemic. Women continue to be victims of violence.  

In most cases, women are murdered by their partners and the crimes go uninvestigated and unprosecuted.  

There must be greater coordination in the justice system so that these crimes do not add to the long list of impunity that already exists in the country. Lack of research is one of the main reasons why 95% of femicides go unpunished in Honduras.  

What are the most common forms of violence against women and girls?  

The complaints from women in Honduras are mostly for sexual crimes, domestic, and intra-family violence. Many victims are young — 40% of victims of sexual violence are girls between the ages 10 of 14.

“It was something unimportant.” “I didn’t think it was necessary.” “Fear of my partner or the consequences.” “Out of shame.” These are some of the main reasons women report for not seeking help for GBV.

Is there any stigma associated with receiving care?

“It wasn’t important.” “I didn’t think it was necessary.” “Fear of my partner or the consequences.” “Out of shame.” These are some of the main reasons women report for not seeking help for GBV.   

According to data from several surveys in Latin American and Caribbean countries, less than 40% of women seek help. When they do seek it, they do so mainly among family and friends — only a small percentage seek help from public institutions.  

How do we put an end to GBV in Honduras? What needs to happen?

Honduras has pledged to prevent and end violence against women and girls in the country — a phenomenon that has become “naturalized” due to machismo and patriarchy, and which requires more political will to end. 

The commitment was formalized in a public document signed in Tegucigalpa by the President of Honduras and the UN Resident Coordinator, which calls for authorities and Honduran society to become “viligant” and “take care of women” to ensure these cases and waves of violence are not repeated.


Monica Hoyos
Program Director, Colombia

How prevalent is GBV in Colombia? Has the likelihood of experiencing GBV increased in recent years and, if so, why?

The crisis of violence against women and girls in Colombia is alarming. A woman is murdered every eight hours, and every hour, eight women are victims of domestic or sexual violence.  

Between January and October 2022, 827 women lost their lives and 58,117 women suffered domestic violence or were sexually abused. So far in 2023, there have been 378 reported cases of attempted femicide, and the Ombudsman’s Office has attended to nearly double the number of GBV cases it attended to during the same period in 2022.  

Even though there is state coordination and legal regulations around the prevention of GBV, violence against women and girls is still latent, and they are not adequately or properly protected. The head of the Public Ministry continues to sound the alarm about cases of rising cases of GBV, identifying high numbers of femicides, domestic violence, and attempted femicide. 

GBV disproportionately affects populations in vulnerable conditions due to their gender, socioeconomic status, place of residence, migratory status, sexual orientation and gender identity, disability, ethnicity, or other vulnerability factors. In particular, sexual violence has a higher incidence of sexual harassment and abuse, especially among girls and women. Contexts where sexual harassment and abuse are permissive can, in turn, facilitate sexual exploitation. 

woman walking with children in hallway
Venezuelan migrant and refugee women are particularly vulnerable to violence, especially those who are forced to travel solo. “The crisis of violence against women and girls in Colombia is alarming,” says Monica Hoyos, Project HOPE’s Program Director in Colombia. Photo by Marie Arago for Project HOPE, 2022.

What are the most common forms of violence against women and girls?

In the last five years, the most common forms of violence against women or girls have taken place within their nuclear and extended families — by partners, fathers, or others close to them. Psychological violence predominates, followed by physical violence, economic violence, patrimonial violence, and, of course, cases of sexual violence. 

Femicides are also increasing significantly. As of March, 28 femicides had already been registered for 2023 — committed by intimate partners or to “settle scores” — and there are of course more cases that simply haven’t been recorded or reported.  

It is important to clarify that in Colombia, women are also vulnerable due to the Armed Conflict, and at particular risk of being sexually abused by the NSAGs (Non-State Armed Groups). When used or recruited by the NSAGs, all opportunity for a woman is lost. The Armed Conflict, or Conflicto Armando, has been going on since 1960; even though steps for resolution were taken in 2018, people are still suffering the consequences — especially in rural and border regions.  

How serious and widespread is GBV among Venezuelan migrants? Why have they been particularly vulnerable to GBV?

Cultural beliefs and xenophobic views put migrants at higher risk of GBV. There is a false perception that Venezuelan women come to the country to engage in prostitution, and this is perpetuated if and when they are contacted or approached by the NSAGs. As a result, migrants are at higher risk of trafficking and sexual exploitation. 

