Let's Talk About Intersectionality and Gender Based Violence

What is intersectionality?

Intersectionality is the idea that people experience discrimination in different ways and in varying degrees of intensity based on social categorisations (such as their race, class, gender, ability and sexuality), which are interconnected and cannot be viewed independently. The term intersectionality was coined by Kimberle Crenshaw in 1989 to highlight the unique experiences of marginalisation that African American women face.

Crenshaw observed that African American women in America were subjected to racism from a predominantly white feminist movement while also enduring sexism at the hands of male dominated anti-racist movements. She used the term intersectionality to explain how African American women experienced overlapping types of marginalisation in places such domestic violence services and anti-discrimination law. You can read more about Crenshaw’s explanation of intersectionality and violence against women of colour here.           

With such a broad definition, intersectionality can be a confusing concept to grasp. But the most important message to take away is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to understanding and preventing gender based violence. It is a concept that allows us to keep an open mind when thinking about the different ways in which people experience gender and violence. It is a concept that allows us to realise each woman experiences this issue in a different way, and may face additional barriers based on race, sexuality, age, and ability.


In Australia, Indigenous women often experience gender based violence in a different way than non-Indigenous women. Statistics show that they experience 32 times the rate of hospitalisations as a result of family related assaults than the national average. There are a multitude of factors besides gender which contribute to this staggering difference.


The systematic discrimination of indigenous people since the British first colonised Australia has left effects that are still felt today. Systematic discrimination exists when discriminatory practices are institutionalised through law, policy or workplace structures. You can read more about systematic discrimination here.


According to the United Nations, denial of a whole range of opportunities, from education to employment, has led to higher levels of poverty in Indigenous communities, which subsequently can lead to increased instances of gender based violence.

These factors can also affect how people react to gendered violence. According to the Department of Social Services, women from low socio-economic backgrounds are more likely to stay in abusive relationships, as limited income restricts their ability to move out. Furthermore, children who come from low socio-economic communities are likely to have a less robust social security system. If they come from families where gendered violence occurs, they are often left without support, and hence are more likely to be depressed, self-harm, and continue to be violent towards their children. (Australian Institute of Family Studies). In this way, the cycle of gendered violence continues in these communities. 

Often excluded from white feminist movements, an awareness of intersectionality allows the unique experience of discrimination that Indigenous women faced to be recognised.

When we talk about how to reduce gendered violence, it’s not helpful to talk about gender socialisation and drivers of violence in broad terms. Women experience gendered violence differently from one another. It is crucial to see the complete picture of intersecting types of discrimination to understand, and effectively address, the spectrum of gender based violence.

Below you can see some key facts regarding the specific issues faced by different groups related to gender based violence, as well as a personal story from one of our team members here at Chalk Circle.

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This conversation starter was produced by Chris Phung and Yan Zhuang - Chalk Circle's #ChalkAboutIt Content Creators

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