3. Building holistic and effective systems to tackle gender-based violence

In this report, “gender” and “gender-based violence” are interpretated by countries taking into account international obligations, as well as national legislation.

This chapter highlights country practices in putting in place a whole-of-government framework to address GBV, including developing holistic and intersectional policies, and dedicated responses to several forms of GBV. In particular, it notes that, as part of the OECD GBV Governance Framework (OECD, 2021[1]), systems are a crucial element of a whole-of-government framework to address GBV, which encompasses the overall structure of the GBV response, ranging from policies, laws, and programmes to accountability and monitoring elements. Robust GBV systems enable states to respond to the many contexts and needs of GBV victims/survivors and potential victims/survivors, in an effective, intersectional1 and co-ordinated fashion. Box ‎3.1 below outlines the key elements of the Systems Pillar of the OECD GBV Governance Framework.

A whole-of-state framework calls for establishing holistic policies, laws and dedicated responses to address various forms of GBV, including sexual and online violence, intimate partner violence (IPV), child marriage and FGM. In this context, 77% of the OECD countries surveyed (20 out of 26) reported putting in place national strategies or plans on GBV (see Box ‎3.2), while 38% reported making GBV a key pillar in broader gender equality strategies (15% of countries had both).

Some other countries have integrated GBV objectives in plans addressing other types of crimes or vulnerabilities. An example of this emerged in Greece, where the National Action Plan for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities devotes its ninth objective to “Women with disabilities” and includes actions to prevent and combat gender-based violence against women and girls with disabilities – including instances of forced abortion and sterilisation. Countries including Greece, Portugal and the United States reported including objectives relating to GBV in national action plans on human trafficking. Luxembourg also reported including objectives to combat GBV in its National Action Plan on Affective and Sexual Health.

In terms of timelines, the majority of surveyed countries reported having two- to five-year term strategies or action plans (largely linked to the strategies of the government in office). Belgium, Finland, Greece, Italy and Mexico take this approach. Only a few countries, such as Australia, Costa Rica, Portugal and Sweden, reported strategies for GBV over a time frame of 10 years. While they allow for greater flexibility, short-term strategies make them more vulnerable in most countries during changes of government.

To be comprehensive, whole-of-state frameworks need to address multiple forms of GBV, asserting that all forms of GBV are rooted in issues of gender inequality more broadly (OECD, 2021[2]). Of countries responding, 90% (20 out of 22) reported that their policies and strategies addressed multiple forms of GBV, including femicide/feminicide, human trafficking, technology-facilitated violence, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence. In terms of methods, robust GBV systems should also contain multiple ways to address GBV. Of the countries responding, 72% (18 out of 25) reported relatively comprehensive approaches to tackle GBV, including: i) primary prevention; ii) risk assessment and management; iii) protection/support to victims and survivors; and iv) prosecution and punishment.

Most countries also engaged with different types of ministries and agencies in implementing their active national policies and strategies (see Section ‎3.2.2). A network of gender focal points across the government can help communicate and mainstream the GBV strategy effectively in different policy areas (OECD, 2018[3]).

The 2015 Recommendation of the Council on Gender Equality in Public Life (GEPL Recommendation) defines whole-of-government institutional frameworks and effective public governance processes as a way to drive forward gender equality objectives including GBV objectives (OECD, 2019[4]). Providing a comprehensive response to all forms of GBV, from IPV to technology-facilitated GBV, requires the involvement of a significant number of governmental and non-governmental stakeholders working in areas such as: prevention and education, service provision, statistics, etc. Effective GBV frameworks should thus have cross-governmental buy-in (OECD, 2021[2]), which in turn requires sound co-ordination and collaboration among stakeholders within governments at different levels and between different areas and sectors. Effective co-ordination can support countries to improve service delivery for victims/survivors by helping provide access to integrated care, informing strategic decision-making by generating comprehensive evidence and data and ensuring accountability for results. This in turn calls for effective horizontal and vertical co-ordination mechanisms (Box ‎3.3) to ensure that GBV is co-ordinated across the government and implemented at the service delivery level (see Chapter 5) (OECD, 2023[5]).

In the 2022 OECD GBV survey, the majority of respondents outlined a cross-sector and inter-ministerial approach to their GBV systems. This multifaceted approach enables countries to address the intersectional needs and issues relating to GBV, including access to education, employment, housing, healthcare and justice, and physical and mental well-being and health (OECD, 2021[2]). The most common sectors and ministries reported by the respondents were Gender Equality/Women’s Affairs and Justice, followed by: Education; Health and Social Affairs; Home Affairs / Public Safety and Statistics Figure ‎3.1.

Central gender equality institutions are governmental bodies that are often primarily responsible for supporting the government’s agenda to advance society-wide gender equality goals. Among OECD countries, most of the gender equality institutions are part of the Ministry of Social Affairs or a unit within the centre of government (OECD, 2021[6]). Some countries, including Mexico, reported that their federal bodies or ministries responsible for Gender/Women’s Affairs operate as a decentralised body responsible for implementing GBV initiatives (see Box ‎3.4).Gender equality institutions are often tasked with creating social change and utilising a gender lens when conducting research and drafting policies (OECD, 2021[2]). They are vital to developing and monitoring the implementation of a GBV framework and can help promote good practices and standards, advocate for needs and rights of GBV victims/survivors, and strengthen partnerships with a wide range of sectors and organisations to provide an integrated response (Raftery et al., 2022[7]). It can sometimes be difficult for these institutions to involve all relevant actors and to ensure adequate funding and resources, including for integrated GBV responses, co-ordination, monitoring and evaluation (Murphy and Bourassa, 2021[8]).

Ministries of Justice, on the other hand, are largely responsible for legal, policy, and judicial reforms on GBV, as well as the review of such reforms. Justice ministries typically administer many aspects of legal justice systems and are at times involved in developing integrated responses to GBV, specialised domestic violence courts, services for victims/survivors and the children of victims/survivors in the criminal justice system, as well as civil, family and other related justice services (OECD, 2021[1]). Of countries surveyed, 36% (9 out of 25) reported engaging their Ministry of Justice to help implement their plans and programmes on GBV, which can help ensure that victims/survivors have access to legal and judicial services and protection and enforce accountability for perpetrators. As with other sectoral ministries, it can sometimes be difficult to co-ordinate with other sectors and organisations that should be involved in prevention and response to GBV (e.g. health, education, employment, social protection and police). They should thus have a clear mandate and be supported by a robust governance structure, possibly with the involvement of Centre of Government (CoG), to help ensure clear accountability and prioritisation.

