Pillar I puts our guiding principles, particularly on intersectionality and inclusivity, into action. As the United States’ definition of gender-based violence is inclusive of diverse populations, we are committed to understanding the depth and breadth of how gender-based violence impacts different groups. While there is a substantial evidence base about women and girls’ disproportionate risk of gender-based violence, we are still building the evidence base to better understand the risks facing other marginalized communities. This pillar includes a focus on specific population groups – girls and young women; LGBTQI+ persons; and boys and men – that are often overlooked and under-researched in gender-based violence. Of course, each of these groups is itself diverse and dynamic, and we recognize that other groups also face disproportionate rates of gender-based violence as detailed in Objective 1.4. We highlight these groups because advocates from these communities are important partners in our collective work to prevent and respond to gender-based violence globally.
Women and Intimate Partner Violence: Intimate partner violence remains one of the most common forms of gender-based violence, with high percentages of women experiencing intimate partner violence at some point in their lives. In some cases, violence continues in a relationship for many years. Women who experience intimate partner violence are more likely to experience reproductive coercion, whereby their autonomous decision-making related to contraception and pregnancy is restricted. Rates of intimate partner violence increase in the wake of crises, including natural disasters, humanitarian emergencies, and conflict. The costs to individual women, their communities, and their nations is shockingly high and has long-lasting, intergenerational effects. While it is crucial to recognize the impact of gender-based violence across a variety of populations, we will also continue to commit foreign assistance and diplomacy to addressing and eliminating violence against all women, inclusive of their diverse identities and across their life course. Research on what works to prevent gender-based violence and to mitigate its harmful effects when it does occur includes involving community leaders in interventions and intergenerational dialogues about violence prevention; engaging men and boys in prevention; increasing women’s economic security; empowering girls and other marginalized groups; and addressing structural drivers, including climate change, crisis, and conflict. It is important to note that the examples discussed in Pillar I are neither mutually exclusive nor exhaustive, but rather illuminate how gender-based violence impacts members of specific populations.
Objective 1.1: Girls and Young Women
Action: Expand opportunities for all girls and young women to achieve their full potential by addressing their unique needs and risks to gender-based violence and uplifting their voices as leaders, agents of change, and advocates in their communities.
Problem: Gender equality and girls’ empowerment are not achievable without addressing the unique forms of gender-based violence that girls, including adolescent girls and young women, around the world disproportionately face, including sexual violence; sexual exploitation and abuse; intimate partner violence, including dating violence; female genital mutilation/cutting; child, early, and forced marriage; reproductive coercion; gender-related killing of women and girls; human trafficking; stalking; and technology-facilitated gender-based violence. These forms of gender-based violence, as well as witnessing gender-based violence in the household or community as children, have lifelong health, education, and economic consequences and can fuel an intergenerational cycle of violence. Global health, economic, and climate crises, among other emergencies, disproportionately put girls and young women at further risk of experiencing gender-based violence. School closures, economic strain, and other consequences of these emergencies have contributed to increased reports of child sexual abuse and exploitation; female genital mutilation/cutting; child, early, and forced marriage; adolescent pregnancy;13 online harassment and abuse; and mental distress among youth globally.14 For example, an estimated 10 million additional girls are at risk of child marriage due to the COVID-19 pandemic.15
All girls and young women need targeted and effective information, respectful and age-appropriate services, opportunities to develop life skills, and safe and supportive environments to address the multitude of challenges they face. Girls and young women in conflict or humanitarian settings; who are members of historically marginalized racial and ethnic or Indigenous communities; with disabilities; who are migrants or refugees; who are impacted by child, early, or forced marriage; or who identify as LGBTQI+ must be uniquely considered and included in all policy and program design and implementation. Importantly, girls and young women are and can be leaders in their own right, though their voices are too often overlooked in decision-making about policies and programs that affect their daily lives.
Forms of Gender-Based Violence
The below forms of gender-based violence disproportionately, though not exclusively, affect girls and young women.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: All procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. Female genital mutilation/cutting is typically carried out on young girls between infancy and adolescence, and occasionally on adult women. Female genital mutilation/cutting is a human rights abuse and form of gender-based violence.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: Child or early marriage includes any formal marriage or informal union where one or both parties is under the age of 18. Forced marriage is a marriage at any age that occurs without the free and full consent of both parties, including anyone under the age of 18 who is not able to give full consent. Child, early, and forced marriage is a human rights abuse and form of gender-based violence.
Approach: We will employ a comprehensive and empowering approach that emphasizes gender-based violence prevention and addresses harmful social norms; ensures services are comprehensive, welcoming to, and inclusive of adolescents’ needs; and meaningfully engages with diverse girl- and youth-led organizations and networks. Examples of our approach include:
Policy and Diplomacy
- Elevating the voices and needs of girls and young women in multilateral forums and donor working groups, and advancing political commitments that promote the health, well-being, and human rights of all girls and young women. This includes support for advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights and age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education, and for ending female genital mutilation/cutting and child, early, and forced marriage.
- Leveraging public diplomacy opportunities, such as the International Day of the Girl, 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, and the International Day of Zero Tolerance on Female Genital Mutilation, to advance the human rights of girls and young women and to amplify their voices.
- Ensuring the integration of gender-based violence prevention and response specific to girls and young women across U.S. government policy efforts, including the U.S. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls, U.S. Government Strategy on International Basic Education, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Youth in Development Policy, and U.S. Strategy for Advancing Protection and Care for Children in Adversity.
- Continuing to fund global programming that specifically addresses child, early, and forced marriage and female genital mutilation/cutting, including through contributions to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)-United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Joint Program to End Female Genital Mutilation and to UNFPA.
- Investing in comprehensive, multi-sectoral programming that addresses the unique vulnerabilities of girls and young women, including their experiences of gender-based violence, through efforts such as the Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-Free, Mentored and Safe (DREAMS) Partnership through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
- Prioritizing the ethical and systematic collection of age- and sex-disaggregated data in our programs, including growing efforts to support data collection on online forms of violence and exploitation; supporting the Violence Against Children and Youth Surveys (VACS) and Demographic and Health Surveys; and centering the lived experiences of all girls and young women.
- Strengthening the capacity of our partners to provide adolescent-friendly and girl-friendly gender-based violence and health services that are non-judgmental, non-stigmatizing, and survivor-centered