Gender based violence

Violence comes in many forms and some of them particularly affect women. On this page you can read about the different forms and their extent. The UN describes violence against women as a pandemic.

Support for victims of violence

If you are a victim of violence, you can contact Lev Uden Violence’s hotline by calling 1888. It is open 24 hours a day and they can guide you further – free of charge and anonymously – to the right help and support. If you are in acute danger, contact the police on 114.

Gender-based violence is internationally defined as violence perpetrated against a woman because of her gender, or violence that affects women disproportionately.

The forms of violence that particularly affect women are domestic violence, rape, stalking, sexual harassment, female genital mutilation, forced marriages and honor-related violence and control.

Gender-based violence is discussed both professionally and across opinions, and part of the debate is about whether the concept should be defined more broadly, so it also includes violence that does not affect women but is gender-based in a different way. It could be, for example, hate crimes against gay men or trans men, or domestic violence against men.

The definitions of violence and to whom these definitions should apply, is evidently a major discussion.

A broader understanding is currently not part of the formal understanding of gender-based violence, as seen in, for example, international agreements.

Below you can read more about some of the forms of gender-based violence that are covered by international regulations.

Istanbul Convention

The full name of the Istanbul Convention is the Council of Europe Convention of 11 May 2011 on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence. 35 countries have acceded to the convention, and Denmark is one of those countries. The Convention commits countries in terms of legislation, policies, support measures, data collection and prevention.

For example, the Convention obliges countries to have consent-based rape legislation and to criminalize psychological violence. Denmark did so in 2021 and 2019, respectively.

Domestic violence

Domestic violence is the primary form of gender-based violence and is also called “intimate partner violence”. The term covers violence where the perpetrator is a current or former partner. Domestic violence can take many forms: physical, mental, sexual, material, digital and financial violence as well as stalking. More men than women commit violence and more women than men are exposed.

Read more about the forms of violence at Lev Uden Vold.

Psychological violence is most prevalent

Psychological violence is the most common form of domestic violence. This form of violence is defined as repeated acts that degrade, humiliate, violate, manipulate, threaten or isolate. It does not matter whether the actions take place in affect or are planned. The purpose is to control or limit the way of life of the victim of violence.

In 2019, psychological violence was criminalised in Denmark with a sentence of up to three years. Section 243 of the Penal Code reads:

“A person who belongs to or is closely connected with another’s household or has previously had such an affiliation with the household, and who repeatedly over a period of time exposes the other to grossly degrading, insulting or abusive behavior suitable for unduly controlling the other, punishable for psychological violence with a fine or imprisonment for up to 3 years. ”

In 2021, Danner took stock of the first two years of criminal psychological violence and concluded that the presentation of evidence is difficult in cases of psychological violence, and that the provision places new demands on the police investigation.

In the period from April 2019 to February 2021, there were 616 reports, 277 accused, 79 charges and 11 convictions for psychological violence.


There are several studies on how widespread violence is in Denmark. The National Institute of Public Health has conducted recurring surveys and estimated in 2018 that 1.6 percent of women and 0.8 percent of men were exposed to physical domestic violence annually. Young women in particular are at risk.

The study also showed that among the women, a larger proportion were exposed to serious violence, such as suffocation, attacks with weapons and throwing into walls, furniture or staircases.

Bisexual women are more exposed to domestic violence than heterosexuals. Gay and bisexual men are more exposed to domestic violence than heterosexuals. Transgender people are more exposed to domestic violence than cisgender people.

According to the National Institute of Public Health, there has been no significant change in the estimated number of female victims of physical domestic violence from 2005 to 2017. However, the number of male victims increased during the same period. In 2005, the estimated proportion of men exposed to physical domestic violence was 0.3 per cent, while in 2017, as mentioned, it was 0.8 per cent. The increase may be due to increased awareness on male victims.

