Throughout this knowledge module, reference to certain provisions or sections of a piece of legislation, part of a legal judgment, or aspect of a practice does not imply that the legislation, judgment, or practice is considered in its entirety to be a good example or a promising practice.

Some of the laws cited herein may contain provisions which authorize the death penalty. In light of the United Nations General Assembly resolutions 62/14963/16865/206, and 67/176 calling for a moratorium on and ultimate abolition of capital punishment, the death penalty should not be included in sentencing provisions for crimes of violence against women and girls.

Other Provisions Related to Domestic Violence LawsResources for Developing Legislation on Domestic Violence
Sexual Harassment in Sport Tools for Drafting Sexual Harassment Laws and Policies
Immigration Provisions Resources for developing legislation on sex trafficking of women and girls
Child Protection Provisions Resources on Forced and Child Marriage
Other provisions related to dowry-related and domestic violence laws
Related Tools


Last edited: October 30, 2010

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Indicators utilized in monitoring

  • Indicators on violence against women measure the scope, incidence and prevalence of violence against women.
  • Indicators must also address the effectiveness of measures undertaken to address violence against women.”  
  • Indicators provide information about a specific issue and enable comparisons to be made over time and in different locations. For example, “the number of women (over the total number of women) who have requested an order for protection under the domestic violence law in 2009 in X country” is one indicator. This indicator might be used to draw conclusions about prevalence, public awareness of the law, or the attitude of the police.
  • Indicators on violence against women should be valid, reliable, specific, measurable, time-framed, comparable across country borders, and non-directional in their approach. 

For example, “the percentage of women (over the total number of women) who have experience rape/sexual assault during the last year” is an indicator of prevalence of sexual assault/rape. Indicators should be so clearly defined that they cannot be interpreted in more than one way.

  • Indicators should be disaggregated by age, severity of incident, relationship with perpetrator, frequency, and other relevant criteria such as disability or ethnic group. For example, the indicator in the example above should be disaggregated by severity (moderate/severe); perpetrator (intimate/other relative/other known person/stranger/state authority; and frequency (one/few/many times).  
  • Indicators must also measure the consequences of violence against women. Consequences can be measured by severity, such as frequency of attack, or seriousness of injury. 
  • Indicators should be selected after considering the availability of sources, the feasibility of attaining data, and the likelihood that the collection of data can be sustained over a period of time.  

Report of the United Nations Expert Group Meeting, Indicators to measure violence against women.

Special factors regarding indicators of violence against women

  • Indicators must reflect human rights principles and be based upon internationally accepted definitions of types of violence against women. If indicators are open to misinterpretation, results could be spurious.  See: Report of the United Nations Expert Group Meeting,  Indicators on violence against women and state response.
  • Indicators must accurately reflect patterns of violence against women by addressing the number of violence incidents, and the consequences that occurred.
  • Indicators of the number of incidents should be measured by using two time periods: over a lifetime, and over a recent period, such as within the last year.   Lifetime statistics are vital for the forms of violence against women that are likely to occur only once in a lifetime, such as FGM.
  • The same indicators should be used nationwide to describe the different types of violence against women, in order that the results may prove comparable over the state.  See: Report of the United Nations Expert Group Meeting, Indicators to measure violence against women, by the United Nations Expert Group. The Expert Group proposed an international framework for indicators on p. 19 of the report.
  • Where large-scale surveys are not feasible, states can add modules to ongoing demographic, health, or crime victim surveys, and states can strengthen the collection of administrative data.  States can require their criminal justice system to disaggregate law enforcement and crime data to enhance its usefulness in tracking violence against women.  States should develop indicators which are regionally-relevant for state statistics offices to use. For example, in states where stove burning is common, indicators must be added on this issue. See: Report of the United Nations Expert Group Meeting, Indicators to measure violence against women, p. 28-32. 

(See: Bloom, Shelah, Violence Against Women and Girls:  A Compendium of Monitoring and Evaluation Indicators; Ertürk, Yakin,The Next Step: Developing Transnational Indicators on Violence Against Women; and Researching Violence Against Women:  A Practical Guide for Researchers and Activists)

For example, the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) program MEASURE DHS began to collect information on the prevalence of domestic violence against women in the early 1990s and has developed a standard domestic violence module of questions. Although this module is typically used to obtain information from women on their experience of violence, a few countries have recently used it to obtain information on violence against men.

The DHS Domestic Violence Module collects information on the following indicators:

  •        Experience of physical violence since age 15
  •        Forced first sex
  •        Experience of sexual violence ever
  •        Violence during any pregnancy
  •        Experience of emotional, physical, or sexual violence by current (or most recent) husband
  •        Frequency of spousal violence
  •        Timing of initiation of spousal violence
  •        Violence by women against their husband
  •        Whether and from whom help was sought

Today, information on the prevalence of intimate partner and sexual violence is available in over 99 countries.


Case Study: Monitoring Violence Against Women in Latin America and the Caribbean through Comparative Analysis of Population-Based Data 

In 2012, Pan American Health Organization released a comparative analysis of data procured in national, population-based surveys—Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) and Reproductive Health Surveys (RHS)—on the prevalence and consequences of violence against women in the Latin American and Caribbean Region (LAC). The report compares 13 RHS and DHS surveys from 12 different countries through the LAC region between the years of 2003 and 2009, and combines the data in order to produce a more comprehensive representation of violence against women in the LAC region.