The migrant population is especially vulnerable because of protection gaps. It is also difficult for women, adolescents, and girls to register in the Unified Registry of Victims due to their Venezuelan nationality and/or irregular migratory status, and this makes it harder to access health services — especially maternal, sexual, and reproductive health services (such as barriers to contraceptive services or voluntary termination of pregnancy, or VTP).  

There is also low institutional capacity to respond to GBV, and weak inter-institutional collaboration. There is generally an underreporting of GBV cases among migrants and refugees due to the barriers to accessing care and justice. 

Crowd walking across international bridge
Crowds travel back and forth across the Simón Bolívar International Bridge at the Colombia-Venezuela border. Venezuelan migrant women and girls are particularly vulnerable to violence due to gaps in protection services. Photo by Marie Arago for Project HOPE, 2022.

What are the major consequences and impacts of GBV on an individual’s health?

Despite the resilience displayed by women in Colombia, including migrant women, any woman who is subjected to a relationship of oppression, vulnerability, and violence experiences serious short and long-term health consequences.  

Abused women and girls face numerous physical, psychosomatic, mental health, and psychic suffering symptoms (such as diminished self-esteem, anxiety, or depression). Physical symptoms are often chronic and non-specific, and intermingle with mental health symptoms. Several studies show the correlation between low levels of self-esteem and cases of violence, and sometimes higher incidences at older ages. 

Is there any stigma associated with receiving care?

Yes, we have heard of women who do not want to seek support because officials from the prosecutor’s office, police, family commissioner, or other institutions have told them at some point in their lives that these acts of violence have happened because they “deserve it.” Going through the system, going from one institution to another, can also be retraumatizing and uncomfortable, as many women are not given proper protection.  

How do we put an end to GBV in Colombia? What needs to happen?

Although various institutions have made efforts to address the issue of preventing GBV, it is still evident — in the references of professionals, institutional spaces, institutional reports, news, and other spaces — that the violation of women and girls is still latent.  

It is important to join efforts in addressing violence against women and girls, bringing together the different national and local actors to make concrete changes in policies and adapt them to the current realities. These efforts must promote gender equality and generate greater protection for girls, adolescents, and women in all contexts. This includes housing spaces, access to livelihoods, and education opportunities. 

Regulations and decrees for socioeconomic integration already exist, but protocols still need to be qualified and operationalized to ensure these documents lead to real actions. Public officials must be better trained to provide support for migrant populations, and communications outlets must make visible respect for women, the need to prevent violations against them and their families, and concrete actions for their protection.  

How has Project HOPE worked to prevent and respond to gender-based violence?

Project HOPE facilitates capacity strengthening for implementing partner organizations such as Corporación Mujer Denuncia and Muévete.  

With local partners, we help reduce stigmas and social gaps through workshops and other communications, and we support improved access to free maternal health services in hospitals such as Jorge Cristo Sahium and La Parada primary health care center, as well as obstetric care in Erasmo Meoz Hospital. 

We also contribute to increasing awareness around the importance of prenatal self-care, including pregnancy risks, GBV, and mental health, and strengthen referral pathways for community-level health care. 

Project HOPE facilitates capacity strengthening for implementing partner organizations such as Corporación Mujer Denuncia and Muévete. With local partners, we help reduce stigmas and social gaps through workshops and other communications, and we support improved access to free maternal health services in hospitals such as Jorge Cristo Sahium and La Parada primary health care center, as well as obstetric care in Erasmo Meoz Hospital.


Alejandra Vera
Director, Corporación Mujer Denuncia and Muévete, a Project HOPE partner in Colombia

From your perspective, how prevalent is GBV in Colombia?

Violence against women and girls in Colombia is a significant and prevalent problem. According to official reports, on average there are around 30 femicides per month. However, according to Fundación Feminicidios Colombia, as of September 2023, 410 women have been murdered so far in 2023. 

It is important to mention that male violence is not limited to femicides, but also includes physical, sexual, psychological, and vicarious violence, trafficking for sexual exploitation, and patrimonial and economic violence — inside intimate relationships and in society in general. Indigenous, Afro-descendant, migrant, and impoverished women face double discrimination and are more vulnerable to violence. 

Indigenous, Afro-descendant, migrant, and impoverished women face double discrimination and are more vulnerable to violence.

What are the most common forms of violence against women and girls?

The most common forms of violence against women and girls include physical abuse, sexual harassment, domestic violence, rape and male violence in armed conflicts, as well as child marriage and female circumcision. There is also trafficking for sexual exploitation and virtual child abuse, inducement to prostitution, pornography, and new forms of virtual trafficking, such as grooming of girls and adolescents. 