Another status is from VIVE, which is the national research and analysis center for welfare. It estimated in 2018 that 3.9 percent of women and 1.2 percent of men had been exposed to psychological domestic violence within a year.

International scope

Worldwide, 17.8 percent of 15-49-year-old women who have been in a relationship have been exposed to physical or sexual violence from a partner within the past year.

Worldwide, domestic violence is most prevalent in Oceania (excluding Australia and New Zealand), South and Central Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. In these regions, more than 20 percent have been exposed to domestic violence.

The prevalence is lowest in Europe, North America and in East and Southeast Asia. Here, less than 10 percent have been exposed. These figures are taken from the UN’s organisation for equality and women, UN Women, which has many other figures on violence against women and women’s relationships.

Help for perpetrators

The organisation Dialogue against Violence offers treatment to people who commit violence against their partner. Perpetrators of violence can also get telephone counseling from Lev Uden Vold.

The right to help depends on gender

If you are exposed to domestic violence in Denmark, you have the right to go to a crisis center or a similar housing offer. But the law is not exactly the same for men and women.

Women can enter women’s shelters under section 109 of the Service Act, while men can stay at men’s centers and hostels under section 110 of the Service Act.

There are thus two different paragraphs. In practice, the difference is, among other things, that women in shelters and their accompanying children are each entitled to 10 hours of free psychological help.

That offer exists today only as a temporary scheme for men. From 2022 to 2023, men who are exposed to violence in close relationships and who stay on section-110-shelters can get psychological help from the organisation Lev Uden Vold (Living Without Violence), and so can their accompanying children.

At the same time, women have the right to bring children to shelters. That right does not apply to men’s centers and hostels.

Another significant difference is that women’s shelters specialise in violence, while section-110-shelters is targeted a broader group with other social problems. In women’s shelters, women can thus receive help, support and counseling in relation to violence in particular. This is not necessarily the case at men’s centers and hostels.

A number of women’s shelters and other organisations also offer outpatient counseling to victims of violence and their families. This applies to Danner and Mødrehjælpen, among others.

Sexual domestic violence

Sexual domestic violence is rape and other forms of sexual violence that take place in relationships. Sexual domestic violence is under-illuminated, partly because it is particularly taboo and therefore under-reported. In addition, it often falls between the women’s shelters’ focus on continuous domestic violence and the centers for rape victims’ focus on limited cases of rape.

Read more at Danners about sexual violence in relationships.

Domestic homicide

Every fourth murder in Denmark in the period 1992-2016 was committed by the victim’s partner or ex-partner. Of these, 85 percent of those killed were women. There were an average of 12 domestic homicides during the period. The Danish researchers, Nell Rasmussen and Esther Nørregaard Nielsen, investigated domestic homicide in Denmark from 2009-11 and concluded that in most cases, psychological violence preceded the homicide.


On 1 January 2021, Denmark obtained consent-based rape legislation. This means that rape is defined as intercourse without consent.

Section 216 of the Penal Code therefore now reads:

“For rape, anyone who has intercourse with a person who has not consented to it, is punishable by imprisonment for up to 8 years.”

The new consent-based rape provision is considered a milestone because it explicitly states that sex always requires consent.

Previously, it was rape if there was some form of coercion, violence or threats, or if the victim was in a “state or situation in which the person is unable to resist the act.” That is, one would either have to resist actively or be incapable to resist, for example due to the influence of alcohol or drugs, in order for there to be rape.

The problem was that even though intercourse was not voluntary for both parties, there was no question of rape if the victim did not actively resist.

Research shows that up to 70 percent of rape victims respond by “freezing” and being unable to resist. It is considered to be a natural trauma situation. Others do not resist in fear that the situation will escalate into physical violence or murder. With the change in the law in 2020, voluntary consent must now be given before intercourse can be considered sex.

Without consent, it is rape. It is no longer the victim’s responsibility to say no. When having sex, both parties have a responsibility to ensure that the other party agrees.

