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What is gender-based violence?

The Scottish Government explains gender-based violence as follows:

Find out more about the various forms of gender-based violence below. With thanks to Shakti Women's Aid for support with definitions.

You can also view Young Scot's That's Not OK information resources which include definitions of gender-based violence written for young people.


Rape is defined by the law as when someone puts their penis into a person’s vagina, anus or mouth without their consent. This means that the person did not give permission for this to happen.

Rape does not have to involve physical restraint or force. For there to be no consent, it can sometimes be one person coercing another person to have sex when they don’t want or don't feel ready to.

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault includes a range of sexual acts that a person does not consent to. It can involve any kind of sexual touching with a part of the body or an object without consent, including over clothing.

I can also involve putting a part of the body or an object into a person’s vagina, anus or mouth without their consent.

It does not have to involve physical restraint or physical violence, sometimes it can be one person making another person to do something sexual that they don’t want to do or don’t feel ready for.

Child Sexual Exploitation

Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse in which someone takes advantage of a power imbalance to force or entice a child into sexual activity in return for something received by the child, and/or received by those perpetrating the abuse. This could include money, drugs, alcohol, a place to stay, protection from violence or a sense of belonging. As with other forms of child sexual abuse, the presence of perceived consent does not mean it isn’t sexual abuse.

For further information click here.

Female Genital Mutilation

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a non-medical procedure where the external female genitals are completely or partially removed and any other injury to the organ.

There are many reasons stated for FGM to be performed and the most common reasons are:

  • for a girl to become a women
  • to prevent what is considered unacceptable sexual behaviour
  • a cultural tradition
  • association with cleanliness and femininity.

However, FGM is a violation of girl’s and women’s human rights. It is illegal in the UK and it is illegal for a UK citizen to be taken overseas to have FGM performed.

Child Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse of children involves any sexual activity with a child under 16 years of age, usually by an adult or young person. It is most often carried out by a person who is well known to the child, often within the family or in another position of trust.

It is also against the law for an adult to engage in sexual activity with someone who is aged 16 or 17 if the older person is in a position of trust. A position of trust is someone who looks after a child for example, in a school, youth club or a care home.

For further information click here.

Forced Marriage

A forced marriage is where one or both people do not consent (or cannot consent) to a marriage and pressure or abuse is used to force them in to the marriage. Forced marriage is illegal in the UK. It is a form of domestic abuse and a serious abuse of human rights.

Forcing someone to marry isn’t always physical, it can also include being coerced or blackmailed or being put under emotional pressure (e.g. Being made to feel they are bringing shame on the family, being denied freedom or money, being pressured into marrying as it would make the elders in the family happy). In some cases, people may be taken abroad without knowing that they are to be married.


Stalking is a course of conduct - this means an incident that takes place two or more times - that places another person in a state of fear or alarm. Stalking can involve a range of behaviours and tactics to make a person afraid. This can include unwanted calls, texts, emails or messages and comments on social media. It can mean turning up unexpectedly, following, loitering and giving verbal abuse. It can even include leaving unwanted gifts or cards, that other people may perceive as a kind gesture, but in fact serves to cause fear and alarm to the recipient.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual behaviour which compromises a person's dignity and makes them feel offended, humiliated, intimidated or threatened.

Coercive control

Coercive control is when someone uses controlling behaviour to intimidate or threaten a partner or ex-partner. Coercive control can take place in any relationship, including within young people’s relationships. It is a pattern of controlling behaviours such as assault, threats, intimidation or humiliation that create an unequal power dynamic in a relationship and leaves one person frightened. The frightened partner will find it difficult to leave due to the other person having a lot of control over them. It is a criminal offence and a form of abuse.

Honour Based Abuse

Honour based abuse is abuse or violence towards somebody who is seen to have broken the “honour code” of a family or community. A victim may be accused of having shamed the family or destroyed their reputation within their community and be subjected to a range of violent acts and behaviours. The abuse could be physical, emotional or sexual.

There is no specific law on honour based abuse. All cases will be prosecuted under criminal law according to each specific offence that has been committed, for example assault, kidnap, rape or murder.

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