The relationship between violence and gender: an analysis of intersectionality and legislation

Thursday 29 February 2024

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Gender-based violence is a social phenomenon that affects people from all social, cultural and environmental backgrounds. In this article, we will explore its complexity by adopting an intersectional approach. Intersectionality is a theoretical and methodological approach that considers the interconnections and intersections between different forms of oppression, discrimination and privilege.

Applying intersectionality in any space of reflection and confrontation and/or lived life experience is important because it helps to avoid reducing people’s existences to a single dimension, recognising their complexity and promoting a more inclusive and contextual view and accompaniment to understanding socio-environmental and cultural issues.

Analysing intersectionality: the intersection and sum of multiple discriminations.

Dealing with the complex picture of the phenomenon of gender-based violence in the particular context of migration means working in a context of potential multiple discriminations, where different factors of possible discrimination intersect and often add up to each other.

At the very least, the elements of nationality and gender (as well as religion, disability, social class, etc.) intersect. The term intersectionality can be paraphrased with the broader definition of ‘intersectional multiple discrimination’, which defines it as the simultaneous interaction of discriminatory elements, where discrimination occurs precisely because of the simultaneous fusion of the two (or more) factors, so that it is no longer possible to distinguish and separate them.

Supporting people affected by gender-based violence: intersectionality as a necessary approach

It seems crucial to recognise how the claim to categorise the person into different social identities (e.g.: woman, transgender, veiled, black, deaf, etc.) oppresses them and trivialises their agency, reducing them to the role attributed to them by the intervention of the services involved.

Without considering the intersectionality of the discriminations experienced, in fact, one runs the risk of acting by assigning to the person the label of “beneficiary”, adopting each time a specific, but fragmented, focus that flattens out on the single element of vulnerability, chosen as a priority by the viewpoint of the hired professional.

A disjointed support that does not recognise the exponential risk to which some individuals may be exposed due to the convergence of several discriminating factors may be counterproductive to the support intervention itself and undermine the effectiveness of the intake, as well as ignoring the person’s own resources and needs.

For example, being a migrant woman belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community can mean experiencing a complexity of challenges related to one’s gender identity, sexual orientation and migration status.

Women belonging to the LGBTQIA+ migrant community often face multiple discriminations due to misogyny, homophobia and xenophobia. This complex web of discrimination can make them more susceptible to situations of gender-based violence. Lack of awareness and understanding of these specific dynamics can hinder prevention and an adequate and timely response to abusive situations.

Addressing gender-based violence requires a sound legislative framework. Unfortunately, in the current legal and social welfare framework there is no comprehensive view of the phenomenon. Sometimes paradoxical situations are created, such as the fact that much of the law that applies to residence permits for foreign women is closely linked to a relationship (permit for family reasons) or to socio-economic stability requirements.

Often, existing legislation does not fully take into account the different facets of intersectionality, creating sometimes paradoxical situations. The lack of specificity in legislation can result in an underestimation of the seriousness of experiences and a lack of targeted responses.

Still too common are the practices of responding to the reporting of violence that generate re-victimisation, and/or do not include situations of active/subjected violence that due to their complexity, given the intersectionality of the phenomenon, cannot be defined in the criminal case law provided.  

Therefore, although reports of violence, including complaints of abusive behaviour, play a crucial role in the fight against the phenomenon, the lack of professionalism sensitive to the topic and the absence of trained linguistic and cultural mediation within the support services are obvious obstacles to accessing the justice system.

The relationship between gender-based violence, intersectionality and legislation requires in-depth reflection and concrete commitment in order to achieve safe and inclusive environments for all women. Only through a comprehensive understanding of the different dimensions of gender-based violence and the implementation of policies that address the specific needs of the most vulnerable communities can we hope to end this widespread injustice.

Through the experience of “T-ESSERE PONTI”, a programme carried out within the COMMUNITY LINKAGE project, the discourse on intersectionality has become central in undertaking support pathways for the early identification, prevention and combating of gender-based violence.

In the next period, several “PONTI” workshops will be organised, in a programme of in-depth analysis and comparison addressed to professionals, with a specific focus on gender-based violence, in order to share knowledge and useful tools to understand the complexity of the phenomenon, developing together more effective strategies to support foreign women affected by gender-based violence.

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About the project

COMMUNITY LINKAGE – Improving gender-based violence service provision through the empowerment of migrant women as community-based mentors, trainers and agents of change is a project funded by DG Justice – Programme CERV (2021-2027) of the European Commission.


For further information

Read more about COMMUNITY LINKAGE.

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