Learner Library

Click on what you would like to read for the text to open up below

Acid Attack is the act of throwing acid or a similarly corrosive substance onto the body of another with the goal of disfiguring, impairing, maiming, torturing, injuring or killing. When acid is thrown at people, usually at their faces, it winds up burning them and damaging skin tissue, often exposing and sometimes dissolving their bones. The long term consequences of these attacks may include blindness, as well as permanent scarring of the face and body, along with far-reaching social, psychological, and economic difficulties. Acid attacks are a form of violent assault, and are a human rights violation. Acid attacks can also have disparaging impacts on the mental and psychological health of the individuals who have faced it. They may suffer from anxiety, depression, psychological distress that may also extend to distress and discomfort about their appearance, social exclusion and tremendous amounts of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Breast ironing refers to the pounding and massaging of a pubescent girl's breasts with the use of hard or heated objects in order to either prevent the breasts from developing, or to make them disappear. In most instances, they are carried out by the mother of the girl or female relatives in her extended or immediate family under the pretext that she is trying to protect the girl from sexual harassment, rape and prevent early pregnancies lest it tarnish the family name, or, even to allow the girl to pursue education instead of being forced into early / child marriage.

Where does it take place?

The practice is generally seen taking place in Cameroon - where the generic perception is that girls whose breasts have developed or who show developing breasts are ready for sex. There are also reports that suggest that the practice has spread beyond Cameroon to its diaspora. Instances are also reported across Western and Central Africa, in countries like Benin, Chad, Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea-Conakry, Kenya, Togo and Zimbabwe, as well as in South Africa (where it has been called Breast Sweeping).

What happens?

Breasts are "ironed" using anything from wooden pestles and leaves, to bananas and coconut shells, grinding stones, ladles, spatulae and even hammers heated in coals. Breast ironing is disparaging and damaging and can cause tissue damage, pain, cysts and even breast cancer, and can affect the mental health of tthe girls themselves. Abscess formation can also result from it.

An act performed by an adult or an older person that uses a child for sexual stimulation or gratification is called child sexual abuse (CSA). It is a form of molestation and more often than not, the child may not even realize what is happening to him/her.Child sexual abuse can be perpetrated in different ways apart from the act of sexually touching/indulging with a child. This includes (and is not limited to) showing a child pornographic content or nudity, making them undress against their wishes when not required, exposing genitals in front of them or forcing them to see someone undress or using a child for pornography. The consequences of such an act of molestation on a child is multifold. The child goes into a shell and stops communicating with others properly, or may go into depression or may experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In some cases, the perpetrator of such an act of sexual abuse is a person the child knows personally. This could either mean a family member or a close family friend. In such cases, the adverse effects on the child is much worse since they may have to keep interacting with the perpetrator often. The long-term effects of CSA on a child can be highly traumatizing, especially if the child does not open up about it to safe adults and suffers in silence. In a lot of cases, the abusers blackmail the children into silence such that their identity is not revealed and continue to abuse the child for gratifying their own needs.

In conflicts within countries, and with other countries, civilians are often caught in the crossfire and one of the most damaging impacts on civilians is the threat of sexual violence. Building on the definition put forth by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, sexual violence includes rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, sexual mutilation and sexual torture. It can be sexual violence, it can be gender-based violence, it can be gender neutral and it can be sexualized violence, too. Conflict-related sexual violence is accompanied by either force or a threat to force against the victim or a third party and is done without or against the consent of the victim. Some major instances around the world of conflict-related sexual violence can be seen in the following cases:
● Between 20,000 and 50,000 women were raped during the war in Bosnia in the early 1990s
● Between 50,000 and 64,000 internally displaced women suffered sexual assault at the hands of combatants in Sierra Leone
● 500,000 women were raped during the 100 days of conflict in the Rwandan genocide
● In 2008 and 2009, the reported cases of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo totaled 15,314 and 15,297, respectively
● In the Democratic Republic of Congo approximately 1,100 rapes are being reported each month, with an average of 36 women and girls raped every day. It is believed that over 200,000 women have suffered from sexual violence in that country since armed conflict began.
● The rape and sexual violation of women and girls is pervasive in the conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan.
● Sexual violence was a characterizing feature of the 14-year long civil war in Liberia.

What does the law say?

Since conflicts fall under the domain of global politics, and a state in conflict is not always able / willing to offer its civilian population the protection it deserves and needs, we turn to International Law to address conflicts. The Geneva Conventions are of relevance to this important issue facing women. In particular, Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention explicitly prohibits “violence to life” “murder of all kinds” and “cruel treatment and torture” to be inflicted upon non-combatants during non-international armed conflicts. The Fourth Geneva Convention is also of significance because it recognizes that fact that although women are rarely part of the actual fighting, most of the affected civilians are usually women. Article 27 in particular protects women from being victims of several conflict-related sexual violence crimes during war and armed conflict. Article 147 is of also importance because it explicitly holds that Member States are obligated under international law to punish the perpetrators—persons guilty of violent acts against women. It categorizes several war crimes such as: willful killing, torture and inhumane treatment. In addition, UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (October 2000), is significant because it focuses solely on the effect of war on women, affirms the UN’s commitment to the protection of women during armed conflict and exhorts more participation of women in decision-making peacekeeping procedures; protection of women and girls and respect for their rights.
Conflict Related Sexual Violence is vehemently prohibited by international law and is viewed as a gross violation and criminal offence. Sexual and gender violence in the context of conflict used to be viewed as a “legitimate spoil of war” or as an “unavoidable” result of war. However things took a change in 1992 with the rampant of women in former Yugoslavia. Since then efforts have been made to changes people’s attitudes and end impunity for those guilty of conflict related sexual violence. The (2002) Rome Statute of the International Criminal of Court is also of relevance as it criminalizes systematic rape and any other form of sexual violence during a conflict.

