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Terminology relating to Sexual and Gender-based Violence

In explaining and understanding violence against individuals, there are three types when gender and sex are involved: sexual violence, gender-based violence and sexualized violence. Although the three terms are used interchangeably, they are not the same. Sexual violence: It refers to any sexual act or any attempt to obtain a sexual act by coercion, or outright violence. Essentially the violence in itself is sexual in nature — rape, molestation, sexual harassment, sexual abuse, sexual assault and the like. It violates the bodily and psychological integrity of an individual by using acts or verbiage that is centred around a sexual identity. For instance, forced sexual intercourse is rape — where the act is in itself a sexual act, but obtained without consent, or with violence or with coercion. Sexual violence is not confined to any particular sex assignment or gender identity, or sexual orientation. In a nutshell, sexual violence is violence carried out through a sexual means or violence using sex as an act.  Gender-based violence: is violence of any sort that is carried out with gender as the basis of discrimination. The reference to the term “gender-based” is used because it refers to the expression of power inequalities among gender identities. Oftentimes, because of the perception of gender as a binary, gender-based violence is interpreted as a case of violence against women — but, the truth is that it encompasses violence by any gender against any gender — with gender itself being the basis of discrimination. For instance, transphobia and violence against a person who identifies as a trans man or trans woman is a case of gender-based violence. However, because of heteronormativity (heterosexuality is seen as the norm) and the alignment of gender and sexual orientation identities with what is socially and culturally “acceptable” as an expectation of each sex and gender identity, sexual orientation is understood as a function of gender — and therefore, gender-based violence has come to be used as an umbrella term. It refers to an overarching term that refers to violence carried out targeting sexuality. It can be carried out through sexual means or by any other means, but targeting sexuality, or your sexual being. It includes sexual assault, and targets anyone whose sexual identity does not conform to heteronormative standards or binary standards.  Sexualized violence: refers to violence emanating from violence of a non-sexual nature, but used in a sexual context or in expression of power-based inequalities between sex and gender identities. It could manifest in the form of using sexuality for the display of power and violence — and this manifests on all levels — in private exchanges in the form of sexism to violent behaviour to structural power and structural violence. An example of the former is violence such as beating or punching — i.e., a non-sexual form of violence used in a sexualized fashion against another gender or sex or sexual orientation identity.  

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