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Authors: Sylvia Walby and Jude Towers

This article aims to mainstream gender into the measurement of violence, in order to assist the development of the theory of change needed to support actions to end violence. It addresses the division between gender-neutral and women-only strategies of data collection that is failing to deliver the quality evidence needed to address the extent and distribution of violence, developing a better operationalisation of the concepts of gender and violence for statistical analysis, and producing a checklist of criteria to assess the quality of statistics on gendered violence. It assesses the strengths and weakness of surveys linked to two contrasting theoretical perspectives: the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) Survey of Violence Against Women and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW). It shows how the FRA Survey fails and how the ONS has limited the potential of the CSEW. It therefore offers a solution with a short questionnaire that is fit for purpose as well as ways of analysing data that escape the current polarisation.

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Towards a comprehensive policy

Available Open Access under CC-BY-NC licence. The need to stop rape is pressing and, since it is the outcome of a wide range of practices and institutions in society, so too must the policies be to stop it This important book offers a comprehensive guide to the international policies developed to stop rape , together with case study examples on how they work. The book engages with the law and criminal justice system, health services, specialised services for victim-survivors, educational and cultural interventions, as well as how they can best be coordinated. It is informed by theory and evidence drawn from scholarship and practice from around the world.

The book will be of interest to a global readership of students, practitioners and policy makers as well as anyone who wants to know how rape can be stopped.

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Available Open Access under CC-BY-NC licence.

The extent of violence against women is currently hidden. How should violence be measured? How should research and new ways of thinking about violence improve its measurement? Could improved measurement change policy?

The book is a guide to how the measurement of violence can be best achieved. It shows how to make femicide, rape, domestic violence, and FGM visible in official statistics. It offers practical guidance on definitions, indicators and coordination mechanisms. It reflects on theoretical debates on ‘what is gender’, ‘what is violence’, and ‘the concept of coercive control’. and introduces the concept of ‘gender saturated context’. Analysing the socially constructed nature of statistics and the links between knowledge and power, it sets new standards and guidelines to influence the measurement of violence in the coming decades.

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Where can relevant data be found and collected? There are two main sources: administrative and survey. Data on violence against women and men is collected during administrative processes by public services, as well as by deliberate endeavour through social surveys conducted for academic researchers and governments. It is a challenge to ensure the use of a common set of definitions and units of measurement that facilitates cooperation among relevant entities and overcomes the current fragmentation and incompatibility between data collectors, while not neglecting the requirements of particular services.

Since the data is collected for a wide variety of purposes, it is unsurprising that a wide variety of definitions and units of measurement are currently used. This has suited the specific purposes of each of the many organisations involved. However, this diversity may mean disorganised fragmentation in relation to the larger picture of cooperation among multiple agencies to end violence. How is interagency cooperation to be achieved if each conceptualises and measures violence in a different way? How can they agree on whether violence is increasing or decreasing if they cannot agree on what counts as violence or the units in which to collect data? In order to ascertain whether violence is increasing or decreasing – for an individual, a group or a country – the collection of data within the same measurement framework is required. Further, surveys and public services that collect administrative data need to use the same measurement framework.

Yet, there are also specialised needs for information by different services and particular information that only specific services can discover.

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The purpose of the collection of administrative and survey data and research is to build the knowledge base necessary to combat violence against women and men.

This knowledge base is more effective if benchmarks and summary indicators of changes in violence are sufficiently consistent and coherent to support each other. The use of the same categories to measure the extent and severity of violence in both surveys and the various administrative sources is beneficial for this aim of coherence and complementarity. This is of importance both within a given country and between countries.

The goal should be a single coherent measurement framework for violence against women and men that includes relevant disaggregation. This would provide coherence and enable greater accuracy in the measurement of changes in violence and the effectiveness of public services.

It is recognised that this goal of achieving coherence and alignment of measurement practices is very challenging. The existing multiple measurement practices have developed relatively separately in relation to diverse relevant policy fields and are consequently embedded in disparate frameworks. Some of these policy fields are deeply sedimented in a range of specialised institutions.

The challenge is thus not only mainstreaming gender, but also changing the mainstream so that it embeds those forms of violence that disproportionately affect women. In addition, there is the challenge of ensuring compatibility between diverse policy fields. For example, it is not only an issue of making sure the gendered nature of violence is incorporated in crime statistics, but also making sure that the crime statistics can in some way be made compatible with health statistics.

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Lethal violence is enormous. There are nearly half a million (437,000) intentional homicides globally each year1

Lethal violence is gendered. Globally, 95% of perpetrators of intentional homicide are male. Every year, intimate partners or family members perpetrate nearly 64,000 intentional homicides; two thirds of victims are female. Half the intentional homicides of women are perpetrated by an intimate partner or other family members, compared to 6% of intentional homicides of men2.

Violence against women is widespread. Globally, one in three women worldwide will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime; 30% of women who have been in an intimate relationship experience physical or sexual violence from their intimate partner3. In England and Wales, women were the victims in over half (52%) of violent crimes (violence against the person) recorded by the police in 20154. Half of such violent crimes against women were domestic abuse-related, compared to 16% of those against men5.