According to the National Institute of Health, as of June 2023 , there had been a total of 51,600 cases of women victims of gender and domestic violence, of which 25,801 were for physical violence, 14,462 for sexual violence, 6,155 for psychological violence, and 5,182 for negligence and abandonment.  

How serious and widespread is GBV among Venezuelan migrants? Why have they been particularly vulnerable to GBV?

Migrant women, most of whom are poor, tend to face greater vulnerability in different aspects of their lives, which exposes them to more intense male violence. Some of the reasons for this phenomenon include social and economic inequality, discrimination and stigmatization, difficulties in seeking help, unequal power dynamics, and various cultural factors.  

During the migration process, many women are victims of violence and sexual abuse, both by traffickers, organized groups or gangs, including government officials themselves, and by other migrants. 

It is important to understand that all of these reasons are only some of the factors that contribute to the intensification of male violence against migrant and vulnerable women, and that each case is unique and requires tailored attention. Addressing the GBV problem requires a multidimensional approach that takes into account the specific social, economic, cultural, and political contexts in which these women find themselves. 

woman leading maternal health workshop
Yolanda, a facilitator with Project HOPE’s partner CMDyM, leads a maternal health workshop for Venezuelan migrant women and girls near the border in Colombia. “Some girls are between 14 and 16 years old,” she says. “Some of them live with their parents, but the majority live alone.” Photo by Marie Arago for Project HOPE, 2022.

What are the major consequences and impacts of GBV on an individual’s health?

Women who experience violence can suffer serious physical injuries, such as fractures, bruises, burns, and wounds. These injuries can leave permanent damage and long-term physical disabilities.  

Violence can also have a significant impact on women’s mental health, causing depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other psychological disorders. In addition, women may experience feelings of guilt, shame, and low self-esteem, which can lead to submissiveness and perpetuate the cycle of violence. 

Women who are victims of violence often develop eating disorders, such as bulimia or anorexia, as a result of psychological violence and control over their bodies. Violence can also lead to sleep problems, such as insomnia and nightmares. In addition, many women resort to the abuse of psychoactive substances and psychiatric control medications as a way of coping with the trauma and stress, which can lead to the development of addictions and health problems related to drug and alcohol use. 

Women who experience sexual violence may experience sexual problems, such as sexual dysfunction, disorders of sexual desire, and pain during intimate relations. Violence can also result in unwanted pregnancies, forced abortions, and sexually transmitted diseases. When a pregnant woman is exposed to violence, it also affects the health and development of her fetus. Babies born to women who have experienced violence may have an increased risk of low birthweight, physical and psychological disabilities, and long-term health problems. 

Violence against women can lead to murder. Many women are cruelly murdered as a result of domestic violence and intimate partner violence. In addition, women who suffer violence are at an increased risk of suicide induced by their aggressor. 

These are only some of the consequences. The health impacts of violence against women are diverse and vary from one woman to another. It is also important to consider that these consequences not only affect the victims, but also have an impact on families and the community environment. 

Do women survivors generally feel comfortable seeking help, or is there a stigma associated with receiving care?  

The way women survivors and victims feel about asking for and seeking help varies considerably from person to person. Some may feel comfortable and confident seeking support, while others may experience fear, shame, guilt, doubt, or anxiety in doing so.  

There are several factors that can influence how women feel about seeking help, such as their previous experience, the level of support and resources available, the response received from their close environment, and their trust or distrust in the institutions and services that offer help.   

Stigmas, xenophobia, discrimination, racism, and sexist and societal stereotypes certainly affect how women feel about asking for help. Some may worry about being judged, not being believed, or not getting the help they need. There may also be concern of concerns of retaliation or continued assault.

How do we put an end to GBV in Colombia? What needs to happen?

Although laws and policies have been implemented to combat and prevent violence against women in Colombia, many challenges remain. Lack of reporting, impunity, and lack of support for victims are barriers that hinder the eradication of male violence. 

To put an end to gender violence in Colombia, it will be crucial to implement a comprehensive approach that addresses education in human rights, respect, and gender equality from an early age. Gender equality laws and policies must be strengthened, as well as mechanisms for social oversight of their enforcement and for international collaboration.  

The fight against GBV requires the collaboration of various actors, including the government, civil society, and the community in general, with a sustained commitment and long-term coordinated action to achieve a significant impact on the reality of women and girls. 

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