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic Violence refers to any form of violence that transpires within a domestic setting, It is not necessary that it must take place within a household – the term is wide enough to encompass violence meted out within a family.

What forms can it take?

Domestic violence manifests itself in many forms. It can be psychological, social, financial, physical or sexual.
-Psychological violence can include blackmail, coercion or inducement of fear.
-Social violence can include public humiliation, isolation and confinement against one’s will.
-Physical abuse includes beating, hitting, pushing – or any physical assault or battery.
-Sexual violence can range from rape and harassment to harming sexual organs. In some communities, Domestic Violence can take the form of honour killings, dowry harassment and even acid attacks.

What Laws govern Domestic Violence in International Law?

The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, or the CEDAW, deals with Domestic Violence.
-Article 2 speaks of comprehensive state obligation to eliminate
discrimination against women.
- Article 5 speaks of the elimination of prejudices and practices, based on the stereotyped roles of women and men.
- Article 16 elaborates on the elimination of discrimination against women in marriage and family relations: equality of women and men, same rights and responsibilities.

What is FGM?

According to the WHO, female genital mutilation includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It is important to the note that this process has no health or medical benefits. Procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, infertility as well as complications in childbirth increased risk of newborn deaths. Female genital mutilation is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. The practice violates a person's rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.

The practice is carried out in four different ways:

Clitoridectomy: partial or total removal of the clitoris (a small, sensitive and erectile part of the female genitals) and, in very rare cases, only the prepuce (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris).
Excision: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (the labia are "the lips" that surround the vagina).
Infibulation: narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the inner, or outer, labia, with or without removal of the clitoris.
Other: all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area.

What are foeticide and infanticide?

Foeticide is an act that causes the death of a foetus. Infanticide is the intentional killing of infants.

Why does it take place?

In many parts of the world, the birth of a girl child is seen as something unfortunate, unwanted and even as a "dishonour." Families that subscribe to such beliefs tend to prefer a male child over a female child, and therefore, kill or cause the death of the female child. Female foeticide is a form of sex-selective abortion, where the pregnancy is terminated depending on the sex of the foetus. In many communities, following the determination of the sex of the baby as female, the pregnancy is either voluntarily or forcibly terminated through an abortion procedure. As a result, many countries banned the process of sex-determination of the foetus. Female infanticide occurs where the baby, upon its birth and the discovery of its birth sex as female, is killed, or exposed to factors that lead to its death. On the one hand, cultural beliefs and social attitudes informing gender are said to be a reason for these crimes. On the other hand, issues such as poverty, the dowry system, health and deformities, lack of resources and support and maternal illnesses such as postpartum depression are also said to be considered causes for their occurrence.

What is an Honour Killing?

An honour killing is the homicide of a member of a family or social group by other members, due to the belief of the perpetrators that the victim has brought dishonor or shame upon the family or community. It is effectively considered to be "shame killing."
Most countries look at it as a homicide from a legal point of view. The crime comprises the homicide of a family member because they have brought "shame" or "dishonour" to the family by their conduct, or has violated certain principles of their community or religion, such as refusing to enter an arranged marriage, or being in a disapproved / forbidden relationship, or having sex outside marriage, or being a victim of rape, or even dressing in ways which are deemed inappropriate, and in some instances, even engaging in non-heterosexual relations or renouncing a faith.
Generally, honour killings are collectivein the way they are carried out. Members of the nuclear or extended family act together, in planning and executing the act. In some instances, this is done through a "family council." Most honour killings are connected to the behaviour of the individual - and often centres around sexuality, marriage or refusal to marry. The key factor is that the conduct of the individual is seen as a shame / dishonour / insult to the honour of the family, and the stigma associated with losing the honour - this is especially so in communities that are tight knit, or place a premium on honour. As a result, the perpetrators themselves do not face any stigma for what they do - because their behaviour is perceived as justified, and even given respect as it is seen as standing up for honour.

Marital rape, is non-consensual sex in which the perpetrator is the victim’s spouse. It is a form of partner rape, of domestic violence, and of sexual abuse.

Marriage is not synonymous with consent

Marriage is a social contract, a formal union between two individuals. Across cultures, it is not uncommon to associate marriage with legitimate sexual rights. In other words, being married people assume, it gives legitimacy to sexual relations within the marriage. However, marriage is not synonymous with consent. A woman/man (every individual) has absolute right over her/his body even after marriage. It is important to recognise this right and understand that an individual even after marriage has every right to say No and for that right to be expected.

Rape is a type of sexual assault that usually involves sexual intercourse, forced upon an individual without their consent. It may be carried out through physical force, threat, coercion, or with someone who is a minors, drugged, incapacitated or unconscious individuals. Many a times people suffer from post traumatic stress disorder after being raped. Different types of rape include date rape, gang rape, marital rape, incestuous rape, child sexual abuse, prison rape, acquaintance rape, war rape and statutory rape. Here, the word consent becomes important because it becomes rape only when the other person does not want it or does not give consent for the sexual intercourse to happen.

What is consent?

To put it simply, consent is when you agree to do something or give someone permission to do something (that affects you personally). In other words, consent is nothing but saying “Yes, you’re allowed to do that” or “Yes, I want you to do that”.

What is Sexual Consent?