Victim and perpetrator know each other

In most rape cases, the victim and the perpetrator know each other. In 38 percent of cases, the perpetrator is a current or former partner.

In less than one in three cases, the perpetrator is an unknown person. 67 percent of rapes or attempted rapes have occurred in a private home.


The National Institute of Public Health has conducted recurring investigations into the extent of rape. They estimated in 2018 that 24,000 women were raped or attempted rape. That equates to one percent of the adult female population. It was not possible to estimate the number of male victims because there were not enough men who answered positively to the question.

The Ministry of Justice estimates that 11,800 women are subjected to rape and attempted rape per year. In the annual victim surveys, men have not been asked about rape.

The difference in the estimate of the two studies may be due to the fact that the questions are asked differently. The former asks if you have experienced being forced into intercourse, and the second asks if you have been raped.

In other studies, it is estimated that about 16 percent of rape victims are men, while 84 percent of victims are women. Young women are most vulnerable. Women up to the age of 24 make up more than half of the victims.

In 2020, police received 1,825 reports of rape or attempted rape. 444 of the reviews were about abuse of children under 12 years of age.

In 2020, 587 convictions for rape and attempted rape fell. The number of judgments has increased steadily since 2016. In the years 2010-2015, the number was between 220 and 240 reviews per year. The increase does not necessarily mean that more rapes occur. It could also be an indication that increased focus on rape has led more people to report.


Stalking is defined in Danish law as systematic and persistent harassment and persecution.

Stalking can take place via, for example, telephone calls, persecution or unwanted gifts. Like other forms of violence, stalking can have serious psychological and social consequences for the victims and their relatives.

Proposals for criminalisation

A majority in the Danish Parliament wants to criminalise stalking with an independent provision in the Penal Code. Today, stalking is banned in the sense that the police can issue a restraining order for the stalker. This means that it is forbidden for the person to continue stalking, as this would be a break with the condition. The penalty is two years in prison.

However, experiences have shown that restraint is not effective enough to stop or prevent stalking. An independent provision in the penal code will make it possible to react more quickly and will send a clear signal that stalking is serious. The proposed penalty is up to three years in prison.


The Department of Justice estimates that 2.4 percent of women and 1.7 percent of men have been exposed to stalking within the past year.

The Danish Stalking Center offers counseling to people exposed to stalking and treatment for stalkers.

Have you been exposed to digital offences?

StopChikane is a free and confidential counseling service for anyone over the age of 18 who is exposed to digital offences. StopChikane has an official partnership with Save the Children’s counseling service Delete It, which deals with children and young people.


Digital violence and digital offences are used as common terms for various forms of infringing acts that are carried out via digital media. Here are some of the most common terms explained.

Sharing private photos without consent

Typically, images or videos with intimate or sexual content are shared without the consent of the person appearing on the material. The material may be made with or without the person’s consent or by the person themselves. In some cases, the material is shared with the consent of, for example, a girlfriend or as part of a flirtation. Then, of course, it is not considered offensive.

The violation occurs when the material is shared without the person’s consent. No matter how intimate content is made and whether it has been shared before, it is illegal to share it without the consent of the person portrayed.

This kind of digital violation has also been called “revenge porn”, which is misleading because the motive is not always revenge and because the content is not always pornographic.

If the person in the picture or video is over 18 years of age, the sharing can be punished according to § 264 d. ​​The penalty is up to six months’ imprisonment. In particularly aggravating circumstances, the penalty may increase up to three years’ imprisonment. This may be the case, for example, if the material is shared to a particularly large extent.

If it is content of a sexual or pornographic nature, it can be punished according to § 232 on humiliation violations. Here, the penalty is two years if the victim is over 15 years old.

In the case of pornographic content with persons under 18 years of age, it is child pornography, and the penalty is two years’ imprisonment and, in particularly aggravating circumstances, up to six years’ imprisonment.

That was the case in the widely discussed “umbrella case” where more than 300 people were convicted of sharing child pornography. Many received a conditional prison sentence.