While most countries reported that their GBV plans and programmes are being implemented by ministries, a few countries surveyed, such as Australia (Office for Women of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet); Italy (Department for Equal Opportunities of the Prime Minister’s Office) and Japan (Cabinet Office), reported that their GBV plans and programmes were implemented directly through the centre of government. Higher prioritisation of GBV can accelerate implementation and ensure greater accountability, and potentially greater coverage of GBV services. At the same time, it can risk reducing funding and human resources, diluting agendas and limiting capacity, putting the sustainability of GBV co-ordination and implementation at risk.

The 2022 OECD GBV Survey revealed a broad consensus among OECD countries on the importance of co-ordination across governments, ministries and sectors, and of ensuring integrated service delivery centred on the needs of victims (see Chapter 5). Communication and collaboration among stakeholders are especially important in emergency contexts, where GBV is often exacerbated (see Section ‎3.2.7). The great majority of OECD countries (88%, 23 out of 26) reported having established at least one co-ordination body for GBV and/or designated existing institutions as co-ordinating bodies.

In particular, half of the surveyed countries reported establishing one inter-ministerial/agency co-ordination mechanism to facilitate whole-of-government co-ordination on GBV, while 38% of surveyed countries (10 out of 26) reported establishing more than one inter-ministerial/agency co-ordination mechanism, with up to 3 different mechanisms in 5 countries and 4 mechanisms in 1 country (Figure ‎3.2).

Most co-ordinating mechanisms included members from ministries of: Education; Employment/Labour; Gender Equality/Women’s Affairs; Health; Home Affairs/Public Safety; Justice; and Social Affairs. Examples of collegiate bodies of ministries and institutions with responsibilities for GBV appear in Box ‎3.5.

Regardless of the number of horizontal co-ordination mechanisms, the 2022 OECD GBV survey revealed that their most common areas of focus are: i) primary prevention; ii) risk assessment and management; iii) protection and support to victims/survivors; and iv) prosecution and punishment.

Vertical co-ordination is an essential element of GBV responses, to engage all levels of government and local actors. While almost all surveyed countries reported using vertical co-ordination mechanisms to encourage co-ordination on GBV between the central/federal government and sub-national governments (see Box ‎3.6), many reported difficulties in achieving vertical co-ordination on GBV, and applying national policies to local contexts, particularly those relating to gender, human rights, intersectionality and cultural relevance. These challenges are often due to a lack of resources, gaps in infrastructure, challenges of data-sharing and limited clarity on restructuring of roles and responsibilities across government (see Chapter 5 for a discussion on vertical co-ordination and integrated service delivery). Other challenges involve the difficulty of maintaining clear, regular communication channels across levels of government and harmonising standards and approaches for GBV prevention and response, in particular in the context of political and/or cultural sensitivities (Raftery et al., 2022[7]).

At the same time, while co-ordination mechanisms indicate government commitment to the issue of GBV, a range of challenges remain. Challenges reported by countries include lack of clarity on which institutions are responsible for co-ordinating their GBV response, a lack of effective information-sharing and co-ordination amongst ministries and bodies, lack of knowledge and training sessions on GBV, a lack of gender sensitivity on the part of responsible officials and service providers, and gaps in implementing the agreed-upon plans. Scope remains to strengthen the clarity of co-ordination mechanisms (e.g. terms of reference, leadership structures, working groups and reporting systems), to enhance communication and information-sharing (e.g. regular meetings, online platforms), harmonise approaches to GBV prevention and response (e.g. through common tools and indicators) and to build trust, collaboration and accountability among different actors (UNHCR, n.d.[9]). Efficient co-ordination mechanisms need to be supported by adequate capacities and resources, but a lack of funding and dedicated budgets to address GBV makes it difficult to address when ministries and levels of government face constraints in budgets, resources and incentives (as discussed in Section ‎3.2.3). Funding issues are often cited as a barrier to co-ordination between governmental and non-governmental actors (OECD, 2023[5]).

Adequate capacity and resources also include the need to invest in training public officials. Countries surveyed reported public officials’ lack of training and awareness as a major obstacle to the efficient implementation of the co-ordination mechanisms. Co-ordination could benefit from devoting resources to training on GBV that actively engages public officials and raises levels of awareness of the importance of the issue. Capacity-building and specialised training are particularly important for those who interact with victims/survivors (see Chapter 5).

Timely, robust data on the nature and prevalence of GBV, the support services and the perpetrator are crucial in designing targeted policies to eradicate GBV. However, a lack of data, and the need to engage statistical institutions in active national policies, strategies and/or action plans on GBV, is another challenge reported. This is an important gap, since statistical agencies play a vital role in information-gathering for frameworks. Such agencies can help identify gaps in the data and ways to create evidence-based responses to prevent GBV, including in times of emergency, and to provide an early response for eradicating GBV (OECD, 2021[1]). Not only statistical offices, but many government entities collect relevant data, with their own indicators and measurements of programme outcomes, highlighting the need for coherency and sharing among ministries. In the longer term, monitoring data can help to combat negative trends and to adjust the measures adopted. Clear guidelines, tools and expectations are needed on adequate information-sharing across ministries and levels of governments, since intersectional, disaggregated data is a foundation for developing evidence-based GBV strategies and responses, as well as tools for screening, risk assessment and management (see Section ‎3.2.5).

Whole-of-state GBV systems cannot be implemented without adequately resourced action plans and programmes. Given the prevalence of the problem and the large target population not only of victims/survivors but also of their children, perpetrators, at-risk population and communities, sustained funding over longer periods is essential. Dedicated resources are needed in key areas including: shelter and housing, targeted and readily available counselling, and healthcare and justice services. The cross-cutting nature of GBV requires broad co-ordination, which requires substantial resources (see Chapter 5). Ensuring continued funding flows is especially important during emergencies and crises, given the increased risk of GBV (see Section ‎3.2.8).