Sexual consent refers to the consent of a person in the context of sexual activity. One is said to consent to sexual activity when one agrees freely and fully to sexual activity.
Consent can be explained through the acronym FRIES:
Full and free

Consent is NOT:

Dressing sexy
Accepting a ride
Accepting a drink
Smiling or laughing
Marriage or being in a relationship with someone

Consent is NOT:

Saying nothing
Saying something incoherent
Saying maybe / not sure
Acceptable if given under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Saying yes or giving into something because one is coerced, pressured or forced
Saying yes when one is afraid to say no

Obtaining Consent:

The person initiating sexual activity should seek consent of the other. Ask yourself if the other person is capable of giving consent. If they are drunk, or on drugs, asleep or unconscious, they cannot choose freely. So, they are not giving you consent. People who live with certain mental health issues, learning disabilities or head injuries may not have the capacity to consent. Do not assume that their consent is full and free. Confirm if you have consent by asking them. Never assume. Even in case of marriage or a marital relationship between two individuals, it is imperative that consent be obtained and not assume that their consent is full and free solely on the basis of being married.

NO means NO.

You can say NO.

You have a right to say NO.

You have a right for that NO to be respected.

What are Sexual Assault and Sexual Violence?

Sexual violence refers to any sexual acts and attempts of sexual acts, unwanted sexual comments or advances against a person’s sexuality using coercion. Sexual assault is conduct that creates an apprehension in the victim’s mind, that she is about to be attacked sexually.

What forms can it take?

There are multiple forms of sexual violence. They include rape – irrespective of whether by strangers, partners, or on large scales like in armed conflict; unwanted sexual advances, sexual harassment, demanding sexual favours in return for other favours; sexual abuse of any kind; forced marriage; denying the right to use contraception or measures to protect against sexually transmitted diseases; forced abortions; genital mutilation; acts against sexual integrity; forced virginity tests and prostitution and trafficking for sexual exploitation.

What is Street Harassment?

Street harassment is any action or comment between strangers in public places that is disrespectful, unwelcome, threatening and/or harassing and is motivated by gender or sexual orientation. In countries like India and Bangladesh, it’s termed “eve teasing,” and in countries like Egypt, it’s called “public sexual harassment.” Sexual harassment is bullying or coercion of a sexual nature, or the unwelcome or inappropriate promise of rewards in exchange for sexual favors. Street harassment is a human rights issue because it limits women’s ability to be in public often or as comfortably as men.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and aromantic, asexual and agender people can and do face violence that is motivated by hateful attitudes towards their sexuality or gender identity. It may be violence by individuals or groups who engage in hate-based crimes against them for their identity or sexual orientation. They may also face the challenge of laws that criminalize and punish them for their identity or sexual orientation, and hence cannot find much legal support to address this violence.
Violence against individuals due to their sexual orientation or perceived sexuality can be physical violence (sexual violence, gender-based violence or sexualized violence) or psychological violence. These actions may be motivated by homophobia, or by cultural notions, religious ideologies, political biases and even social biases. Social, cultural and religious motivations to target people with violence due to their perceived sexual orientation stems from notions of associating sexual orientations that are not heterosexuality with weakness, illness or immorality.

What is Workplace Sexual Harassment?

Workplace Sexual harassment implies sexual advances, intimidation, bullying, coercion or inappropriate behaviour of a sexual nature, and unwelcome or inappropriate promise of rewards in exchange for sexual favours.

What forms can it take?

Workplace Sexual Harassment can manifest itself in the form of verbal or physical harassment. “Workplace” implies both, a place of work, and extends to include a work relationship. There are two kinds: quid pro quo, which is a demand for sexual favours in return for a reward, and hostile environment, which refers to plain sexual harassment.
Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that tends to create a hostile or offensive work environment. Sexual harassment at work often creates an intimidating and hostile environment and interferes with an employee’s work performance. When submission to sexual advances of any kind, explicitly or implicitly come to dictate an employee’s working terms and employment in itself, it amounts to sexual harassment. This is also known as Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment. When rejection to any sexual advances on an employee’s part results in termination of his employment or result in a biased employment decisions such as promotion, termination and such, it amounts to sexual harassment. This also results into Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment.
Sexual harassment includes: • Actual or attempted rape or sexual assault.
• Unwanted pressure for sexual favors.
• Unwanted deliberate touching, leaning over, cornering, or pinching.
• Unwanted sexual looks or gestures.
• Unwanted letters, telephone calls, or materials of a sexual nature.
• Unwanted pressure for dates.
• Unwanted sexual teasing, jokes, remarks, or questions.
• Referring to an adult as a girl, hunk, doll, babe, or honey.
• Whistling at someone.
• Cat calls.
• Sexual comments.
• Turning work discussions to sexual topics.
• Sexual innuendos or stories.
• Asking about sexual fantasies, preferences, or history.
• Personal questions about social or sexual life.
• Sexual comments about a person's clothing, anatomy, or looks.
• Kissing sounds, howling, and smacking lips.
• Telling lies or spreading rumors about a person's personal sex life.
• Neck massage.
• Touching an employee's clothing, hair, or body.
• Giving personal gifts.
• Hanging around a person.
• Hugging, kissing, patting, or stroking.
• Touching or rubbing oneself sexually around another person.
• Standing close or brushing up against a person.
• Looking a person up and down (elevator eyes).
• Staring at someone.
• Sexually suggestive signals.
• Facial expressions, winking, throwing kisses, or licking lips.
• Making sexual gestures with hands or through body movements.
• Stalking (repeatedly keeping a watch on or following someone).

