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Ending sexual and gender-based violence: from knowledge to action

November 10, 2015

​The World Health Organization reports that some 35% of the world’s women and girls experience sexual or physical violence in their lifetime.

Canada has been a strong voice in the fight against sexual violence. IDRC's Governance and Justice program supports innovative research to identify the root causes of gender-based violence in developing countries and find solutions to sustainably prevent and overcome it. IDRC grantees are generating critical evidence on effecting legal reforms, challenging attitudes to sexual violence, introducing new systems to record complaints, securing help for victims, and empowering local communities. 

Shaping new laws

In India: The Indian government created a special three-member committee to recommend amendments to the country’s criminal laws for sexual assault cases. The testimony of nearly a dozen IDRC-supported researchers to the committee helped shape new laws. For example, the definition of rape was expanded to include aggravated sexual assault, such as stalking, and additional offences such as acid attacks were identified and incorporated into the new law.

New systems to record complaints, secure help for victims

In India: IDRC-supported research in India contributed to the development of clear guidelines regarding police procedures when dealing with victims of rape and sexual violence. These guidelines were adopted for all 92 Mumbai police stations, with more than 600 police officers trained on how to more appropriately process first information reports for sexual offences. The impact has been a more victim-friendly environment at police stations where the dignity of the victim is maintained during the investigation process.

Getting to the roots of gender-based violence

In Senegal: When Senegal embarked on a national campaign to end violence against women, there was very little information available to support the process. IDRC-supported researchers at the Gaston Berger University of Saint-Louis responded with a national study on the different dimensions of sexual violence in Senegal. Findings are now available in a first-of-its-kind national database. Senegalese institutions fighting sexual violence now have solid evidence to inform their strategies and policies. One major finding revealed a high prevalence of sexual assaults on university campuses. As a result, the State Department of Higher Education developed a prevention strategy for all universities, including a new zero tolerance charter that holds university authorities accountable for preventing and addressing violence against women on public campuses across the country.

Empowering communities, challenging attitudes

In Latin America: IDRC grantees in Guatemala and Colombia provided a safe space for women to collectively break their silence on abuses. Researchers brought victims of gender-based violence in Guatemala and Colombia together to share their stories of survival. Prior to the meeting, some of the Colombian women had never spoken of the sexual violence they endured out of fear for their own safety, as well as that of their families and friends. However, after listening to the Guatemalan women who had self-organized to speak out over the past few years, the Colombian victims started to do the same. The act of coming together to speak out and share common experiences had a significant impact on the psychological recovery and emotional well-being of these women.

Read about what IDRC grantees are doing to challenge impunity against sexual violence in our brochure, Ending sexual and gender-based violence in English, French or Spanish (PDF, 500 KB).

Follow us on Twitter @IDRC_CRDI during the #16Days campaign from November 25 to December 10.

Learn more about IDRC's Governance and Justice program.

Photo (at right): UN Women/Gaganjit Singh