The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993. It covers physical, sexual and psychological violence as well as violence both at home and elsewhere in society.
The definition of violence against women that the UN presents in the Declaration is currently the most widely accepted definition:
‘Any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.’
The Declaration states three categories of violence against women: violence perpetrated by the State, such as violence against women in custody and as part of warfare; violence occurring within the general community, including rape, sexual harassment, trafficking in women and intimidation at work; and violence in the family and in the private sphere, for example incest and selective abortions).
According to the Declaration, violence against women is rooted in the historically unequal power relations between women and men. It also explains that violence against women is ‘one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men.’
The UN member states are therefore urged to legislate against the violence, work preventively and improve the situation of victimised women.