Conducting such a comparative analysis required a methodology which both recognized and accounted for the varying definitions and processes used to study violence against women in the LAC region. The report therefore chose only surveys that 1) conducted face-to-face interviews and 2) gathered data on violence against women, ages 15-49. Each chosen survey was then examined in its original language in order to produce a general list of indicators (e.g. the prevalence of physical violence by intimate partners) that were addressed. For each indicator, a spreadsheet was created which included verbatim questionnaire items from each survey instrument and detailed information about the logistics of the survey (e.g. number of women interviewed, number of questions asked during each interview). 

The spreadsheets were used to identify points of similarity and difference amongst the surveys, and operational definitions, denominators, and included acts were adjusted to maximize the comparability of the data. Minor survey differences are noted in the analysis for each indicator. Any major differences resulted in the researchers either excluding the data from the report or using it to create a separate indicator. Finally, limits to the comparative analysis are noted. In particular, the availability of services for women who had been physically or sexually abused and the relationship between ethnicity and violence were not comparable indicators.

General methodological issues, relevant to all indicators, were addressed in the introductory chapters. These issues included the standardization of definitions of “violence” and “partner” and the classification of time frames, marital or partnership status, and residences. Moreover, methodological sections explained how the examined surveys were fitted together for comparative purposes. The compared DHS and RHS surveys included both general questionnaires, which were designed to collect data on general demographics and reproductive health, and a violence module, which was designed to ascertain the prevalence and severity of violence against women. The violence module also included common risk factors associated with the violence. For both the general survey and violence module, RHS surveys interviewed one randomly selected woman per household. DHS surveys, on the other hand, interviewed all eligible women in a household for the general surveys. However, for the violence module, 4 DHS surveys only interviewed one randomly selected woman from each household.

Specific methodological issues for each indicator were addressed within the corresponding chapter. Each chapter therefore begins with a methodology section that details how that indicator was constructed and categorizes the types of measurements, questions, and definitions used in the compared surveys. If notable distinctions are present, the report clarifies how those distinctions were accounted for when conducting the comparative analysis.  Throughout the report, verbatim examples from surveys are used to reinforce the explanation of each indicator.

In its conclusion, the report found that the strongest and most consistent predictors of experiencing physical or sexual intimate partner violence were partner separation or divorce, a higher number of live births, and childhood exposure to domestic violence. The most common triggers of violence included alcohol or drug use, jealousy, work problems, sexual rejection, and family or financial problems. The report called for more research regarding the prevalence and risk factors associated with child abuse and sexual debut. Moreover, the report concluded that studies should develop comprehensive strategies for studying the association between types of violence and multiple generations simultaneously.


Sarah Bott, Alessandra Guedes, Mary Goodwin, Jennifer Adams Mendoza, “Violence Against Women in the Latin American and Caribbean Region: A Comparative Analysis of Population Based Data from 12 Countries,” Pan American Health Organization and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2012).


Recommended indicators for monitoring the government response to violence against women and girls

Monitors should utilize the following indicators developed by the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its causes and consequences, in 2008 to monitor the government response to violence against women and girls:

  • Ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and other human rights instruments.
  • Constitutional guarantees of women’s equality and repeal of discriminatory laws.
  • A plan of action/executive policy on violence against women with a strong evidence base and political will for its implementation, demonstrated by budgetary allocation, timelines and clear paths of responsibility.
  • An effective legal framework, statute and procedural law that provides access to justice, redress, protection and compensation.
  • Criminalization of all forms of violence against women and the prosecution of its perpetrators.
  • Increased awareness and sensitivity of professionals and officials.
  • Resource allocation to ensure provision of support and advocacy services by NGOs, including shelters, helplines, advocacy, counseling and other services.
  • Awareness-raising and prevention programmes.
  • Addressing structural inequalities in the promotion of women’s advancement
  • Collection, collation and publication of data, including evaluation of policies and basic research programmes.

From:  Indicators on violence against women and state response, page 19.

These indicators should be reflected in the methodology designed by the research team. Questions should be developed which reflect each of these areas. See: Section on sample methodology.


CASE STUDY: Identifying Indicators and Using Experts to Refine Focus of Monitoring: United States’ 2010 State-by-State Teen Dating Violence Report Cards: A National Survey of Teen Dating Violence Laws (2010). The authors of this multi-state monitoring report, the NGO Break the Cycle, worked with legal professionals to identify indicators used to monitor the access of teenagers to civil protective orders based upon their experience in working directly with teenage clients. Indicators used included:

  • Minors can be granted civil protective orders;
  • Whether or not dating relationships were included in the scope of a civil protective order;
  • Whether or not a minor can file on his or her own behalf;
  • Whether or not the parents had to be notified;
  • Whether or not same-sex couples could obtain a civil protective order;
  • Whether or not a civil protective order could be used against a minor;
  • What options were available to a minor who could not file on his or her own behalf;
  • The types of abuse that qualified for a civil protective order, including property damage and abusive use of technology, types of abuse often found in incidents of teen violence;
  • Whether or not the case would be heard in courts familiar with domestic violence law; and
  • Whether or not the civil protective order was modifiable.

The authors also worked with public health researchers from the University of Minnesota to revise the grading criteria used in previous reports to focus more closely on the aspects of civil protective orders that are most relevant to teenage victims of domestic and dating violence. For example, they reviewed state laws to determine the inclusion of the types of abuse teens are likely to experience, such as stalking, harassment, and digital abuse, and the most relevant remedies for teenage victims of violence. By involving legal professionals with direct client service expertise and experts in the public health of youth, the authors made a strong and well-directed case for legal reform in many states of the United States.

Future reports will grade states on school response to dating violence and on youth access to sensitive services such as reproductive health services. Break the Cycle, 5.