Why does Gender-Based Violence happen and how do we end it?

Root Causes & the Importance of Equity

Violence Against Women: An Old Story

Violence Against Women and Gender-Based Violence are tied to patriarchy and gender inequality. It happens to women and feminized people from all walks of life. 

Other systemic root causes put some some groups at increased risk, including Indigenous women, racialized women, migrant women, rural women, women living with disabilities, LGBTQ2S+ persons and more.

There is no ‘quick fix’ to gender-based violence – which is why it’s been a pandemic for centuries. To truly end gender-based violence, we must zoom out and address societal power imbalances and inequities.

What are the root causes of gender-based violence?
Patriarchy and Gender Inequality
Patriarchy present-day social system wherein men hold power, and women or feminine-presenting people are subordinate and inferior. Misogyny, rape culture, unhealthy masculinity and rigid gender norms are all results of patriarchal views and attitudes.
Control by one power over a dependent area/people. Colonialism in Canada may be best understood as Indigenous peoples' forced disconnection from land, culture and community by another group. (www.criaw-icref.ca)
Systemic Racism
The ways that white superiority becomes embedded in the policies/processes of an institution, resulting in a system that advantages white people and disadvantages BIPOC, notably in employment, education, justice, and social participation. (vpfo.ubc.ca)
Homophobia and Transphobia
Fear, hatred, discomfort with, or mistrust of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender non-binary, or don’t follow traditional gender norms.
Discrimination of people with disabilities based on the belief that they are inferior.
Differential treatment based on social class or perceived social class.


Gender-based violence is a result of extreme inequities that intersect with different identities.

While all women can experience violence, it is important to understand how systemic oppressions make certain women especially at risk.

Women and girls living at the intersections of gender, race, class, ability, sexual orientation and more, experience the highest rates of violence, including Indigenous women, racialized women, migrant and refugee women, women living with disabilities, the Girl Child and more. People who identify as trans, non-binary and Two-Spirit also experience high rates of violence. Intersectionality matters.

Violence Against Indigenous Women

Explore our special segment on Violence Against Indigenous Women created with Native Women's Resource Centre Toronto and other community activists.

More examples of intersectionality and gender-based violence

Why is Violence Against Women
Still Happening?

How are we still here?

In societies across the globe, women, girls and gender diverse people continue to face violence and exploitation at pandemic rates. Marginalized and racialized women and girls experience added layers of discrimination and barriers to support.

Patriarchy, gender inequality, colonialism, systemic racism, and other root causes create environments where women, girls and gender diverse people are vulnerable to violence. Those same root causes also create cultures and societies that normalize and accept violence against women.

How do we end the violence for good?

Education that addresses the root causes of gender-based violence is the key to eradicating violence against women in Canada and beyond.

  • Education that advances equality and equity.
  • Education that challenges racism and colonialsm.
  • Education that challenges partiarchal views of women and men.
  • Education that calls upon men to be a part of the change.
  • Education that condemns the normalization of and silence around gender-based violence.
  • Education that promotes the empowerment of all people, no matter who they are, what they look like, or what their abilities are.
  • Education that starts from a young age – from birth!

And although we might not be able to ‘see’ that education working in real-time…it is right. The ripple effects will be seen for generations to come.

"Gender-based violence is a very old story of who is valued more and who is valued less. The only antidote…is education."

Marissa Kokkoros - Executive Director, Aura Freedom

More information on patriarchy and gender inequality