Efforts to tackle GBV continue to be underfunded. While 96% of surveyed countries (24 out of 25) reported endorsing their GBV policies or strategies at the cabinet (and in one case, the presidential) level, only 50% reported being funded by a specific developed budget, and ten countries (38%) reported having no budget allocated for current GBV plans/programmes (see Figure ‎3.3). Interestingly, the 2022 Survey found that more than half of OECD countries had increased funding to fight GBV in recent years (see Section ‎3.2.8). The need is also great in the humanitarian context, especially as compared to other sectors in global humanitarian response (IRC, 2019[10]). Analysis of bilateral official development assistance (ODA) suggests that funding by members of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) dedicated to ending violence against women and girls was USD 458 million on average per year in the period 2020-2021, a slight increase from 2019-2020, but still less than 1% of the total bilateral ODA reported on average per year in the period (OECD, 2023[11]). In the context of economic uncertainty following the COVID-19 pandemic, insufficient funding to GBV programmes became a risk, as governments focused social public social spending on health, unemployment and labour market programmes (OECD, 2023[12]). Studies have shown that this issue was overlooked in COVID response funding: globally, only 0.0002% of the USD 26.7 trillion in response funding was dedicated to fighting GBV (Oxfam, 2021[13]).

Indeed, funding remains one of the biggest challenges in addressing GBV, for several reasons, including limited funding sources, short-term funding (which can jeopardise sustainability and continuity in GBV prevention and response efforts), funding restrictions (e.g. allowing to use funds mainly for direct services, rather than for advocacy or policy change) and competition for funding. Addressing these challenges calls for a collaborative effort between governments and civil society organisations.

Tracking financing towards eliminating GBV can help understand how national and international commitments are being translated into efforts to end GBV (UN Women, 2016[14]). For instance, governments can undertake the practice of gender budgeting, including through budget tagging, to earmark dedicated funding towards GBV commitments (OECD, 2021[1]). Gender budgeting is the gender-based assessment of budgets, incorporating a gender perspective at all levels of the budgetary process and restructuring revenues and expenditures to promote gender equality (OECD, 2017[15]). Gender budgeting can help governments understand how budgeting and fiscal measures impact gender equality, and how they can use budgeting to achieve their gender equality objectives, including in the eradication of GBV. Strong leadership commitment, a whole-of-government approach and an enabling environment based on gender-disaggregated data and capacity development of government officials can ensure the effective implementation of gender budgeting (Downes and Nicol, 2020[16]). This practice is increasingly being adopted across OECD countries: in 2022, 23 OECD countries had introduced gender budgeting measures (61%) (OECD, 2022[17]), compared to 17 in 2018 (50%) and 12 in 2016 (35%). In the development co-operation context, OECD/DAC’s Gender Equality Marker is a tool that can help track aid in support of ending GBV against women and girls (OECD, 2021[18]).

Constrained budgets, however, are a major challenge. This, coupled with differences in cross-sectoral priorities can lead to inefficient allocations and lack of multisectoral planning on GBV (Remme and L. Lang, 2016[19]). Understanding how to optimise available resources and enhancing incentives for different actors to collaborate, through options like joint financing, for example, can help overcome such barriers.

Resources to tackle GBV can help scale up programmes; improve the quality and accessibility of services for survivors of GBV, including counselling, medical care, legal support, and other forms of assistance; invest in prevention, including education and awareness-raising campaigns, community mobilisation and changing harmful social norms and attitudes; help address root causes of GBV, including by promoting gender equality; generate data and research to develop evidence-based interventions; and respond to GBV during such emergencies as conflicts, natural disasters and pandemics. Limited resources will continue to be a reality. In particular, the pandemic and Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine have put further pressure on public expenses. Countries may consider prioritising prevention, in view of the greater cost-effectiveness of prevention than response efforts. Other potential approaches include partnerships (e.g. collaborations with government agencies, civil society organisations, and community-based groups); using technology (e.g. mobile phones to provide information and support to survivors, or using social media to raise awareness of GBV); focus on victims’/survivors’ needs by ensuring that they have access to comprehensive services and support (e.g. counselling, medical care, legal support, and other forms of assistance) and advocating for policy change to address the root causes of GBV.

Systematic collection, monitoring and dissemination of reliable and relevant gender-disaggregated data and statistics on GBV are essential for an effective gender-sensitive policy process and informing policy choices. Capturing the data is crucial for understanding the prevalence and patterns of GBV, and developing effective prevention and response strategies. This requires using clear and consistent definitions to ensure comparability of data, collecting data from multiple sources (e.g. surveys, police records and health facilities), collecting both quantitative and qualitative data to understand both the prevalence and patterns of GBV, and an in-depth understanding of the experiences and perspectives of survivors and other stakeholders. Safeguards must be put in place to ensure respect for confidentiality and privacy of victims/survivors and other participants (e.g. through the use of anonymous surveys, data protection with encryption and secure storage, and informed consent from participants), as well as to use intersectional analysis to understand how multiple forms of oppression are compounded to create unique experiences of violence.

A wide range of data can help measure the prevalence, incidence and impact of GBV, including:

  • Prevalence data on how many individuals have experienced GBV, which can be collected through surveys or other data collection methods.

  • Incidence data on new cases of GBV, which can be useful for tracking changes in GBV rates.

  • Risk factor data, on the factors that increase the risk of experiencing GBV (e.g. low education levels, poverty or living in a conflict-affected area). Collecting this data can inform prevention strategies.

  • Impact data, including physical, psychological, social and economic impacts of GBV, which can be collected through surveys, interviews or other methods.

  • Service utilisation data, including on the use of services by victims/survivors of GBV (e.g. healthcare, legal services or counselling). This can help identify gaps in service provision, inform efforts to improve access to services and understand what works.

