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Gender-based violence is violence that is committed against someone based on their gender identity, gender expression or perceived gender.
Based on research by the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services, Statistics Canada and the Status of Women Canada:
- Gender inequality is consistently recognized as a root cause of all forms of gender-based violence.
- Gender-based violence can be both physical and non-physical.
- Gender-based violence encompasses a range of behaviours, including those that are:
- not necessarily criminal – coercion, threats, unwanted sexual attention while in public
- criminal acts – physical and sexual assault
- Some Albertans have an increased risk of experiencing gender-based violence, including:
- women and girls aged 15 to 24
- Indigenous women and girls
- persons with disabilities
- those who are LGBTQ2S+
- While women and girls have an increased risk of experiencing gender-based violence, men and boys can also experience gender-based violence.
- For example, as of 2019, 2 in 3 females and one in 3 males in Alberta have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime.
Types of gender-based violence
The most common forms of gender-based violence in Alberta are:
- family violence – includes intimate partner violence
- sexual violence – includes sexual assault, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation and sex trafficking
It is any use of physical or sexual force, actual or threatened, within a relationship.
It can happen many times or just once, and the abuse happens through the use of assault and/or controlling behaviour.
It includes intimate partner violence, which happens between people who are or were previously dating, common-law or married. They could also have had a child together without being in a relationship.
To find out more, see the Family violence prevention page.
It is an act committed against someone's sexual integrity without that person’s freely given consent.
It can be physical and/or non-contact, affects all ages and genders, and the person committing the act may be known or a stranger.
It includes both sexual assault and sexual harassment – and is against both civil and criminal law.
To find out more, see the Sexual violence prevention page.
This is a serious crime that exploits people of all ages, ethnicities and genders.
It is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, holding, concealing, harbouring or receipt of a person to take advantage of or exploit. Examples of this include:
- any form of sexual exploitation
- forced labour or services (includes slavery or practices similar to slavery)
- the removal of a human organ or tissue
It involves the:
- threat or use of force
- threat or use of forms of coercion, abduction, fraud or deception
- repeated giving of a controlled substance
- abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability
- giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person
To find out more, see the following pages:
- Human trafficking action plan
- Protecting Survivors of Human Trafficking Act
- Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons
It happens when a person in a position of trust or authority uses that power to start or attempt sexual activity with another person.
It can be through direct or indirect touching, violence, coercion or the use of threats.
It is a crime when the exploited person is either:
- younger than 18 years of age
- older than 18 years of age, has a disability, and the exploitation happens without consent
Violence against Indigenous women and girls
Indigenous women in Canada are 3 times more likely to be victims of violence than non-Indigenous women. In Alberta, 206 Indigenous women were murdered between 1980 and 2012 – accounting for 28% of all female homicide victims in that time period.
To find out more, see the Increasing safety for Indigenous women and girls page.
Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C)
It includes all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia – or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
It is sometimes called ‘female circumcision.'
It is a crime in Canada:
- The Criminal Code of Canada cites FGM/C as a form of aggravated assault (Section 268).
- This offense carries a maximum imprisonment term of 14 years.
- Anyone involved in carrying out FGM/C can be charged, including parents who willingly participate in or plan for the practice.
Engaging men and boys in violence prevention
Men and boys are key to preventing and ending gender-based violence. Based on this, there are several things that they can do:
- learn to recognize family violence and know how to help
- believe someone when they come forward with claims of sexual violence
- show leadership by discussing family violence and healthy relationships with family, friends, neighbours and co-workers
- integrate family violence awareness in sports coaching and youth mentoring activities
- speak out against family violence at public events
- volunteer and fundraise for women’s emergency shelters and other agencies
- participate in community-based awareness activities and initiatives
- join associations that address family violence while promoting gender equality
- raise awareness in your workplace by hosting workshops or developing a protocol
It is important that men and boys:
- are supported in developing healthy masculinities, becoming allies and building healthy relationships
- have access to mental health supports and counselling
Examples of programs that engage men and boys to promote respectful relationships, positive gender roles and equality include:
- Shift: The Project to End Domestic Violence
- REAL Talk
- ACWS Leading Change partnership with the Calgary Stampeders
- WiseGuyz Project
- Next Gen Men
- Men’s Counselling Service (Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter)
16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence
16 Days of Activism is an international event that is designated and led by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women). It happens each year from November 25 to December 10.
The Alberta government and its community partners lead awareness activities and events each year to:
- recognize the 16 Days of Activism
- call for the prevention and elimination of gender-based violence
There are 4 gender-based violence awareness campaigns that align with and support the 16 Days of Activism:
- November: Family Violence Prevention Month (Alberta)
- November 25: International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women
- December 6: National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women
- On this date, vigils are held across Canada to mark the anniversary of the murder of 14 women in an act of gender-based violence at l'École Polytechnique de Montréal in 1989.
- December 10: International Human Rights Day
- This day marks the anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations.
Since 2015, the minister who is responsible for the status of women has led the 16 Days of Activism in Alberta.
- 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence
- Ending Sexual Violence in Alberta
- Sexual Harassment in Sport and Recreation
Social media graphics
- Believe (JPG, 262 KB)
- Consent (JPG, 281 KB)
- Engage (JPG, 241 KB)
- Intervene (JPG, 336 KB)
- Listen (JPG, 292 KB)
- Support (JPG, 255 KB)
- Gender-based Violence Resources (PDF, 432 KB)
Status of Women Canada
To find out about helplines, victim services, shelters and other supports, see the Sexual violence – Get help page.
To get help in other languages
See the ‘Help in other languages’ section on the Sexual violence – Get help page.
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