When it comes to any labels in life, it always ultimately boils down to what a person is comfortable identifying with, and what labels they want to have used in connection with them. It is a good idea to use terms only when you are comfortable explaining what it means, and know enough about it to do so.
Abrosexual: A person who fluctuates between sexualities
Agender: a person with or very little connection to the traditional gender systems, or with no alignment with the concepts of gender, or seeing themselves as existing without gender.
Akoirosexual (or lithrosexual or aprosexual): A term used to denote sexual attraction which fades or disappears once it is reciprocated.
Akoisexual: A person who experiences attraction but doesn't wish for it to be reciprocated / acted on
Ally: A cisgender person supporting LGBTQIA rights
Androgyny: a gender expression that has elements of both, masculine and feminine.
Androsexual: A person being primarily sexually, romantically or emotionally attracted to some men, or to those who identify as male, or, to masculinity. Androsexual: A term used to denote sexual attraction to males.
Antisexual: A term used to denote an asexual that is not interested in sex or feels no sexual attraction at all, or has no desire to be in any type of sexual relationship whatsoever.
Aromantic / Aro: A person who experiences little or no romantic attraction to others and / or has a lack of interest in romantic relationships and romantic behavior.
Asexual / Ace: A person who experiences little or no sexual attraction to others and / or has a lack of interest in sexual relationships and sexual behavior.
Bicurious: A person with curiosity about attraction towards people of the same gender or sex. It can be considered similar to gender questioning.
Bigender: A person who fluctuates from traditional women / man gender behavior and identities, and generally identifies with both genders.
Biological sex: Refers to the medical term that details chromosomal, hormonal and anatomical characteristics that are used to classify a person as male or female. It is often seen as binary, but it is not – because there are multiple combinations of primary and secondary sex characteristics.
Bisexual: A person who is emotionally and/or physically and/or sexually attracted to two sexes or two genders – their own, and another.
Butch: A person who identifies as masculine – physically, mentally or emotionally. It is used sometimes in a derogatory way for lesbians, but has been claimed in places as an affirmative identity.
Ceterosexual: A person who is emotionally and/or physically and/or sexually attracted only to the non-binary
Cisgender: A person whose gender identity and biological sex that has been assigned at birth are in alignment with one another.
Cisnormativity: An assumption that cisgender is the norm or that cisgender is being superior to other gender identities. It tends to make other genders invisible.
Cissexism: Behaviour that is partial or biased in favour of cisgender people, asserting heteronormativity or that being cisgender is being right or normal as opposed to any other gender identity. It tends to make other genders invisible.
Closeted: An individual that is not open to others or to themselves about their gender identities. It could be for a variety of reasons ranging from fear and social pressure to personal choice. It is also known as “being in the closet.”
Coming Out: A process where a person accepts their own gender identity or sexuality.
Constellation: An adjective that serves to describe the arrangement of a poly-amorous relationship.
Cross-dresser: A person who wears the clothes that are considered “specific” to another gender or sex.
Cupiosexual: A person who experiences a lack of attraction, but desires a relationship
Demiromantic: A person with little to no capacity to experience romantic attractions until such time that a strong sexual or emotional connection is formed with another individual. This is often situated in a sexual relationship.
Demisexual: A person with little or no capacity to experience sexual attraction until a strong romantic or emotional connection is formed with another individual. This is often situated in a romantic relationship.
Down low: The term refers to men who identify as heterosexual, but secretly have sex with men.
Drag King: A person who theatrically performs masculinity.
Drag Queen: A person who theatrically performs femininity.
Dyke: A term that is used to refer to a masculine presenting lesbian – used derogatorily oftentimes. However, there are instances when it has been adopted affirmatively by lesbians as a positive term of self-identification.
Emotional Attraction: Refers to the capacity of desire or want to engage in intimate romantic behavior.
Faggot: A derogatory term that is used to refer to someone who is gay or is perceived as queer.
Feminine-of-Center: A word to indicate a range of gender identities and presentations for a person who presents, understands themselves with or relates to others with a feminine way, but doesn’t necessarily identify as a woman. They may also identify as femme, submissive or trans feminine.
Feminine-presenting: A term that describes a person who expresses their gender in a feminine way.
Femme: A person who identifies themselves as feminine. This could be emotionally, mentally or physically. The term is used to refer to a feminine-presenting queer woman.
Fluid: An identity that is dynamic, that can change over time or can be a mix of options that are available. The term is often used with gender (as in gender fluidity) and sexuality (as in fluid sexuality).
Fraysexual: A person who experiences a fading of attraction after meeting someone
FtM or F2M: An abbreviation of a term used to refer to a female-to-male transgender or transsexual person.
Gay: A term used to refer to the sexual orientation of people who are primarily, emotionally and / or sexually attracted to people of the same sex and / or gender. It is often used in reference to men who are attracted to other men, but can also be applied to women. The term has also been used as an umbrella term to refer to the queer community at large, or can be ascribed as an individual identity label for anyone who does not identify as heterosexual.
Gender Binary: A term that is used to refer to a notion or idea that there are only two genders, and that people are one or the other.
Gender Expression: A term that is used to denote the external display of a person’s gender. This is usually done through a combination of dressing, demeanour, behavior among other things. The gender expression indicator is a spectrum that is measured on scales of masculinity and femininity. It can also be called gender presentation.
Gender Fluid: A term used to denote a gender identity that is best described as a dynamic mix of masculine and feminine gender identities. Usually, a person who is gender fluid may always feel like there is a mix of the two traditional genders, but, may also, likely, feel more like one gender identity on some days, and more like the other on some days.
Gender Identity: Gender identity refers to the internal perception of one’s gender, and to how an individual labels themselves depending on how much they align or don’t align with what they understand their options for gender are. Common gender identity labels include man, woman, gender queer and trans, among others. Gender identity is often confused with biological sex, or the sex that is assigned at birth.
Gender Neutrosis: It is a term used to describe how a person has very little connection to traditional gender systems, or has no alignment with concepts of gender sees themselves as existing without gender.