Digital flashing

Digital flashing is to send sexual images or videos to someone who has not consented to receiving the material. This applies, for example, to so-called dickpics, which are sent unsolicited.

Digital flashing can be punished according to § 232 on decency violations. Here, the penalty is two years if the victim is over 15 years old and four years if the victim is under 15 years old.


Grooming is when an perpetrator builds a relationship with a child or young person in order to commit a sexual assault. This is often done by the abuser manipulating the child over a period of time. It can take place both online and offline.


Sextortion is another word for sexual extortion. It is a form of extortion in which the perpetrator threatens to publish or share intimate photos or videos of the victim. The perpetrator can then pressure the victim to send money or nude photos.

In recent years, there have been cases of so-called hurtcore, where the perpetrator blackmails the victims into committing humiliating acts or harming themselves.


Circumcision is performed on both girls and boys. The two forms can not be equated, because although serious side effects can occur  in boy circumcision, they are far less common than in female genital mutilation.

However, since ritual boy circumcision also takes place without informed consent and without medical justification, it can be considered an assault.

Female genital mutilation is a common term for a number of non-medical interventions in the female genitals. It is considered gender-based violence. The procedures are typically divided into four types, from removal of the foreskin around the clitoris to removal of the entire clitoris and suturing of the vaginal opening.

Female genital mutilation is most prevalent in a number of African countries: Somalia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Mali, Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea. Female genital mutilation is also prevalent in Indonesia and Malaysia.

The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) estimates that between 1,500 and 2,500 girls are at risk of being circumcised. These are girls who come from countries where female genital mutilation takes place.

Female genital mutilation is banned in Denmark and punishable by up to six years in prison. In extremely aggravating circumstances, the sentence may increase to imprisonment for up to 10 years. Two judgments have been handed down in Denmark since 2009. However, the most recent judgment from 2018 has been debated because experts have assessed that no circumcision had taken place.

Honor based violence

Honor based violence is violence in which individuals are controlled or punished with the aim of getting the person to conform to certain norms and thus protect the honor of the family. It is linked to notions that the honor of women and girls in particular is connected to the status of the family. This is particularly prevalent in Denmark in certain ethnic minority environments.

It covers i.a. negative social control, re-education journeys, forced marriages and honor killings.

Read more or seek help from the RED Center against honor-related conflicts at this link.

Human trafficking

Human trafficking is typically done for the purpose of using the victims for sexual exploitation, forced labor or crime. Human trafficking is considered by many to be a form of gender-based violence.

Human trafficking is defined in the UN Palermo Protocol:

(a) “Trafficking in persons” shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs;

Read more at the Center against Human Trafficking at this link.

KVINFO’s work on gender based violence

KVINFOs task is to make knowledge available to decision-makers and the public debate on gender based violence, the consequences and causes of violence and how to tackle the problem politically. This is done with different forms of educational initiatives.

The National Observatory of Violence

KVINFO is represented in the National Violence Observatory, which is anchored in the European Women’s Lobby Observatory and is coordinated by the Women’s Council.

The National Violence Observatory focuses on violence against women and aims to exchange experiences, gather knowledge, inform relevant organisations and ensure that the Danish government complies to its obligations.

KVINFO’s international work against gender based violence

KVINFO also works internationally to combat gender based violence. The work takes place in practical projects in Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan, where gender based violence is widespread. Several countries, for example, have no legislation prohibiting marital violence.

Part of the work focuses on shelters for women who seek safety from violent partners, while prevention plays an important role – both in practical life and in relation to legal reforms banning gender based violence.

In Egypt, special work is being done against circumcision of girls and women. Circumcision is prohibited but a legal loophole allows surgery for medical reasons. The project in Egypt is aimed at the health services, which due to the loophole is an important player in preventing circumcision of girls and women. According to Egyptian statistics, more than 90 percent of Egyptian women under the age of 50 are circumcised