Data sources on GBV include administrative data, survey data, case studies and qualitative research, media and social media data, expert opinions and policy documents, humanitarian and development programme data, and national and international reports. Data should be gathered not only from surveys and secondary research, but from victims/survivors and the service providers who interact with them, such as healthcare professionals and other social service providers, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and police. Timely, robust and comparable data across countries are also needed. Surveys that gather data internationally can help identify concrete differences between countries and inform policymakers as they design evidence-based measures (see Box ‎3.7).

Most OECD surveyed countries indicated that they collect administrative data2 on GBV and use such data to estimate the prevalence and forms of violence. The most common type of administrative data collected came from police reports, e.g. information on the number and types of GBV cases that have been reported to law enforcement, as well as the outcomes of these cases (88%, 23 out of 26 countries); followed by court records (73%, 19 out of 26 countries); helpline/crisis centre records (73%, 19 out of 26 countries); health reports/medical records, e.g. the number of individuals who seek care for injuries related to GBV, as well as the types of injuries and the outcomes of treatment (57%, 15 out of 26 countries) and records on shelter attendance (57%, 15 out of 26 countries) (Figure ‎3.4). Responses revealed that only 42% of countries (11 out of 26) collected data from non-governmental organisations and only 11% (3 out of 26) reported collecting data from schools, e.g. on the prevalence of sexual violence, harassment and other forms of GBV among students and staff.

The majority, 90% of respondent countries (19 out of 21) reported collecting data on different forms of GBV, which indicates a positive trend of recognising the need to disaggregate administrative data. The most common type of GBV captured by all data sources was IPV, followed by sexual assault, abuse and harassment. Police reports, court records and health reports/medical records were the sources most often used to gather data on femicide/feminicide as well as female genital mutilation (FGM). Police reports and court records were also the most common source for data on human trafficking and forced marriage. Records from shelter attendance, as well as police reports and court records, were used to capture information on “honour”-based violence.

However, only three countries, Finland, Mexico and the Slovak Republic, reported capturing data on economic violence; only four countries reported gathering data on psychological violence (Costa Rica, Finland and the Slovak Republic and Sweden); and only six countries reported gathering data on technology-facilitated violence (Belgium, Canada, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Türkiye). This suggests that there is a lack of data on some types of GBV, in part due to inadequate recognition of forms of GBV that are not linked to physical violence. Economic, psychological, and technology-facilitated violence nevertheless all present serious consequences for victims/survivors and their emotional, mental and financial well-being and can also be accompanied by physical types of GBV. Gathering data on these types of GBV is much needed for holistic, whole-of-government policies that can address GBV comprehensively.

The frequency of administrative data collection varied amongst member countries, with some collecting information on a yearly basis, and others collecting biannually, quarterly or monthly. As for the information about GBV captured, the most common responses were: i) relationship status of victim/survivor and perpetrator; ii) frequency of violence; iii) location of violence; and iv) whether violence was reported to authorities. The majority of countries included several of these responses. Collecting data on perpetrators can provide useful information for more effective prevention programming, but as a source of information, it is less frequently explored. All respondent countries reported gathering information on the victim (23 out of 23), but only 85% of respondent countries (18 out of 21) collected data on perpetrators. Furthermore, except for the United Kingdom, none of the countries reported collecting information on the ethnicity of either the victim or the perpetrator – and some did not collect basic information on either the victim or the perpetrator (age, sex, criminal record of the perpetrator, etc.). Box ‎3.8 shows a few examples of good practices in collecting and co-ordinating administrative data on GBV.

Administrative data is important for assessing how public services respond to the needs of the GBV victims/survivors. However, administrative data is unable to capture the full prevalence of GBV, as much GBV goes unreported (EIGE, 2014[23]) for a variety of reasons (OECD, 2023[5]). Population-based surveys could be one way to understand the subjective experiences of victims/survivors and can also be a tool to build a victim/survivor-centred culture.

As with administrative data collection, OECD member countries express broad consensus on the utility of collecting GBV data in population surveys, with 88% of respondent countries (23 out of 26) conducting at least one type of population-based survey on GBV in the last 15 years. The most common type of population-based surveys in this regard are dedicated survey(s) on GBV (used by 84% of countries, 22 out of 26), followed by the inclusion of questions on GBV in crime surveys (42%, 11 out of 26) and in demographic and health surveys (38%, 10 out of 26) (Figure ‎3.5). Good practices on population-based surveys that disaggregate data on GBV, and that also aim to investigate causes of failure to report, emerged from Canada and Mexico (see Box ‎3.9). Surveys on legal needs could also be a valuable tool to give insight into the user-centred experience of legal problems of victims/survivors and to improve legal frameworks, as well as access to justice (see Chapter 6). However, only 11% of respondent countries (3 out of 26) reported using this type of population-based survey.

Population-based surveys at regular intervals could obtain the most accurate data on GBV, but only 17% of respondent countries (4 out of 23) used yearly surveys, and more countries (35%, 8 out of 23) relied on one-time surveys. Of respondent countries, 26% (6 out of 23) repeated surveys every three to four years, and 22% (5 out of 23) repeated their surveys every five years or more.

The most common institutions responsible for population-based surveys are central gender equality institutions (35%, 8 out of 23 countries) and statistics agencies/offices (35%, 8 out of 23 countries). Box ‎3.9 shows examples in several countries of population surveys that aim to collect GBV-related data.

A fundamental challenge in collecting accurate data on GBV is the general tendency to underreport both the prevalence and incidence of the problem. Countries’ responses revealed serious challenges in capturing or estimating unreported cases of GBV. Current strategies mostly included population-based surveys and records from shelters, as noted above. Victims/survivors may be reluctant to admit abuse for a variety of reasons: stigma, cultural norms, fear of harm (towards the victim/survivor and/or their loved ones), inadequate ability to self-support, and low levels of trust in law enforcement actors. This means that many violent crimes go unreported (OECD, 2020[25]) (OECD, 2021[1]) (OECD, 2023[5]). One-off GBV questionnaires and ad hoc modules in larger surveys gather only limited information, which makes it difficult to understand the causes and patterns of violence in detail (OECD, 2020[25]). Some of the reasons for non-reporting, as captured by Mexico (Box ‎3.9), include a perception that the violence was not important enough to report; followed by fear of consequences and threats and a lack of awareness on how to report. Several women also reported that pride and the perception that nobody would believe them or that they would be blamed caused them not to report their experiences.