Gender non-conforming: This is a term that’s used to describe non-traditional gender presentations – for example, a feminine man or a masculine woman. It is also used to indicate a person who is outside the scope of the gender binary.
Gender normative: A term used to represent a person whose gender presentation (be it by nature or by choice) is in alignment with social gender-based expectations. People also use “gender straight” as a term.
Gender Queer: A term that is used to denote a person who does not identify with the gender binary. It is also used as an umbrella term to represent gender non-conforming or non-binary identities that include agender, bigender and gender fluid, among others. A person who identifies as gender queer whose identity may combine aspects of masculine and feminine (bigender), or a range of identities (pangender), or may not have a gender or not identify with a gender (genderless or agender), or may move between genders (gender fluid), or may not place a name to their gender – having an overlap of, or blurred lines in between gender identity and sexual / romantic orientations.
Gender Variant: A term used to denote a person who by nature or by choice does not conform to gender-based expectations of society.
Graysexual: A blanket term used to denote all those who fall anywhere in the spectrum between Sexual and Asexual.
Gynosexual: A term used to denote sexual attraction to females.
Gynsexual (or Gynephilic): A term that denotes being primarily sexually, romantically and/or emotionally attracted to women / females / femininity.
Hermaphrodite: A term used to refer to a person who is born with a combination of typically male and typically female sex characteristics. It was used as a medical term, and is deemed to be stigmatizing and inaccurate, and is therefore outdated.
Heteroflexible: A person who is primarily emotionally and/or physically and/or sexually attracted to other sexes, occasionally to the same sex.
Heteronormativity: A term that denotes the assumptions that everyone is heterosexual, or that heterosexuality is the “right” or the “superior” way to be. It is often manifested in the way we behave with others around us – such as asking a woman if she has a boyfriend or a man if he has a girlfriend. It leads to the assumption that only masculine men and feminine women are “right” or “normal.”
Heterosexism: A term used to denote the preferential treatment granted to heterosexual people and reinforces the idea that heterosexuality is better or superior to queerness or makes other sexualities invisible.
Heterosexual: A term that denotes a person who is primarily emotionally or physically or sexually attracted to members of the “opposite” sex – therefore, it is couched in the binary. It is also alternatively called “straight” but that term stems from heterosexism and heteronormativity.
Homoflexible: A person who is primarily emotionally and/or physically and/or sexually attracted to the same sex, occasionally to another sex
Homophobia: A term that is used as blanket reference for a range of negative attitudes – fear, anger, intolerance, resentment, erasure, discomfort and other similar things – that one may have towards members of the LGBTQI community. It is also used to describe individuals who have such attitudes towards a person who identifies as gay. Although it can be used to denote the phobia towards bisexual and transgender people, there are specific terms to refer to this bias in specific contexts, such as biphobia and transphobia. It can also be experienced inwardly by a person who identifies as queer – and this is called internalized homophobia.
Homosexual: A term that is used to denote a person who is primarily emotionally, physically and / or sexually attracted to members of the same sex or gender. The term is considered to be stigmatizing when used, since it was also used to mean a mental illness in medical history. It is generally discouraged for common use. Gay or Lesbian are preferred terms.
Idemsexual: A term used to denote the phenomenon of experiencing sexual and platonic feelings in the same way.
Idiosexual: A term used to denote the phenomenon of experiencing sexual and romantic feelings in the same way.
Intersex: A term used to denote a combination of chromosomes, gonads, hormones, internal sex organs and genitals that are different from the biologically expected patterns of male and female. It used to be called hermaphrodite or hermaphroditic, but both terms are outmoded and are not used anymore – any use of them is considered derogatory.
Lesbian: A term used to denote women who have the capacity to be attracted romantically, emotionally or physically to other women.
LGBTQIA / GSM / DSG: These are umbrella abbreviations used to denote people who have a non-conformative or queer gender or sexuality, and there are plenty of initial versions of these that people use. LGBTQIA refers to Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender / Transsexual Questioning / Queer Asexual / Aromantic / Agender. GSM refers to gender and sexual minorities. DSG is Diverse Sexualities and Genders. Some of the other initials that are used include GLBT or LGBT, or even QUILTBAG (as a reassemblage of the terms).
Lipstick Lesbian: A term used to denote a woman who identifies as a lesbian and has a feminine gender expression. It can be used both, in a positive and in a derogatory manner – and is often used to refer to a lesbian who is either assumed as being heterosexual or is passed off thus.
Masculine-of-Center: A word to indicate a range of gender identities and presentations for a person who presents, understands themselves with or relates to others with a masculine way, but doesn’t necessarily identify as a man. They may also identify as butch, stud, aggressive, boi or trans masculine.
Masculine-presenting: A term that describes a person who expresses their gender in a masculine way.
Metrosexual: A term used to denote a man who has a strong aesthetic sense and spends a lot of time, energy, money and effort on his appearance. That he chooses to groom more than his “gender warrants it” is considered the basis for the classification.
MSM: A term used to refer to men who have sex with men. The term is used to differentiate sexual behaviours from sexual identities – i.e., a man who is heterosexual may have sex with men, too.
MtF or M2F: An abbreviation of a term used to refer to a male-to-female transgender or transsexual person.
Mx or Mix or Schwa: A honorific term that is gender neutral. It is an option used for those who identify beyond the gender binary.
Neurosexual: A term used to denote sexual attraction to those who lack gender.
Outing: A term used to denote an involuntary disclosure of a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.
Pansexual: A term used to denote a person who experiences sexual, romantic, emotional, psychological, physical and or spiritual attraction for members of all gender identities or expressions. It is also often shortened to “pan.”
Passing: A term used to denote people being accepted as or being passed for a member of their self-identified gender identity – regardless of what their sex assigned at birth is, without being identified as trans*. It can also be used to denote a LGBQA person being identified or being assumed to be heterosexual. As a term, passing is rather controversial. There is a greater emphasis and focus on people who observe or interact with the person who is passing – and therefore puts the agency in the hands of the observer than in the hands of the individual concerned. Some people want to pass, some don’t – and so it is important to identify with what they want to make of it – because passing is not always a positive experience. Some individuals experience a sense of erasure owing to being invisible within their own communities when they are perceived as being a part of the dominant group.
