Implementing universal minimal standards to counter the challenge of gender-based violence in emergencies

How to cite this article:
Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS, Ramasamy J. Implementing universal minimal standards to counter the challenge of gender-based violence in emergencies. Ann Trop Med Public Health 2016;9:289-90


How to cite this URL:
Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS, Ramasamy J. Implementing universal minimal standards to counter the challenge of gender-based violence in emergencies. Ann Trop Med Public Health [serial online] 2016 [cited 2020 Dec 5];9:289-90. Available from:

Dear Sir,

Gender-based violence (GBV) is a life-threatening concern, which not only violates human rights but also raises serious objections on the status of Millennium Development Goal–3 of promoting gender equality in the modern society.[1] In fact, the ability of a girl or woman to exercise their human rights completely and live with the utmost freedom remains the key prerequisites for ensuring a sustainable development of the community.[2] The consequences of the GBV both in short- and long-term basis have been detrimental to the victims, family, society, and even the nation as a whole.[1],[3]

Further, the problem of GBV increases manifold during emergencies (conflicts, civil war, etc.), and even though it is prohibited under the United Nations resolutions, sexual violence is used as a weapon of war.[2] This is predominantly because of the specific challenges and the shortcomings that flare up in the health-care delivery systems/communities and social support networks, development of a sense of security among the perpetrators that they will easily escape from punishment, and exacerbation of the pre-existing gender inequalities.[2],[4]

Women and adolescent girls at times of emergencies are more often than not at tremendous potential risk of sexual violence, different forms of exploitation and abuse, forced or early marriage, denial of resources, and exposed to harmful traditional practices.[3],[5] Thus, it is the responsibility of all the humanitarian stakeholders to prevent sexual exploitation, report abuse in humanitarian settings, and at the same time ensure that humanitarian support is provided in an unbiased manner irrespective of the gender or any other sociodemographic determinants.[4]

Acknowledging the magnitude of the problem and its impact on the quality of life of the general population, a comprehensive package of the 18 minimum standards under three major subheadings for the prevention and development of an effective response to GBV, especially in emergency settings has been proposed.[2] Foundational standards (viz., participation of community, strengthening of the national system, encouraging healthy gender traditions in society, and advocating for holistic collection and use of data in an evidence-based manner) have to be integrated with all other actions.[2],[5] Further, a set of mitigation, prevention, and response standards (viz., provision of holistic health-care services, ensuring mental well-being, providing safety and security to victims, ensuring justice that is given through adequate legal support, establishment and strengthening of referral services, socioeconomic improvement, etc.) have been proposed to ensure access to reproductive health services for GBV survivors.[1],[2],[3]

In addition, coordination and operational standards consisting of preparedness and assessment, advocacy and communication, monitoring and evaluation, strengthening of human resources, and proper mobilization of the existing resources has also been recommended.[2],[3] All these standards are universal and can be easily implemented and their progress can be measured through the well-defined indicators.[2] However, the ultimate responsibility lies with the states and it is their duty to take appropriate measures to safeguard the interests of their citizens, not only in routine circumstances but also during or after emergencies.[1],[2]

To conclude, GVB is a threat to the development of the society and it is the need of the hour that all the concerned stakeholders should take appropriate measures to eliminate any incidents of GBV in emergencies.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



World Health Organization. Violence against Women — Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence against Women: Fact sheet No. 239; 2014. Available from: [Last accessed on 2015 Dec 5].
United Nations Population Fund. Minimum Standards for Prevention and Response to Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies. New York: UNFPA Press; 2015. p. 1-22.
Catford J. Health promoters should and do take the lead in preventing violence against women. Health Promot Int 2015;30:817-20.
Stark L, Ager A. A systematic review of prevalence studies of gender-based violence in complex emergencies. Trauma Violence Abuse 2011;12:127-34.
Lewis-O’Connor A, Chadwick M. Engaging the voice of patients affected by gender-based violence: Informing practice and policy. J Forensic Nurs 2015;11:240-9.

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/1755-6783.184795

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