At the same time, while survey-based figures probably underestimate the extent of the phenomenon, administrative data such as police reports often provide even less information, since many victims/survivors may not feel comfortable reporting their cases to public authorities for fear of retaliation and because they do not believe that the criminal justice system will offer them adequate protection (OECD, 2020[25]).

Any effort to better capture the prevalence and forms of GBV must start by considering how to estimate prevalence more accurately (OECD, 2020[25]). Survey questions, for example, should be phrased to make sure that victims/survivors feel safe to answer honestly. A comprehensive data collection strategy should thus employ a variety of sources – including administrative and survey data, as well as data collected by other service providers – to try to better estimate the prevalence and forms of GBV (OECD, 2021[2]). Certain countries, however, have undertaken efforts to capture unreported cases of violence, as outlined in Box ‎3.10 below.

More generally, overcoming underreporting of GBV calls for increased awareness and education to reduce the stigma and encourage people to report; providing safe and confidential reporting mechanisms (such as hotlines, online reporting forms and secure reporting channels) to reduce fears of retaliation or further violence; and training service providers (such as healthcare workers and police officers) to recognise signs of GBV and how to respond appropriately to cases of violence. Other possible solutions to improve survivors’ confidence in the reporting process include involving community leaders and organisations in encouraging reporting and supporting survivors (e.g. through raising awareness, providing information about reporting options, and advocating for better services for survivors); as well as addressing legal and policy barriers, such as restrictive laws or biased attitudes among law enforcement officials. In certain countries, it is mandatory for certain professions, such as school teachers or healthcare providers, to report GBV cases. Training may help to obtain better and more rapid identification and reporting of such cases, which can help governments get a clearer picture of the incidence and extent of GBV (see Chapter 4).

Another common challenge relates to capturing information about perpetrators and the victim-perpetrator relationship, as well as what form of GBV took place. Disaggregated data is useful in advancing understanding of the needs of victims/survivors and the potential obstacles they face. Such information also provides insight into several forms of GBV within different populations and may indicate how effective prevention and response initiatives are (OECD, 2021[2]). Data collection should incorporate the principle of intersectionality to understand the experience of victims/survivors with intersectional experiences due to race, ethnicity, age, class, religion, indigeneity, national origin, migrant or refugee status, sexual orientation, disability and gender identity. However, countries continue to struggle to include all these aspects into administrative data collection efforts and population-based surveys (see Chapter 4).

Understanding the full impact of GBV on victims’/survivors’ lives could be supported by extensive data-collection efforts that include questions and data points that aim to assess not only its physical, but also its psychological, mental and emotional impact. These are more difficult to capture and measure, which is why stakeholders, such as psychologists and mental health professionals, should be consulted to develop data collection efforts, especially population-based surveys. It is also hard to capture information on the long-term effects of GBV on physical and mental health through “one-time” surveys and data collection. Longitudinal population-based surveys could be a valuable source of information on long-term consequences, but they remain an underused tool (see Box ‎3.11 for an example of a promising practice on gathering data that can provide insights on long-term impacts of GBV).

In addition, the difficulty of data collection can be amplified if victims/survivors are in vulnerable situations that inhibit them from engaging with authorities and if they face additional stigma due to their situation. These include women who either voluntarily or due to coercion and/or threats, engage in prostitution, women who have been trafficked and/or women with irregular immigration status. Victims/survivors from these backgrounds can be even more exposed and vulnerable to violence and experience further barriers in reporting to authorities. Measures that create safe environments for victims/survivors with such backgrounds to report their experiences need to be employed to understand the full scale of GBV.

However, data can only contribute to the fight to eliminate GBV if it is efficiently shared amongst governmental agencies, as well as service providers (see Section 5.4.2 in Chapter 5). Agreements and protocols on information-sharing need to be put in place to ensure that data can be used in all areas of action on GBV, including risk assessment and management (see Section ‎3.2.5) in the development of policies, laws and action plans, as well as prevention of femicide/feminicide (see Section 6.4.3 in Chapter 6).

Finally, as GBV policy work should be data-driven, it is key that sound data on this issue be made available to all the stakeholders involved, including NGOs. The datasets can be shared on an online platform, making it easily accessible and transparent. Leveraging published data helps NGOs to create visualisations and stories from the data that will raise awareness of GBV.

A key stage in a holistic approach to GBV is at the primary prevention and risk management stage. When GBV incidents are identified early, service providers are better equipped to intervene and prevent further instances from occurring. Prevention includes engaging perpetrators (see Chapter 6 and Section 4.2.2 in Chapter 4.) to avoid any recurrence of violence and community and education-based programmes that promote gender equality, non-violence and healthy relationship behaviour – especially among men and boys, children and adolescents (see Chapter 4). Actions should also focus on public awareness, access to information and resources, and the provision of services for individuals at risk of perpetrating or becoming victims of GBV.

Importantly, risk assessment and management can save lives. Research has shown that some datapoints, including the increase in frequency and severity of violence and instances of separation/divorce and death threats, can be used to predict lethal violence cases (Garcia-Vergara et al., 2022[27]). It is thus vital that specialised risk assessments are developed and that robust data on femicide/feminicide is available to prevent predictable deaths of women and girls (also see Section 6.4.3 in Chapter 6). As prevention requires a sound understanding of the situation of GBV in a particular country, it is important to identify the forms and prevalence of GBV, the characteristics of victims/survivors and perpetrators, and other factors associated with GBV within a country over time. States would benefit from investing in monitoring and evaluation of prevention-focused policies and programming to ensure they are achieving the desired outcomes.

Screening, risk assessment and risk management are key elements of detection and subsequent intervention. These should be crafted using evidence-based procedures on known signs and risk factors for GBV.

Screening tools identify victims/survivors of GBV and refer them to GBV services in an environment of confidentiality that acknowledges the reasons for non-reporting (including stigma, fear of repeated violence and other reasons). Service providers, especially healthcare providers, need to be trained to adequately apply the screening tools, which rely on gathering information on the experiences of the potential victims/survivors through questionnaires.

