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What is VAWG?

Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) is both a form of discrimination and a violation of human rights.
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It is an appalling crime which can ruin or end lives. A true measure of these crimes is not available as victims often suffer in silence and the abuse goes unreported. It is an issue for every community in Lewisham, and it can affect individuals from any socio-economic background.

How we define VAWG

Locally we have adopted the definition from the United Nations Declaration (1993) on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, in which Article 1 defines Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) as:

“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."

Who commits VAWG?

The vast majority of gender-based violence is carried out by men against women and girls but men and boys can also be victims of gender-based violence. If you are a Lewisham resident and need help and support with any of the issues highlighted below please contact the confidential Athena service.

Ten strands of VAWG

  • Domestic violence and abuse

Domestic violence and abuse is defined by the Domestic Abuse Act 2021:

Behaviour of a person (“A”) towards another person (“B”) is “domestic abuse” if:

  • A and B are each aged 16 or over and are personally connected to each other, and
  • the behaviour is abusive.

Behaviour is “abusive” if it consists of any of the following

  • Physical or sexual abuse;
  • Violent or threatening behaviour;
  • Controlling or coercive behaviour;
  • Economic abuse
  • Psychological, emotional or other abuse.

Controlling behaviour is: a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.

Coercive behaviour is: an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.

  • Sexual violence (including rape)

Sexual contact without the consent of the woman/girl. Perpetrators range from total strangers to relatives and intimate partners, but most are known in some way.

  • Stalking

Repeated (that is on at least two occasions) harassment causing fear, alarm or distress. It can include threatening phone calls, texts or letters, damaging property, spying on and following the victim.

  • Sex work and trafficking

Women and girls are forced, coerced or deceived to enter into prostitution and/or to keep them there. Trafficking involves the recruitment, transportation and exploitation of women and children for the purposes of prostitution and domestic servitude across international borders and within countries ('internal trafficking').

  • Sexual harassment

Unwanted verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. It can take place anywhere, including the workplace, schools, streets, public transport and social situations. It includes flashing, obscene and threatening calls, and online harassment.

  • Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

Female Genital Mutilation involves the complete or partial removal or alteration of external genitalia for non-medical reasons. It is mostly carried out on young girls at some time between infancy and the age of 15. Unlike male circumcision, which is legal in many countries, it is now illegal across much of the globe, and its extensive harmful health consequences are widely recognised.

  • Forced marriage

Forced marriage is a marriage conducted without valid consent of one or both parties, where duress is a factor.

  • Honour-based abuse

Abuse committed to protect or defend the 'honour' of a family and/or community.

  • Sexual exploitation

Involves exploitative situations, contexts and relationships where someone receives ‘something’ (e.g. food, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, protection money) as a result of them performing, and/or another or others performing on them, sexual activities.

  • Harmful cultural practices

Every social grouping in the world has specific traditional cultural practices and beliefs, some of which are beneficial to all members, while others are harmful to a specific group, such as women.

These harmful traditional practices include female genital mutilation (FGM); forced feeding of women; early marriage; the various taboos or practices which prevent women from controlling their own fertility; nutritional taboos and traditional birth practices; son preference and its implications for the status of the girl child; female infanticide; early pregnancy; and dowry price.

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