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In order to have a conversation about any issue, all parties must agree on a common language. Below is a breakdown of words used throughout this guide. When participating in conversation on this platform, this will become our collective baseline. Whenever possible, these definitions have been extracted from United Nations sources, to ensure universal applicability and legal agreement.

If you have comments about definitions, please be sure to share them on this page.

Abuse: is the systematic pattern of behaviours in a relationship that are used to gain and/or maintain control and power over another. 16

Empowerment: is the process of people taking control over their lives, pursuing their own goals, living according to their own values, developing self-reliance, and being able to make choices, transform those choices into actions, and influence – both individually and collectively - the decisions that affect their lives. 17

Femicide: is on the extreme end of a continuum of anti-female terror that includes a wide variety of verbal and physical abuse, such as rape, torture, sexual slavery (particularly in prostitution), incestuous and extra-familial child sexual abuse, physical and emotional battery, sexual harassment (on the phone, in the streets, at the office, and in the classroom), genital mutilation, psychosurgery and denial of food to women in some cultures. Whenever these forms of terrorism result in death, they become femicides. 18

Gender: refers to the social attributes and opportunities associated with being male and female and the relationships between women and men and girls and boys, as well as the relations between women and those between men. These attributes, opportunities and relationships are socially constructed and are learned through socialization processes. They are context/time-specific and changeable. Gender determines what is expected, allowed and valued in a women or a man in a given context. 19

Gender Discrimination: is any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by either men women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field. 20

Gender Equality: indicates that women and men have equal conditions for realizing their full human rights and for contributing to, and benefiting from, economic, social, cultural and political development.Gender equality is therefore the equal valuing by society of the similarities and the differences of men and women, and the roles they play. It is based on women and men being full partners in their home, their community and their society. Gender equality starts with equal valuing of girls and boys. 21

Gender Roles: are a set of social and behavioural norms that are considered to be socially appropriate for individuals of a specific sex in the context of a specific culture, which differ widely between cultures and over time. 22

Gender-based Violence: is any act that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivations of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life. This encompasses, but is not limited to, acts of physical, sexual, and psychological violence in the family, community, or perpetrated or condoned by the State, wherever it occurs. These acts include: spousal battery; sexual abuse, including of female children; dowry-related violence; rape, including marital rape; female genital mutilation/cutting and other traditional practices harmful to women; non-spousal violence; sexual violence related to exploitation; sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in school and elsewhere; trafficking in women; and forced prostitution. In 1995, the U.N. expanded the definition to include: violations of the rights of women in situations of armed conflict, including systematic rape, sexual slavery and forced pregnancy; forced sterilization, forced abortion, coerced or forced use of contraceptives; prenatal sex selection and female infanticide. It further recognised the particular vulnerabilities of women belonging to minorities: the elderly and the displaced; indigenous, refugee and migrant communities; women living in impoverished rural or remote areas, or in detention.

Human Rights: are basic rights and freedoms that all people are entitled to regardless of nationality, sex, national or ethnic origin, race, religion, language, or other status. These entitlements include civil and political rights, such as the right to life, liberty and freedom of expression; and social, cultural and economic rights including the right to participate in culture, the right to food, the right to work, play and receive an education. Human rights are protected and upheld by international and national laws and treaties. 23

Infanticide: is the putting to death of the newborn with the consent of the parent, family or community. 24

PEP Test: is an acronym for post exposure prophylaxis, a course of antiretroviral drugs which is thought to reduce the risk of of infection after events with high risk of exposure to HIV, including voluntary vaginal or anal intercourse and rape.PEP test is most effective if administered within an hour of infection, but no longer than 72 hours. 25

Perpetrator: is a person who commits or knowingly allows maltreatment or a crime against another person or group.

Poverty: is the total absence of opportunities, accompanied by high levels of undernourishment, hunger, illiteracy, lack of education, physical and mental ailments, emotional and social instability, unhappiness, sorrow and hopelessness for the future. Poverty is also characterized by a chronic shortage of economic, social and political participation, relegating individuals to exclusion as social beings, preventing access to the benefits of economic and social development and thereby limiting their cultural development. 26

Power: is possession of control, authority or influence over others; the ability to act or produce an effect; mental or moral efficacy; political control or influence. 27

Rape: is any forced or coerced genital contact or sexual penetration.

Sexual Harassment: such unwelcome sexually determined behaviour as physical contact and advances, sexually coloured remarks, showing pornography and sexual demands, whether by words or actions. Such conduct can be humiliating and may constitute a health and safety problem; it is discriminatory when the woman has reasonable ground to believe that her objection would disadvantage her in connection with her employment, including recruitment or promotion, or when it creates a hostile working environment. 28

Stereotype: are beliefs held about characteristics, traits, and activity-domains that are deemed appropriate for men and women. 29

Survivor: is one who lives through affliction, violence, harassment or abuse.

Systematic Rape: is a brutal tactic used in times of war to terrorize women by sexually assaulting them. It has also been used as a means to perform ethnic cleansing by degrading and demoralizing the persecuted ethnic group. According to international law, systematic rape has been declared a crime against humanity as well as a war crime. It is also one of the criteria used to identify genocide. 30

Violence: is the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, underdevelopment, or deprivation. 31


16 . http://www.domesticabuseproject.org/

17 . http://www.ifad.org/gender/glossary.htm

18 . Caputi, J. & Russell, D. E. H. (1992). Femicide: Sexist Terrorism against Women. In Femicide: The Politics of Woman-Killing. Edited by Jane Caputi and Diana E.H. Russell. Twayne Publishers: New York

19 . UN Women (n.d.) Gender, In Concepts and definitions. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/womenwatch/osagi/conceptsandefinitions.htm

20 . http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/

21 . http://www.un.org/womenwatch/osagi/conceptsandefinitions.htm

22 . http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_roles

23 . Amnesty International (n.d.) Human rights basics. Retrieved from www.amnestyusa.org

24 . Infanticide (n.d.) In The Free Dictionary. Retrieved from http://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/Infanticide+(humans)

25 . Post exposure prophylaxis (n.d.). In Wikipediahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-exposure_prophylaxis

26 . Uend Poverty (n.d.). UN Chronicle. Retrieved from http://www.uend.org/blog/2010/01/11/poverty-potential-definitions/

27 . Power (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary (11th ed.) Retrieved from  http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/power

28 . UNDAW (n.d.). General recommendations made by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/recommendations/recomm.htm

29 . Jing, W. (n.d.) Gender Stereotypes. Retrieved from http://guilfordjournals.com/doi/abs/10.1521/soco.2015.33.4.1?journalCode=soco

30 . Helium (n.d.). What is systematic rape? Retrieved from http://www.crimesofwar.org/a-z-guide/sexual-violence-systematic-rape/

31 . World Health Organisation (n.d.). Violence. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/topics/violence/en/