Similarly, risk assessment tools are based on collecting information on the case of GBV (most often used in cases of IPV), including on past incidents and on the behaviour of the perpetrator. Risk assessment tools outline the methods of data collection, including guidelines on interviewing victims/survivors and the data needed on perpetrators from other services. An evidence-based approach is underpinned by an exchange of data across services that make relevant information on perpetrators (such as treatment programmes and medical records) accessible to those using GBV screening, risk assessment and/or management tools (EIGE, 2019[28]). Based on the evidence gathered from victims/survivors and service providers, risk assessment tools can predict the likelihood of violence. These tools are increasingly relying on machine learning and algorithms, which can potentially improve the accuracy of predictions (González-Prieto et al., 2021[29]).

Once the case of GBV is identified and the level of risk assessed, a larger risk management system needs to be set up to reduce the risk of recurring violence and provide victims/survivors with support to increase their safety. Risk management can include victim safety planning, which includes a set of measures designed with the victim’s/survivor’s specific needs at different times in the cycle of the abusive relationship (EIGE, 2019[28]). Ensuring the accountability of perpetrators, including enforcing protection orders and establishing perpetrator programmes, are also key elements in protecting victims/survivors (see Chapter 6 for further discussion).

Early detection of GBV is a key component of preventing further or escalated instances of GBV. In the 2022 OECD GBV Survey, 67% of respondent countries (16 out of 24) reported developing and/or certifying tools to be used for GBV screening. (Figure ‎3.6). The majority of countries (71%, 17 out of 24) also reported developing and/or certifying3 tools to be used for GBV risk assessment and management (Figure ‎3.7).

Some countries reported using innovative GBV screening tools that increasingly rely on technology that make their use more accessible. In addition, governments are also developing and/or certifying tools that aim to acknowledge all aspects of each GBV incident and are culturally and trauma-informed. Hungary reported, for example, that its National Crisis Management and Information Telephone Service has developed a screening questionnaire for all received emergency phone calls, tailored for victims of domestic violence, human trafficking and children. The service’s website also raises awareness by sharing examples of instances that can be early signs of violence, as well as several types of violence. Secret shelters carry out a secondary screening, a more in-depth interview that helps identify and place those at risk of violence in a shelter. The United States reported that the Department of Health and Human Services has developed the Adult Human Trafficking Screening Tool and Guide, which assesses adult patients or clients for human trafficking victimisation or risk of victimisation. A survivor-centred, trauma-informed and culturally informed intervention, it is tool designed for use in healthcare, behavioural health, social services and public health settings.

Most countries reported that their main purpose in using risk assessment and management tools is to i) assess the risk of violence recurring, and ii) to assess the risk of lethal violence. The most common forms of GBV addressed by these tools are intimate partner violence and domestic violence.

Several OECD countries use stand-alone IPV risk assessment tools that have been developed and tested for predictive validity in multiple research studies. Nine OECD countries use the spousal assault risk assessment (SARA); three use the brief spousal assault form for the evaluation of risk (B-SAFER); and four use the Ontario domestic assault risk assessment (ODARA) (EIGE, 2019[28]) (Government of Canada, n.d.[30]). The 2022 OECD GBV Survey and the OECD QISD-GBV also revealed increasing use of the multi-agency risk assessment conferences (MARAC), which develop an effective model based on information-sharing between service providers (see Chapter 5 for further discussion and Box ‎3.12 below for a promising example of developing a risk assessment and management tool).

Risk assessment and management tools can only produce accurate decisions if they are based on sufficient data on all aspects of the case of GBV, including information on perpetrators. However, this data needs to be shared across agencies, and a lack of co-operation and information-sharing can be a major barrier to efficient, accurate implementation of the tools (see Section 5.4.2 in Chapter 5). One promising way to circumvent challenges related to information-sharing is to set up agreements and protocols between agencies. Spain’s Action Protocol for Security forces and bodies and co-ordination with judicial bodies for the protection of victims of violence against women and domestic violence urges all actors to share data effectively and also introduces several mechanisms to facilitate communication and co-operation between agencies (Council of Europe, 2020[31]).

However, the design of risk assessment tools, which rely on data and algorithms, can have inherent limitations. Despite the technological advances, “algorithmic governance” can be fallible: a case study in Spain on the usage of a risk assessment tool, which has been used since 2010 in courtrooms and law enforcement, revealed that the algorithms that serve as a basis for the tool often make mistakes (and can also be biased against men and perpetrators from certain backgrounds). Professionals and those in the justice systems who work with these tools should always assess the result and preserve the aspect of the “human experience” in the risk assessment process (Valdivia, Hyde-Vaamonde and García Marcos, 2022[32]). The case study also revealed, however, that the tool was introduced without sufficient training of practitioners, which jeopardised transparency in the use of risk assessment. Specialised training is needed for all actors who use risk assessment and risk management tools, but several OECD countries reported difficulties in setting up the necessary training. The high rotation of public officials and the complexity of these tools can also impede their efficient implementation and complicate specialised training.

In addition, several OECD countries reported struggling with linking risk assessment to risk management. However well risk assessment tools are designed, they may fall short if they are not considered as part of a broader risk management system with individualised safety planning (Council of Europe, 2020[31]). While risk assessment and risk management have been recognised as constituting a critical element of preventing and combating GBV by stakeholders, OECD countries reported a lack of regulatory framework for multidisciplinary risk assessment. However, significant progress has been made: for example, Article 51 of the Istanbul Convention (Council of Europe, 2011[33]), requires parties to take necessary legislative or other measures to implement risk assessment and management measures. These tools have also been integrated into the EU legislative and policy framework as well, through the Victims’ Rights Directive (EUR-Lex, 2012[34]) .

Finally, risk assessment and management need to take into account the fact that the risk of violence is dynamic and evolves over time, and that risk assessments need to be regularly updated. The questions asked in the re-assessment also need to be adapted and be different from the first assessment. They should aim to investigate the re-incidence of violence, changes in behaviour, whether the victim has returned to the perpetrator (in cases of IPV), and whether there are new factors of vulnerability (Council of Europe, 2020[31]).

