Gender-based violence is a major global problem that takes the lives of thousands of people every year. And even when it does not result in death, it can destroy a person physically and psychologically simply by being born with specific genitalia.

This worrying phenomenon occurs, as we have said, at a global level, although there are certain geographical areas and countries where, for various cultural reasons, it is more widespread.

This has generated multiple investigations and analyses, to the extent that different classifications have been made according to various types of aggression and violence against one sex (specifically women). Throughout this article we will briefly look at the 20 countries with the most gender-based violence .

What is gender-based violence?

Before discussing countries where there is a higher prevalence of GBV, it is useful to make a brief definition of the concept.

Gender-based violence is any act (or absence/denial of it) carried out voluntarily and purposefully by a person with the aim of causing harm or suffering to another, and whose origin or motivation is found in the fact that the attacked party is of a specific gender or sex. In other words, an aggression against a person is produced by the simple fact that he or she has certain genitals. In most cases, this type of violence is exercised by the man towards the woman, being derived from gender roles that have traditionally placed women in inferiority and submission to men .

Gender-based violence encompasses many different types of violence, including physical, psychological and sexual violence as the most common, but there are also other types of violence such as social violence (limiting a person’s contact with his or her environment) or property violence (destruction of property). Specific acts may include, among others, direct assaults, sexual abuse and assault (including rape), public humiliation and humiliation (either directly or indirectly), threats and coercion.

The effects on the victim of these abuses can vary greatly. On a physical level, a large number of injuries, bleeding, coma induction and even death can occur. Psychologically, any of these types of mistreatment are usually traumatic, as well as generating a decrease in the level of self-esteem (something that is also the objective of many mistreaters), situations of dependence on the aggressor, anxiety and anguish. In some cases, selfish or suicidal ideas are produced, sometimes consummated. It is also common for the maltreatment to generate distortions on a cognitive level , underestimating the seriousness of the situation or even in extreme cases to the level of blaming oneself and considering oneself worthy of the maltreatment.

The 20 countries with the highest level of gender-based violence

Below is a brief list of the 20 countries with the most gender-based violence, based on data provided by different studies conducted by different agencies. Most of them are located in the South East Mediterranean and in Africa, although we will also introduce examples from America and Europe. This is not a ranking, but we will simply see the names of some of the countries in which gender-based violence is most prevalent .

However, it should be noted that the information used to know this is not available in all countries of the world, and in some cases are estimates based on related data.

1. India

One of the countries that consistently ranks among the highest levels of gender-based violence is India, with violence, exploitation and sexual slavery being the most common type of violence (there is talk of about 100 sexual assaults a day). Genital mutilation, forced domestic work and arranged marriages from childhood are also common. Although little by little the country is beginning to react and to develop stricter laws to prevent it, a traditional mentality that relegates women to a position of inferiority is still in force, which has led many to suffer physical and sexual abuse and in many cases to be murdered.

2. Syria

Another country that often ranks among the top countries with the highest level of gender-based violence and greatest danger to women is Syria. Domestic violence and sexual violence occur in a very high proportion. In addition the situation after the arrival of the war has worsened considerably , greatly increasing the exploitation and sexual slavery of women.

3. Afghanistan

Afghanistan is also one of the countries with the highest level of gender-based violence, both physical, psychological and even sexual. It is estimated that around 9/10 women have suffered or will suffer from it at some point in their lives. It is also considered one of the most restrictive countries for women.

4. Somalia

Somalia is another country with the highest incidence of gender-based violence, with practices such as clitoral ablation and honour killings being prominent. Many women die or see their life or freedom severely restricted because of these practices. Rape is also common, even as a weapon of war to terrorize citizens of the region. The legal rights of women are minimal, although in Somaliland there are regulations that reduce sexual discrimination .

5. Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of the countries with the highest level of sexual violence against women, specifically at the level of rape (sometimes also as a weapon of war). Domestic violence, both physical and psychological, is also common in everyday life.

6. Saudi Arabia

Although it seems that the situation is slowly starting to improve for women in this country, the truth is that Saudi Arabia is still considered one of the most repressive countries, with no laws against gender violence and depending for almost everything on the permission of the man. The violence is exercised and as in other countries hidden by those who suffer it. In one of the studies conducted by the National Association of Human Rights, it was concluded that about 93% of women in this country had suffered some type of aggression by their partner .

7. Yemen

The low status of women in this country makes Yemen one of the most conducive to gender-based violence, being among the first countries with the highest level of such violence. The legislation also does not provide protection from a wide range of abuses.

8. Nigeria

Another African country that is among those suffering from higher levels of gender-based violence, especially at the sexual level, is Nigeria. In addition to this type of violence, they also suffer discrimination and difficulties in obtaining basic services .

9. Pakistan

In Pakistan the situation of women is also one of the most complicated in the world, with a high level of abuse of women and a large number of deaths and mutilations (e.g. caused by acid). About 95 per cent of women are abused.

10. Uganda

In this country some studies have observed the presence of gender and sexual violence not only against adult women but also against children with disabilities : 24% of these girls indicate having suffered abuse. Physical and psychological violence is also common.

11. Honduras

Honduras is the country in South America with the highest number of deaths due to gender violence, and in fact the UN is considered to be one of the countries without a warlike conflict in the world with the most femicides (14.6/100,000).

12. Central African Republic

In this country, the insecurity caused by recent wars has increased the possibility of suffering some kind of violence, including sexual violence. In addition most medical centres do not have the capacity to treat the victims of this.

13. Argentina

One of the countries in South America with the highest level of gender-based violence, records show a large number of deaths of women from this cause. Despite the existence of legislation that seeks to protect them, there is still a very conservative view of gender roles .

14. Iraq

Another country where women’s rights are less and where gender-based violence is more likely to occur is Iraq. Levels of physical and sexual violence are high, especially after the relatively recent war conflicts.

15. Mexico

Mexico is also one of the countries most marked by gender-based violence, and sexual abuse by partners is common. So is physical abuse. In fact in some settings this type of violence is socially accepted . More than 23,000 women have been murdered in the last 10 years.

16. Venezuela

One of the Latin countries with the highest level of gender violence is Venezuela, with almost 40% of women suffering this type of abuse .

17. Guatemala

Another South American country that holds the title of being one of the countries that suffers the highest level of gender violence, in addition to being one of the countries with the highest level of femicide, is Guatemala.

18. Denmark

Denmark is the European country with the highest level of abuse and gender-based violence, with almost 48% of the female population suffering some form of violence. This occurs fundamentally in the family and couple context, but also in the workplace .

19. Finland

Despite the fact that it is a country that stands out in many ways, including educational practices, the truth is that Finland is one of the European countries that suffers the highest level of gender violence, with around 47% of women having suffered some kind of violence because of their sex. Interestingly, it is also one of the countries that spends the most on developing protection policies and one of the least sexist.

20. United States

Probably the inclusion of the United States among the countries with the most gender-based violence may seem strange, but the truth is that some studies put this country in one of the top positions in terms of the risk of suffering harassment and sexual violence , as well as in terms of psychological abuse.

Bibliographic references:

  • Forsythe, D. P. (2008). Encyclopedia of Human Rights, Volume 1. Oxford University Press.
  • Terry, G.; Hoare, J. (2007). Gender-Based Violence. Oxfam.