Children and Gender-based Violence
Monday, January 3, 2005 1:35 PM

A report by Claudia Hasanbegovic of International Save the Children Alliance proposes a gender-based approach to tackling issues of violence committed on children. By doing so and complementing it with human rights and development critiques, the confluence of inequality in gender roles, power relations, and poverty that interact with each other to facilitate forms of gender-based violence.


Save the Children has released a report entitled "Children and Gender-based Violence," which examines the ways in which gender relations and attitudes affect how children experience violence. Gender-based violence or violence inflicted based on or suffered because the basis of gender differences is prevalent particularly among children who make up over half of the world’s refugees and displaced people and are thus less likely to have access to formal protection or support structures.  Using gender differences as a lens with which to examine problems of children and violence is a holistic approach that enables us to more fully understand the intersections of power relations, gender inequality, and poverty that affect how children experience violence.


Gender-based violence against children can include sexual exploitation, dowry-related abuse, recruitment into drug gangs or armed groups, domestic violence, genital mutilation, and self-inflicted violence, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia. These are all instances in which gender plays a role in the violence perpetrated on children; thus, understanding gender relationships is useful to prevent further violence. Applying ideas of gender to human rights and development approaches enables activists to demand state action and to approach culture more sensitively. Together, this more holistic gender framework allows the violent intersection of gender, power relations, and poverty to be more fully understood and acted upon with greater success. 

A gender framework, the report argues, recognizes that violence and conflict is a gendered activity within a particular patriarchal system of ideology; therefore women, men, boys and girls all experience violence and conflict differently as victims and perpetrators. The analysis calls for gender sensitivity to allow gender power relations to be seen and understood as shaping influences in the institutions of the family, state and community.

Through this approach, the report recommends that treaties and conventions such as the 1989 U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, along with the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (2000) and the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (2000) be ratified and enforced.  By institutionalizing the human rights of children, gender-based violence against children can be prevented. By using this holistic approach, effective and appropriate measures can be taken to change harmful practices and transform those aspects of culture which sustain them.

Compiled from: Children and Gender-based Violence, Claudia Hasanbegovic, Save The Children, 1 July 2003 (PDF, 39 pages).