If whole-of-state frameworks are to offer a more effective approach to addressing GBV, countries should develop and implement evaluation, measurement and accountability mechanisms. These should regularly assess and report on the efficacy of their national strategies, policies and programmes, in order to assess the progress, review and strengthen them. The 2022 OECD GBV Survey revealed broad consensus on the value of monitoring and evaluating national policies, strategies and/or action plans on GBV. Two types of mechanisms are used: internal and external to State institutions. Most countries rely upon internal review mechanisms (see Box ‎3.13 below) within the government to assess and improve the effectiveness of GBV prevention and response measures. These can include independent audits and parliamentary oversight to identify gaps, weaknesses and areas for improvement, regulatory oversight to ensure compliance with GBV-related regulations, policies and standards, accreditation and certification to assess their measures against established standards, peer review and community feedback to ensure they are meeting their needs, and finally, complaints mechanisms (e.g. ombudsmen, human rights commissions, or independent oversight bodies) to investigate complaints about GBV prevention and response measures.

In this context, 46% (11 out of 24) of respondent countries reported that institutions that provide oversight are Ombudsmen Offices and/or the Parliament and/or a Parliamentary Committee dedicated to gender equality/women’s affairs. Of respondent countries, 41% (10 out of 24) reported that a commission in the political executive fulfilled this role, while eight countries reported using an Independent Human Rights Commission and 29% (7 out of 24) of countries reported using an Advisory Council. In addition, several countries reported putting in place internal Committees representing both governmental and non-governmental actors.

While most surveyed countries reported using internal review mechanisms, it is also important to develop oversight mechanisms external to the government. External review mechanisms involve external actors in assessing and improving the effectiveness of GBV prevention and response measures. An example emerged in Greece, where the National Council of Greek Women, a federation of 48 women NGOs across Greece and Cyprus, has the mandate of assessing and evaluating existing policies on gender equality (EIGE, 2014[36]). Actions to strengthen review mechanisms have also been taken at the international level. The “Independent Expert Mechanisms on Discrimination and Violence against Women” initiative, launched in 2018, aims to promote the use of independent expertise by strengthening institutional collaboration among international and regional review mechanisms (OHCHR, 2018[37]).

In addition, monitoring and evaluation mechanisms of NGOs that provide services as part of the GBV framework are also important, to ensure their efficacy and adherence to relevant policies and standards. These can be carried out through feedback mechanisms, such as evaluations by service users assessing the work and challenges of NGOs. Such provisions can also be explicitly required by the authorities responsible for selecting and funding NGOs in the GBV space. Nevertheless, these requirements should not place unnecessary burdens on NGOs (OECD, 2021[1]).

GBV often increases during crises, such as pandemics, natural disasters, and economic recessions (OECD, 2021[2]). Evidence from past crises and natural disasters demonstrates that confinement measures often lead to increased or first-time GBV and violence against children (OECD, 2020[38]). Contingency plans or crisis management plans can be integrated into existing national action plans on GBV or developed as complementary policy documents. They should identify relevant policies and actions that can be taken during specific types of crises to ensure mechanisms are in place to allow for effective rapid responses to GBV.

The COVID-19 pandemic is not the only emergency that OECD member countries have faced in the past few years, but in many countries, it has acted as a catalyst to create better GBV responses in emergency contexts. Responses from the 2022 OECD GBV Survey revealed that 56% of respondent countries (14 out of 25) did not adopt stand-alone crisis management plans for GBV, and only 35% (9 out of 26) reported doing so. In addition, many countries reported that these stand-alone plans were created in the framework of the COVID-19 pandemic (Box ‎3.14).

In emergency situations, it is particularly important that services be properly resourced to ensure they remain widely accessible to victims/survivors, who are often among the most affected and at-risk during crises such as pandemics and economic recessions (OECD, 2021[2]). There is a broad consensus among surveyed countries on the main GBV-related services funded during the COVID-19 pandemic: shelters, non-shelter accommodations (e.g. hotels); helplines; psychological and/or counselling services and specific economic/financial aid to victims/survivors are among the most funded services, while legal aid, perpetrator treatment and/or rehabilitation, public awareness campaigns and sexual assault crises centres were the less funded services during the pandemic. The pandemic caused several social, justice, and health support systems to collapse and several countries directed efforts to fund sectors that treated patients. Notably, none of the countries reported funding specialised police units and/or task forces during the pandemic.

Several countries reported that funding was a major challenge during the pandemic, but 16 out of 26 countries reported increasing funding for GBV-related programmes and/or services. In Estonia, the State Supplementary Budget Act of 2021 granted additional resources for the following services: i) helplines / hotlines; ii) psychological and/or counselling services iii) ICT solution for online management of tasks; and iv) expenses for Social Insurance Agency volunteers (support persons, psychological first aid advisers, mediators and crisis workers).

As a result of the pandemic, some countries made changes to GBV approaches on institutional arrangements, co-ordination and communication across agencies, as well as to engagement with stakeholders. While several countries reported that a lack of co-ordination was a major barrier to effective GBV responses during the pandemic, some OECD countries demonstrated that in times of crisis, existing institutional arrangements can adapt to better respond to citizens’ needs, including GBV victims/survivors. Switzerland offers one example, where the Confederation-Cantons-Municipalities Committee for implementation of the Istanbul Convention proposed concrete measures (e.g. awareness campaigns) through the Task Force on Domestic Violence and COVID-19, headed by the Federal Office for Gender Equality (OECD, 2021[1]). Another example is the former National Federation Reform Council Taskforce on Women’s Safety4 (established by Australia’s National Cabinet), which was responsible for monitoring and responding in a co-ordinated manner to issues relating to women’s safety, including the impacts of COVID-19 on women’s safety (OECD, 2021[2]).

Ensuring the continuity of data collection during crises is essential, especially since the prevalence of GBV likely increased during the pandemic. However, the nature of this crisis may have impeded data collection efforts, especially tools that required travel and face-to-face contact (UN Women/WHO, 2020[39]). It is thus important that countries rely on several types of technologies for data collection, including online platforms and mobile phones, while mitigating the risks associated with the use of non-traditional data sources. Survey respondents also reported changes to their data collection methods. The most commonly used method of data collection during the pandemic (reported by 19 countries) was police reports, which is also the most commonly used in non-emergency contexts (Figure ‎3.8). However, countries reported using helpline records to collect data during the pandemic (18 out of 26 countries reported collecting data from this source) and fewer countries reported collecting data from court records.