Violence against women has been increasing, while violence against men is still falling. In England and Wales between 2008/09 and 2013/14, the rate of violent crime against women increased significantly while the rate of violent crime against men decreasedor to collect data on women only. The mainstream framework also requires revision to include the forms of violence disproportionately experienced by women as well as those experienced by men.

This book offers a solution to the current choice between invisibility of gender and segregation of women in the measurement of violence. It offers new thinking on the concept of gender, drawing on developments in gender theory.

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There are different forms of violence against women and men. These differences in forms potentially have implications for their measurement. This chapter addresses the nuances required for the measurement framework to take these differences into account, although it is important not to overstate the differences.

The typology of forms of violence proposed here is based in international legal instruments, as discussed in Chapter Two. These include the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (DEVAW) 136 and the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)137. There is attention to the regional Conventions on gender-based violence, including the Council of Europe Istanbul Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence 138 and the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women, ‘Convention of Belem do Para’ 139.

While this book focuses on violence, the boundary between violence and non-physical coercion is often unclear, so both are – at least initially – included in the framework in order that they can be measured in relation to each other. Coercion may take non-violent forms but could also include physical force; hence, it straddles the violence/not-violence boundary.

Specific forms of violence or coercion are addressed in this chapter, which affords most attention to homicide/femicide; assault; sexual violence including rape; and female genital mutilation (FGM). The chapter addresses definition, measurement unit, data collection and implications for measurement. It also discusses the categories of ‘domestic violence’ and ‘violence against women’.

Physical violence is a distinctive form of violence. This section discusses homicide/femicide and assault.

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Policies to end violence need statistics that show whether violence is increasing or decreasing. Also important are statistics on variations in the rate and form of violence in different social locations. This is to monitor progress and effectiveness, or otherwise, of policies. Increasingly, policy bodies seeking to end violence have become more explicit in their calls for relevant data, statistics and indicators. These bodies include the UN and its agencies, regional governance entities and states. Drawing on their legally defined mandates, they have been articulating their principles within policies designed to end violence, or at least specific forms of violence.

There are a series of international legal instruments that have called for the ending of violence, in particular gender-based violence against women, at UN and regional levels. These legal instruments are binding on states that sign them; a process shaped by international courts.

The goal of ending violence is not new. After Fascism, the Holocaust and the Second World War (1939–45), several international and transnational entities were established as part of a wideranging peace project, including the UN, the Council of Europe and the EU.

However, the goal of measuring violence in a way that distinguishes between women and men is new.

The relevant international legal instruments include: the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights 27; the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)28 and General Recommendation 19 on violence29; the 1993 UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (DEVAW)30, the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action 31 and the Palermo Convention on Trafficking in Persons 32.

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Coordination is needed to ensure the development of the coherent measurement framework for violence against women and men, including indicators and the collection of consistent quality data. Coordination includes:

  • Institutions: to coordinate between countries and international organisations; to monitor, reflect and improve processes, to broker the compromises between agencies that are needed to move towards a single measurement framework and to ensure implementation.

  • Indicators: to summarise complicated statistics into easy-to-understand figures that benchmark progress.

  • Data collection: to provide administrative and survey data that reaches recognised quality standards.

  • Data processing: to process raw data into statistics and agreed indicators.

  • Data linkage: to ensure it is possible to link data from different sources, while maintaining data protection for individuals.

  • Data protection: to ensure data concerning individual victims remains under their control and subject to data protection and data privacy entitlements.

  • Publicly available: to present statistics and indicators to the public, policy makers and researchers in a way that is timely, easy to understand and accessible.

  • Research programmes: to improve the quality of data collection and utilisation to assist theoretical and policy development.

This chapter discusses policy institutions for planning and monitoring, as well as research programmes. The role of statistical institutions in implementation is discussed in the final chapter.

In order to move towards the implementation of a coherent and consistent measurement framework, it is necessary to establish mechanisms to secure coordination. Several international and national institutions have a place in this coordination, including the United Nations (UN) (UN Women; UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC); UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)), Council of Europe, European Union (EU) and National Statistical Offices.

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Producing a coherent and consistent measurement framework requires a coherent and consistent conceptualisation of violence and gender. This conceptual framework is anchored in the principles embedded in international legal instruments and developed through reviews of research.

Because international legal instruments mobilise general concepts and principles, this approach is not the same as identifying violence with specific national criminal codes. The definition of violence depends on the location of the boundary between violence and not-violence. This depends on the understanding of the nature of the act (and intention) and the harm (and non-consent), although not all approaches have considered all these elements to be essential. In addition, it is necessary to address variations in repetition, duration and seriousness. Consistent units of measurement (event, victim and perpetrator) and technical counting rules are also essential for the measurement framework.

Competing approaches to conceptualising gender relations determine whether the measurement framework for violence makes gender invisible, focuses on women or mainstreams gender. Gender relations saturate, shape or inflect many aspects of violence; they are not only its context. Taking gender into account is not only an issue of whether victims and perpetrators are individual men or women. Five different dimensions of gender relations relevant to violence are identified here. These include the gender-saturated relationship between perpetrator and victim, any sexual aspect to the violence and any gender motivation of the perpetrator.

The location of the boundary between violence and not-violence is here ontologically anchored in international law and deepened with research findings.

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