Violence against women in elections is defined as:
any act of gender-based election violence that is directed primarily at women because of their aspirations to seek political office, their link to political activities (for example, working as election officials or attending campaign rallies) or simply their commitment to vote.
It can involve any use or threat of force to harm persons or property with the intention of influencing the electoral process that has a disproportionate or different impact on women because of their marginalized and vulnerable status in society.
Gender norms shape how and why women are subject to electoral violence, as well as what types of acts are pursued to curtail or influence their participation. That is, violence can be specifically motivated to uphold gender norms or traditional female roles in society, and it can also impact women in a different or disproportionately harmful way, discouraging them from being or becoming politically active during an election.
VAW-E can manifest in many forms, which fall into five key categories:
- threats and coercion,
- and economic.
While different kinds of violence can vary depending on a country's context, VAW-E is a global phenomenon, and can occur in every region of the world. It can affect women as activists, candidates, elected officials, election administrators, observers, party members or simply as voters. Their attackers may be from an opposition party or their own, from members of the government or government institutions, even from their own families or community leaders.
Ultimately, the impact of this violence is to discourage, intimidate and even prevent women from participating in elections outright, keeping them from exercising their full and equal rights to particpate in politics.