Responses also show that certain countries (7 out of 26) collected information from population surveys, while others (5 out of 26) collected data from secondary research conducted by academics and/or non-governmental organisations. A promising practice was reported by Belgium, where Ghent University conducted a national survey in May 2020 in four languages (French, Dutch, German and English) on domestic violence and sexual violence since the introduction of COVID-19 measures. Respondents throughout Belgium were asked if they wanted to participate in a monthly follow-up. Sweden also reported adding a module to its 2021 Swedish Crime Survey (SCS), posing questions on victimisation of domestic violence during the period March-December 2020 (in the context of COVID-19).

To support changes in approaches to GBV during the COVID-19 pandemic, 16 out of 26 countries reported making changes to funding for GBV-related programmes and/or services through legislation, decree or other relevant process.

Some of the main challenges reported were: i) implementing and providing services via telephone or internet during the pandemic; ii) interinstitutional co-ordination; iii) considering intersectionality; and iv) considering a comprehensive approach to critical public health issues.

Some countries reported challenges in collecting data and implementing population-based surveys during the COVID-19 pandemic, mostly due to difficulties reaching victims/survivors during lockdowns, including geographical and technological limitations. Countries also reported scarce data collection from academia and targeted studies during the emergency.

Despite the challenges, the responses also showed how countries were able to explore new ways to reach out to those experiencing or at risk for GBV. Estonia, Japan and Greece reported increasing the availability and use of telephone helplines to reach more individuals remotely. The Netherlands used a codeword for use at pharmacies and on an online chat so that GBV victims could reach out more easily for help and advice. It also launched a national campaign to inform (potential) victims of GBV where they could get help and/or advice. In Greece, inter-institutional agreements were made to facilitate shelters for women victims of violence and their families, in hotels, and to guarantee necessary medical exams during the lockdown. Australia reported conducting studies and reports to understand the impact of COVID-19 and its aftermath on women victims of domestic, family and sexual violence.

The COVID-19 pandemic also shed light on the importance and issue of data interpretation. An example of good practice emerged in Italy, where the government analysed data from calls from 2018-2021 to its national helpline provided to support victims of GBV. The analysis revealed an increase in calls during lockdowns and a change in the patterns of GBV. However, it also showed a peak in calls (up to 350 calls daily) each year around 25 November, corresponding to the International Day for the Elimination of GBV, covered widely by television and social medias. Distinguishing between an “actual” increase in cases as opposed to an increase in reporting can be complex, in particular for short-term analyses, as was the case in COVID-19. This challenge calls for setting up effective co-ordination mechanisms among governmental and non-governmental stakeholders to ensure information-sharing is complete and timely (UNECE, 2021[40]).

  • Strategy: Addressing GBV should remain a high priority for governments, particularly given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic upon GBV and gender equality. This should be translated into sufficient executive-level commitment and cross-governmental buy-in. GBV policies should also be linked to broader, long-term governmental gender initiatives to mitigate vulnerability during governmental changeovers.

  • Whole-of-government approaches: Countries should adopt a whole-of-government approach by adopting holistic laws and policies and sufficient funding, and create efficient co-ordination mechanisms to assist in their implementation.

  • Disaggregated and intersectional data collection: Up-to-date, gender-disaggregated and intersectional data should be gathered in order to create gender-sensitive policy choices and processes, to monitor gender equality advances and to hold public sector institutions and executives accountable. Data on GBV should be disaggregated by forms of GBV, and should also include information on perpetrators.

  • Data collection methods: Disaggregated data on GBV should be gathered not only from secondary research and surveys, but also from victims/survivors and the service providers who interact with them, such as healthcare professionals and other social service providers, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and police.

  • Raising awareness and reducing stigma: Countries should take necessary actions to encourage people to report GBV, including providing safe and confidential reporting mechanisms; reducing fear of retaliation or further violence; training service providers; involving local actors such as community leaders and organisations, providing information about reporting options; and advocating for better services for survivors; as well as addressing legal and policy barriers.

  • Increasing reporting: Countries should aim to develop initiatives that reduce the stigma around GBV and other factors that lead to nonreporting. They should aim to capture unreported instances of GBV and construct surveys to ensure that victims/survivors feel safe enough to answer honestly.

  • Prevention, risk assessment and management: Prevention initiatives should be evidence- and education-based and supported by GBV screening, risk assessment and risk management tools. Countries should ensure adequate information-sharing across agencies for their effective use. Risk assessment tools should be linked to a broader risk management system, where the regular re-assessment of risks is available.

  • Monitoring and evaluation: Countries should develop and implement evaluation, measurement and accountability mechanisms in order to regularly assess and report on the efficacy of their national strategies, initiatives, public policies and programmes.

  • Crisis management: Countries should consider incorporating contingency plans and crisis management plans into the GBV framework, as well as integrating a gender lens into national emergency management strategies to ensure adequate communication and co-ordination across agencies. Data collection efforts should be maintained through multiple channels in times of crisis. Countries should take into account that victims’/survivors’ vulnerability is magnified, should ensure continued funding for responding to GBV and consider increasing funding for GBV response.


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← 1. Intersectionality refers to the multiple, intersecting identities individuals possess, which can expose them to different and often overlapping forms of exclusion or disadvantages. Intersectional analysis allows for an enhanced awareness of the significant diversity between individuals that make up any given population or group in policy making. It is increasingly recognised as a strategy for addressing gender inequalities.

← 2. Administrative data is data reported to public authorities by legal entities, including the police, courts, health institutions, shelters, pharmacies, NGOs, schools or social services.

← 3. Governments may also decide to certify tools used for GBV screening and risk assessment and management developed by non-governmental organisations, and implement their use in public services.

← 4. In September 2022, this group was replaced by the Women and Women’s Safety Ministerial Council.

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