PGPs: An abbreviation that stands for Preferred Gender Pronouns, used to refer to an individual’s personal preference with respect to the gender pronouns they want to have used for them.
Polyamory / Polyamorous; A term used to denote the practice or the desire to or the orientation towards having ethical, honest and consensual non-monogamous relationships – or relationships with multiple partners. They could be open relationships and polyfidelity (more than two people being romantically or sexually involved but not open to new partners).
Polysexual: A person who is emotionally and/or physically and/or sexually attracted to multiple sexes and genders (not all)
Polysexual: A term used to denote sexual attraction to person of more than two genders but not all genders.
QPOC / QTPOC: An abbreviation that is used to denote queer people of colour or queer and trans people of colour.
Queer: An umbrella term that is used to describe individuals who do not identify as heterosexual. It can also be used to refer to people who have non-normative gender identities, or even as a political affiliation. Historically, the term has been used derogatorily, and has therefore not been embraced entirely by all members of the LGBTQIA community.
Questioning: A term that is used to denote a person who is unsure about their sexual orientation or gender identity, or is exploring their own sexual orientation or gender identity.
Quoirosexual (or Wtfsexual or Platonisexual): A term used to denote being unable to distinguish the difference between sexual and platonic feelings, or cannot define sexual attraction, therefore do not know whether or not they have experienced it.
Reciprosexual: A term used to denote sexual attraction only after the other person is sexually attracted.
Requiesexual: A term used to denote having little to no sexual attraction because of some mental or emotional exhaustion, likely due to bad experiences of sexual interaction/sex in the past.
Romantic Attraction: a term that is used to denote a capacity to engage in romantic and/or intimate behavior. It can be experienced in varying degrees and is highly personal / subjective. It is often experienced in different degrees, and is often conflated with sexual / emotional / psychological / physical / spiritual attraction.
Romantisexual: A term used to denote being unable to distinguish the difference between sexual and romantic feelings, and therefore do not know whether or not they have experienced it.
Same Gender Loving: A term that is used to denote a non-heterosexual sexual orientation by some members of the African-American or people of colour without relying on the regular terms and symbols that are associated with European or Western descent.
Sex Assigned at Birth: A term used to denote a person’s sex as assigned at birth. It is also called Designated Sex at Birth, or even Sex Coercively Assigned at Birth. Specifically, people also say “assigned female or male at birth.”
Sex Reassignment Surgery: A term used by some medical professionals to refer to a group of surgical options that can alter a person’s biological sex. The term gender confirmation surgery is also used as a more affirming term. Sometimes, individuals may have to go through multiple surgical procedures to attain legal recognition of their gender variances. Some also segregate their surgical procedures into categories such as top surgery and bottom surgery, to suggest the type of surgery they are going in for.
Sexual Attraction: A term used to denote the capacity to engage in intimate physical behavior. It is often conflated with romantic / emotional / physical / psychological attraction and is experienced in varying degrees.
Sexual Orientation: A term that is used to denote the type of sexual, romantic, emotional or spiritual attraction that one has, as their capacity to feel for others. It is generally labeled as the gender relationship between the person and the people they are attracted to. It is also often confused with sexual preferences
Sexual Preference: A term that is used to denote the types of sexual intercourse, stimulation and gratification that a person likes to receive and / or participate / engage in. The term is often used mistakenly to denote sexual orientation – therefore making a mistaken assumption that an individual gets to “choose” who they are attracted to.
Skoliosexual: A term used to denote being primarily sexually, romantically or emotionally attracted to gender queer, transgender, transsexual and / or non-binary people.
Spiritual Attraction: A term that denotes the capacity of wanting to engage in intimate behavior based on one’s experience with, or interpretation of, or belief in the supernatural. It is also often conflated with sexual attraction / romantic attraction / emotional attraction.
Stealth: A term used to denote a trans person who is not “out” as trans, and is perceived by others as cisgender.
Stud: A term used to indicate a Black / African-American and/or Latina masculine lesbian / queer woman. The terms butch and aggressive are also used.
Third Gender: A term used to denote a person who does not identify with either man or woman, but identifies with another gender. The term is highly subjective in that it is used in communities that generally recognizes that there are more than three genders.
Top surgery: A term used to denote surgical procedures used to construct male chests or to construct breasts for a female chest.
Trans man: A term used to denote a person who has adopted a female-to-male transition.
Trans woman: A term used to denote a person who has adopted a male-to-female transition.
Trans*: A term used to denote a range of identities that transgress “socially defined” gender norms. The use of the asterisk is to suggest (in writing) that there is a reference being made to the larger group of the term, including all of the non-binary identities within the fold.
Transgender: A term used to denote a person who lives as and identifies as a member of another gender aside of that which has been assigned at birth based on the assigned / anatomical sex. A transgender person can have any sexual orientation – heterosexual, gay, bisexual, queer, or any other sexual orientation.
Transition: A term used to refer to the process that a trans* person undergoes while changing their bodily appearances in order to either be more in line with their gender / sex that they feel they are, and / or to be in harmony with their preferred gender expression.
Transphobia: A term used to denote the fear of, or discrimination against, or hatred for the trans* people or trans* community, or for gender ambiguity.
Transsexual: A term used to denote a person who identifies psychologically, as being of a gender or sex that is aside of the one they were assigned at birth. They often want to transform their bodies hormonally and surgically to match their inner sense of gender or sex.
Transvestite: A term used to denote a person who dresses as the binary opposite gender expression – for anything that ranges from relaxation and fun to sexual gratification.
Two-spirit: A term that is used to denote individuals who have qualities or fulfill roles of both genders. The term was traditionally used by Native American people.
WSW: A term used to refer to women who have sex with women. The term is used to differentiate sexual behaviours from sexual identities – i.e., a woman who is heterosexual may have sex with women, too.
Ze / Zir / Zee & Zerr / Zeer: Terms that are alternate and gender neutral pronouns, and are preferred by some trans* people. The terms are intended to replace he, she, his and hers. Some people prefer to use they / their as a gender neutral single pronoun.

