Gender-based violence

What is gender-based violence (GBV)?

There are many different definitions of GBV, but the mostly globally accepted definition is "violence that is directed at an individual based on his or her biological sex OR gender identity" (Ott, 2017). GBV encompasses any form of behavior and abuse that causes

  • fear
  • bodily harm
  • emotional harm
  • a person to do things against their will
  • death

Gender-based violence (GBV) also involves acts of violence committed against women, men, boys or girls, as a result of social norms about roles and behaviour expected of each gender. It often occurs within relationships. Although men and boys are also subjected to abuse and violence, women and girls are more often affected owing to power imbalances and the low social status that accorded to them by society. These factors often result in discrimination and in their being denied opportunities in various spheres of life.

Groups that are particularly vulnerable include

  • women and girls
  • children
  • older people
  • people living with disabilities
  • lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer/questioning, intersex, asexual (LGBTQA+) people (Nkonyane, 2019)


Warning signs of GBV

These are the common signs and symptoms of GBV mostly in a relationship, however the list is endless, as some forms of GBV are subtle and some may not necessarily have visible signs:

  • Extreme jealousy
  • Possessiveness
  • Unpredictability
  • A bad temper
  • Cruelty to animals
  • Verbal abuse
  • Extremely controlling behavior
  • Antiquated beliefs about the roles of women and men in relationships
  • Forced sex or disregard of their partner's unwillingness to have sex
  • Sabotage of birth control methods or refusal to honour agreed upon methods
  • Blaming the victim for anything bad that happens
  • Sabotage or obstruction of the victim's ability to work or attend school
  • Controls all the finances
  • Abuse of other family members, children or pets
  • Accusations of the victim flirting with others or having an affair
  • Control of what the victim wears and how they act
  • Demeaning the victim either privately or publicly
  • Embarrassment or humiliation of the victim in front of others
  • Harassment of the victim at work (NCADV, 2018)


Forms of GBV

GBV can occur in many different forms. These are the most common forms:




  • Hitting, slapping, punching, kicking
  • Burning
  • Strangulation
  • Damaging personal property
  • Refusing medical care and/or controlling medication
  • Coercing partner into substance abuse
  • Use of weapons
  • Name calling, insulting
  • Blaming the partner for everything
  • Extreme jealousy
  • Intimidation
  • Shaming, humiliating
  • Isolation
  • Controlling what the partner does and where the partner goes
  • Stalking
  • Forcing a partner to have sex with other people
  • Pursuing sexual activity when the victim is not fully conscious or is afraid to say no
  • Hurting partner physically during sex
  • Coercing partner to have sex without protection / sabotaging birth control



  • Hacking into a partner’s e-mail and personal accounts
  • Using tracking devices in a partner’s cell phone to monitor their location, phone calls and messages
  • Monitoring interactions via social media
  • Demanding to know partner’s passwords

  • Inflicting physical harm or injury that would prevent the person from attending work
  • Harassing partner at their workplace
  • Controlling financial assets and effectively putting partner on an allowance
  • Damaging a partner’s credit score

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The impact of GBV

The potential harmful impacts of these forms of GBV include

  • ill health
  • psychological, physical and emotional trauma
  • unwanted pregnancies
  • sexually transmitted infections, including HIV infection
  • suicide
  • depression
  • low self-esteem
  • death
  • educational delays with your studies
  • drop out

Policies and Laws in South Africa to protect Human Right dignities

The Parliament of South Africa has passed laws to protect the rights of individuals against GBV. Read more about these laws to know your rights. These laws are:

(Parliament of the Republic of South Africa, 2018)

Unisa Policies

Unisa is in the process of revising their new Sexual Harassment Policy. This policy will include staff, students and visitors. Other relevant policies are:


Where to go for help

Survivors/victims generally do not speak of the incident for many reasons, including self-blame, fear of reprisals, mistrust of authorities, and risk/fear of re-victimisation. Acts of GBV evoke shaming and blaming, social stigma, and often rejection by the survivor/victim’s family and community. Stigma and rejection can be especially severe when the survivor/victim speaks about or reports the incident

Should you be a victim of GBV, we want to encourage you to seek assistance and it is important that you receive help. You can approach the following services for help.

  • Stop Gender Violence helpline: 0800 150 150 | SMS: 32074 | WhatsApp: 0849228808
  • National crisis number: 0861322322
  • Report neglect or GBV of a child: 0861 4 CHILD (24453)
  • SAPS: 08600 10111
  • Childline: 08000 55 555
  • Report any GBV of children and women to the Department of Social Development on 0800 220 250.
  • LifeLine 24-hour crisis helpline: 021 461 1111

Unisa Student Social Development

We provide the following support services to students and all our services are strictly confidential:

  • Individual Counselling and Referral Services
  • Group Counselling Services
  • Family and Partners Counselling Services
  • Community Engagement Support Services 
  • Awareness and Empowerment Interventions
  • Student Health and Wellness Services , Peer Education Support and Social network platform  Please follow our Facebook on: Unisa Student Health and Wellness  
  • Research in the field of GBV  

Please contact us as follows:



The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV). (2018). Signs of Abuse. Retrieved from:

Nkonyane, B. (2019). What is gender-based violence? University of Pretoria. Retrieved from:

Ott, M. (2017). Series: What Does That Mean? Gender-based Violence. Women for Women. Retrieved from:

Women Against Abuse. (2019). Types of abuse. Retrieved from:



Publish date: 2019/10/24