Research across countries, with different cultural and language contexts, brings difficulties of translation of words as well as their connotations. In projects concerned with gender and violence there are many such difficulties, which need to be addressed in order to allow the sharing of research and resources. A primary concern is the varying understandings of the main terms used, such as ‘gender violence’, ‘gender-based violence’, ‘violence against women’, ‘intimate partner violence’ and ‘domestic violence’ (guizzo, 2018).

The ACTIV project partners will be using the most widely understood terms in each country, to refer to intimate partner violence suffered by women at the hand of their partner or ex-partner. We will use “domestic violence” (DV) in the French, English and Romanian translations, whilst in the Spanish translations we shall refer to “gender based violence” (GBV), which is the term used in the Spanish law, and the most commonly accepted.

The ‘Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence’ (known as the Istanbul Convention) sets out essential definitions. Here are the three most relevant, which we will refer to throughout the project. :

“violence against women” is understood as a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination against women and shall mean all acts of gender-based violence that result in, or are likely to result in, physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life;

“gender-based violence against women” shall mean violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately;

“domestic violence” shall mean all acts of physical, sexual, psychological or economic violence that occur within the family or domestic unit or between former or current spouses or partners, whether or not the perpetrator shares or has shared the same residence with the victim”.

‘Domestic violence’ is a term widely used in Europe to mean violence against women, but not in Spain, where it is seen as imprecise, as it can refer to any family member. In England, ‘domestic violence’ is historically associated with the feminist movement and implies gender-based violence in popular usage. At the same time, gender based violence “refers to harmful acts directed at an individual based on their gender. It is rooted in gender inequality, the abuse of power and harmful norms.“(UNHCR), but because it disproportionately affects women and girls, it is often used as synonym for violence against women and girls. We can see that these terms and their translations imply different theoretical frameworks because of the legal and historical connotations. Throughout the ACTIV project we will be using them with attention to the language context they are used in.

In addition, it has to be pointed out that the ACTIV project focuses on violence against people that defines themselves as women, but the partners acknowledge that there is domestic violence against men and other family members. The project limits its activities and resources to women, because of the specific needs for each group, which this project has not the resources to deal with, and hence focuses on one only.”

Further reading:

European Institute for Gender Equality, “What is gender-based violence?”

guizzo, g, Alldred, P., Foradada-Vilar, M., Chapter 18: Lost in Translation? Comparative and International Work on Gender-Related Violence, The Routledge Handbook of Gender and Violence, edited by Nancy Lombard (2018)