In explaining and understanding violence against individuals, there are three types when gender and sex are involved: sexual violence, gender-based violence and sexualized violence. Although the three terms are used interchangeably, they are not the same.

Sexual violence

Sexual violence refers to any sexual act or any attempt to obtain a sexual act by coercion, or outright violence. Essentially the violence in itself is sexual in nature — rape, molestation, sexual harassment, sexual abuse, sexual assault and the like. It violates the bodily and psychological integrity of an individual by using acts or verbiage that is centred around a sexual identity. For instance, forced sexual intercourse is rape — where the act is in itself a sexual act, but obtained without consent, or with violence or with coercion. Sexual violence is not confined to any particular sex assignment or gender identity, or sexual orientation. In a nutshell, sexual violence is violence carried out through a sexual means or violence using sex as an act.

Gender-based violence

Gender-based violence is violence of any sort that is carried out with gender as the basis of discrimination. The reference to the term “gender-based” is used because it refers to the expression of power inequalities among gender identities. Oftentimes, because of the perception of gender as a binary, gender-based violence is interpreted as a case of violence against women — but, the truth is that it encompasses violence by any gender against any gender — with gender itself being the basis of discrimination. For instance, transphobia and violence against a person who identifies as a trans man or trans woman is a case of gender-based violence. However, because of heteronormativity (heterosexuality is seen as the norm) and the alignment of gender and sexual orientation identities with what is socially and culturally “acceptable” as an expectation of each sex and gender identity, sexual orientation is understood as a function of gender — and therefore, gender-based violence has come to be used as an umbrella term. It refers to an overarching term that refers to violence carried out targeting sexuality. It can be carried out through sexual means or by any other means, but targeting sexuality, or your sexual being. It includes sexual assault, and targets anyone whose sexual identity does not conform to heteronormative standards or binary standards.

Sexualized violence:

Sexualized violence refers to violence emanating from violence of a non-sexual nature, but used in a sexual context or in expression of power-based inequalities between sex and gender identities. It could manifest in the form of using sexuality for the display of power and violence — and this manifests on all levels — in private exchanges in the form of sexism to violent behaviour to structural power and structural violence. An example of the former is violence such as beating or punching — i.e., a non-sexual form of violence used in a sexualized fashion against another gender or sex or sexual orientation identity.

There are several mistaken ideas people have about gender-based, sexual and sexualized violence and people who have faced them. These mistaken ideas can be an impediment in supporting the survivors, in that these misconceptions form the basis for stigma, hurtful treatment and exclusion. A survivor has been through a trauma and deserves support, not harassment, victimization, isolation or the ascription of a trauma.
While Saahas attempts, through all its libraries, address multiple dimensions of gender-based, sexual and sexualized violence, we also recognize that there are some pervasive myths and misconceptions that we hope to answer below.

Myth #1: Only girls are vulnerable to gender-based, sexual and sexualized violence

Reality: All gender, sex and sexual orientation identities are vulnerable to GBV, sexual and sexualized violence. Gender may form the basis for violence, sexual violence may target particular sexual identities and sexualized violence can affect people of all gender identities. Sexual assault harms all gender and sex identities in ways that are similar and different all at once, but all are equally harmful. Evidence suggests that certain characteristics such as sexual orientation, disability, status, ethnicity, and some contextual factors, such as humanitarian crises, including conflict and post-conflict situations, that may increase one’s vulnerability to gender-based, sexual and sexualized violence

Myth #2: If the target were sexually aroused during the act, it is not assault.

Reality: Regardless of whether the target was sexually aroused during the assault or not, if the sexual conduct / advance was unwanted and did not respect the consent of the target, it is assault.

Myth #3: Only people of a particular sexual orientation commit sexual assault

Reality: Sexual assault can be perpetrated by anyone. It is not a result of one’s sexual orientation, but a result of one’s use of power to take advantage of a person, or to disregard the other person’s consent.

Myth #4: If one dresses / behaves promiscuously, it can cause them to face sexual assault.

Reality: Nothing that a person dresses in is an invitation to sexual assault. A person’s dressing is an expression of that person’s fashion sense, comfort and interests. It is not an open invitation for anyone to disrespect their personal space, agency and freedom. Sexual assault is a crime of violence and control, and it arises from a person's determination to exercise power over another, to disregard their personal agency and their consent. Neither a “provocative” dress nor “promiscuous” behavior can be considered as invitations for unwanted sexual activity. Forcing a person to engage in non-consensual sexual activity is sexual assault no matter how the person dresses or behaves.

Myth #5: If a person has been sexually assaulted, it must have been their fault.

Reality: Absolutely not. Nothing that a person does or acts like is an invitation to sexual assault. If we focus on the abusive nature of sexual assault instead of shifting the blame to the person who has been assaulted, then we can see that the assault has nothing to do with the conduct or behavior of the person who has been assaulted.

Myth #6: A person who has been sexually abused becomes gay.

Reality: Sexual orientation is a function of nature, and not a function of assault or abuse. One’s sexual orientation is not shaped by a history of abuse. Although their opinions, thoughts, feelings and perhaps apprehensions around sex may be shaped by trauma caused by incidents of assault or abuse, sexual orientation is not in any way affected or shaped by assault. There is no basis for the argument that a person can “change” another person’s sexual orientation or “correct” their sexual orientation – and using unwanted sexual advances or conduct is sexual assault.

