Laying Claim to a Name: Towards a Sociology of “Gender-Based Violence”

Denise Buiten, Kammila Naidoo

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

6 Citations (Scopus)


Terms such as “gender-based violence” are connected with a range of evolving discourses that are not merely descriptive, but interpretive and political in nature. Yet, what makes violence “gender-based” is often implicit rather than explicit. In this Debates we argue that there needs to be greater specificity about what is gendered about gender-based violence, while allowing for the continued elasticity of the concept for application across diverse contexts and forms of violence. Drawing on international scholarship and key insights from the evolving sociology of gender, we outline a framework for locating and defining the “gender” in “gender-based violence”. This framework, we suggest, makes for a clearer starting point for mapping the connections between gender and violence, by examining these connections at the three levels of identity, interaction and structure. As such, it invites a more comprehensive picture of gender-based violence, one that includes women, men, and non-binary people while still accounting for the ways gender-based violence disproportionately affects women. We argue that the rich contextually-specific scholarship being produced in South Africa and elsewhere in the global South reflects gender as operating at these three levels, and adds further layers and complexity with a genuine attention to intersectionality that is often lacking from international scholarship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-68
Number of pages8
JournalSouth African Review of Sociology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Gender-based violence
  • gender violence
  • sociology of gender
  • theorising violence
  • violence against women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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