Myth #7: If a person goes to someone's room, house, or goes to a bar, they assume a risk of sexual assault. If they face something later, they cannot claim to have been sexually assaulted because they should have known better than to go to those places.

Reality: The "assumption of risk" is a wrong placement of responsibility for the offender's actions on the victim. Even if a person goes into the room / residence / personal space of another individual, it is not consent to sexual activity.

Myth #8: Consenting to some sexual activity is consent to all sexual activity

Reality: Consent to engage in some sexual activity is not blanket consent for all sexual activity. If a person is unsure, or uncomfortable about proceeding and expresses themselves to that effect, that means consent has been withdrawn. When a person says no, asks to stop, expresses physical discomfort, it must be respected and sexual activity must stop. Any and all sexual activity forced on another is sexual assault.

Myth #9: When a person says no, they’re actually saying yes because they want it.

Reality: A no is simply a no. When a person says "No" or "Stop", it means NO, it means STOP. Sexual activity forced upon another without consent is sexual assault.

Myth #10: It's not sexual assault if it happens when either are drinking or taking drugs.

Reality: Being under the influence of alcohol or drugs is not an invitation for any non-consensual sexual activity. A person under the influence of drugs or alcohol is not causing anyone to assault them. When another chooses to take advantage of the situation and sexually assaults a person who is under drugs or alcohol, they are exploiting a vulnerability. A person is cognitively impaired when they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol and is not able to consent to sexual activity. An offender who deliberately uses alcohol or intoxicants to subdue another in order to engage in non-consensual sexual activity with them is committing a violent crime.

Myth #11: It's not sexual assault if the people involved knew each other.

Reality: Most instances of sexual assault and rape are committed by a person that the victim knows. The World Health Organization states that 35 percent women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their lives, and that some national studies show that up to 70 per cent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime. Most often, a partner, a former partner, a classmate, a friend, an acquaintance, a family member or even a co-worker sexually have been known to perpetrate sexual violence. Sexual assault can be committed within any type of relationship, including in marriage, in dating relationships, or by friends, acquaintances or co-workers. Sexual assault can occur in heterosexual or same-gender relationships. It does not matter whether there is a current or past relationship between the victim and offender; unwanted sexual activity is still sexual assault and is a serious crime.

Myth #12: Sexual assault can be avoided if the person stays away from dangerous places such as dark and unlit streets, empty rooms or rundown places.

Reality: Sexual assault is not about the place, but about the person’s use of power and dominance over another. There are several instances of sexual violence having taken place within the confines of homes, schools, workplaces, public places, on board public transportation, in hospitals and other places that are crowded, well-lit and accessed by many people at the same time. It can definitely be a prudent thing to avoid places that have been known to be thriving hotbeds of sexual violence, but, merely being in a place is neither an invitation nor a reason for one to be assaulted, and avoiding a place is not a guaranteed protection from sexual assault.

Myth #13: A person who has been sexually assaulted is a victim for life.

Reality: Sexual assault is traumatic, and a person can respond to it in a variety of ways. Response to sexual assault is not to be understood with as singular, uniform or specific to only particular forms, and thus, there is no singular “right” way to respond to sexual assault. How a person responds to it is entirely their choice, and no one can ascribe a route or dictate an “appropriate” way for them to response. However, one can always help them seek all the information they need in order to make an informed decision that weighs all the available options at their disposal. Reactions and responses to sexual assault, the amount of time taken to respond and the means chosen to do so are varied. Holding assumptions about how a survivor is supposed to act, respond or react can be disparaging to the interests of the survivor, because coping is a highly personal experience.

Myth #14: All sexual assault victims will report the crime immediately to the police. If they do not report it or delay in reporting it, assault didn’t happen, or they consented.

Reality: To report or not to report a sexual assault remains the decision of the survivor themselves. A survivor of sexual assault may or may not report an incident of assault to the police – and however they choose, they have their own reasons for it. Speaking about sexual assault is not easy, and every experience of retelling what happened can be traumatic. A lot of factors can prevent a survivor from reporting – stigma, cost, fear of reprisals, fear of not being believed, fear of not having support after reporting, shame, shock, and much more. Just because a person did not report an assault or chooses not to report it at all does not mean that the assault did not happen. If a survivor does not want to report right away, it is a good idea to help them know that they can report later, within the frame of the law of limitation in each country.

Myth #15: It's only sexual assault if the person facing it puts up a fight and resists.

Reality: The law, across most nations, does not require that a person should resist in order for a charge of sexual assault to stand proved. There are many reasons why a person facing sexual assault may not fight or resist her attacker. Everything from freezing on the spot to fearing greater harm, to being caught off-guard and coping with the trauma may prevent a survivor from resisting. A person facing sexual assault should typically trust their instincts and intuition and do what they think is most likely to keep them alive. Not fighting or resisting an attack does not mean consent.

Myth #16: If a person wants to refuse a sexual advance, they must say no loud and clearly. Anything else is a yes.

Reality: Saying no is only one way to show that there is no consent. People may use different words – “let’s take this slowly” or “not now” or “stop” or “please don’t.” It is also important to take a cue from the conduct of the person themselves – are they participating fully, and engaging with pleasure, willingness and enthusiasm? If not, step back.

Myth #17: If the person doesn’t leave, it isn’t assault.

Reality: A person’s decision to stay in a relationship despite it being abusive, or a person staying put where they are while facing assault does not mean that they consent to what is being done to them. Leaving an abusive relationship involves making a complex decision that involves a lot of factors – and not-leaving is often backed by several genuine reasons. Not leaving or walking away from an incident of sexual assault is attributable to a variety of factors – such as fear, anxiety, panic, shock, physical inability to leave and even a sense of being overwhelmed and overpowered by the attacker.