Frameworks & Approaches
The Analysis to Action on Gender-Based Violence Project uses an intersectional, gender-based analysis lens that focuses on the lived realities of women to understand the impacts of gender-based violence. We recognize and understand that factors such as race, Indigenous identity, ethnicity, religion, gender identity or gender expression, sexual orientation, citizenship, immigration and refugee status, geographic location, social condition, age and disability influence women’s experiences. This is true in the context of gender-based violence, within the legal system, and within the criminal justice system.
We believe it is important to acknowledge that, in the Thunder Bay region, in Ontario and in Canada, women in all their diversity and transgender, queer and gender non-conforming people are overwhelmingly those who are subjected to abuse, and are disproportionately affected by patriarchal violence. We also acknowledge the diversity of women and families in this country and acknowledge the continued adverse impacts of misogyny, homophobia, transphobia and heteronormative culture.
The following are selected approaches, theoretical frameworks and lenses that are important to consider in the analyses of legal cases involving gender-based violence.
Intersectionality, first popularized in North America by Kimberly Crenshaw in 1989, is a (feminist?) framework developed to understand the complex and interacting layers of inequities caused by oppressive factors acting together on multiple facets of identity (gender, race, physical ability, ethnicity, sexual orientation, nationality and socio-economic status, among others)1. A central tenet is that intersecting oppressions create unique effects that are often more complex and impactful than a simple overlap might suggest.
The Oxford Dictionary defines intersectionality as “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.”2
An intersectional approach acknowledges that everyone has their own unique experiences of discrimination and oppression and that we must evaluate these effects from the ground up – understand the fulsome identity and lived experience of individuals in order to create inclusive policy, legislation and institutional systems.
For additional reading, please see the Feminist Intersectionality Primer from the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (CRIFAW)
- “Intersectionality: What it means, how to use it, and why to care in 2020” Toronto.com
- “Intersectionality” Oxford English Dictionary
Gender-Based Analysis Approach
Gender-Based Analysis is an analytical tool that we have used within our process that structurally integrates a gender perspective into the development of policies, programs, services and legislation. It helps to assess differential impact and to identify the complex social barriers all genders experience. A gender-based analysis makes possible research to be undertaken and services delivered with an appreciation of gender differences while promoting agency and self-determination.1,2
Gender-based analysis is not a mechanism that is added to other analysis dimensions. Rather, gender-based analysis is a perspective that considers the differences between the reality of women and men, and of groups of women and men, throughout an initiative, whether it be a policy, a program, a service or a draft consultation or negotiations.3
“Being oppressed means the absence of choices.”
– bell hooks, from Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center (1984)
Oppression is defined as “the systematic mistreatment of a people or group based on a belief in the innate superiority of one group or idea over another.”1 Anti-oppression work seeks to recognize the oppression that exists in our society and attempts to mitigate its effects and eventually equalize the power imbalance in our communities.2
Anti-oppression challenges the systemic biases that devalue and marginalize difference. It is a framework of strategies, theories and actions built on the premise that privilege and oppression exist within society, resulting in unequal access to power; this unequal access to power results in privileged groups gaining greater access to information, resources and opportunities whereas those groups that are oppressed experience the opposite.1
This framework is important because oppression operates at different levels (from individual, to institutional, to cultural) and allows for better understanding the diverse range of lived experiences of women and children. Different forms of oppression are interconnected, such as: sexism, racism, ableism, heterosexism, classism, and ageism. Sexist experiences will differ depending on women’s experiences with other forms of oppression and privilege.
Anti-Racism Framework & Practice
“In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.”
– Angela Davis: activist, researcher, professor, author
Anti-racism is the practice of opposing and dismantling social, cultural and structural instances of racism and a commitment to actively eliminating and identifying racism that exists within social structures and society.1 In anti-racism work, we examine the power imbalances between racialized and non-racialized peoples.
Racism affects the lived experiences of racialized peoples and Indigenous peoples. There are unearned privileges that white and white-passing people benefit from, which racialized peoples do not. Anti-racism, as part of anti-oppression, is a strong and compassionate term that acknowledges the need to actively learn, listen, and create community collaboratively, in order to refuse perpetuating racism in structural and personal ways.
Anti-racism is an active way of seeing and being in the world in order to transform it. Because racism occurs at all levels and spheres of society, anti-racism frameworks, and approaches are necessary to apply to all aspects of society. Education and activism is necessary in all aspects of society.2
Trauma and Violence-informed Approach
Trauma-informed care understands and considers the pervasive nature of trauma and centres healing and recovery; it is an approach that recognizes and accommodates the vulnerabilities of people with experiences of trauma in order to avoid re-traumatization. Violence- and trauma- informed approaches integrates an understanding of violence and trauma into all levels of care, focuses on underlying safety concerns and avoids re-traumatization or minimizing an individual’s experiences.1
Lived experiences of trauma and violence affect individuals in a variety of ways and can affect people of any gender, race, sex or socio-economic status. Survivors of gender-based violence deserve effective legal and social services that use trauma and violence informed approaches, in order to prevent being inflicted by further systemic harm.
Trauma-informed services recognize that the core of any service is genuine, authentic and compassionate relationships. Trauma and violence-informed approaches are not about ‘treating’ trauma – instead, the focus is to minimize the potential for harm and re-traumatization, and to enhance safety, control and resilience for all clients involved with systems or programs.2
- Goddard et al. “Making Connections: Supporting Women with Experiences of Violence, Substance Use and/or Mental Health Concerns” Woman Abuse Response Program, BC Women’s Hospital & Health Centre (2013)
- Government of Canada. (2018). Trauma and violence-informed approaches to policy and practice.
- The 5 Principles of TIA
SELECTED Reconciliation Principles
“We call upon the federal government to review and amend the Criminal Code to eliminate definitions of offences that minimize the culpability of the offender.” (Section 5.2)1
“We call upon the federal government to review and reform the law about sexualized violence and intimate partner violence, utilizing the perspectives of feminist and Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people.” (Section 5.3)1
In 2019, the final report on the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls by the National Inquiry was released. The report calls for transformative legal and social changes, in order to better protect Indigenous women and girls from various forms of harm and violence.1
The Calls for Justice in all of Canada’s industries and institutions include having trauma-informed approaches and gendered-lens frameworks that take into account the impact of women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA individuals. We have also highlighted Sections 5.2 & 5.3 above, which call specific attention to reforming laws about sexualized violence and Criminal code around definitions that minimize offender culpability. Under these inquiry recommendations, the legal and social service sectors are responsible for ensuring that they are making necessary changes to structures and policies in the ways that are specified in the Final Report, so that they meet the unique needs of Indigenous women and girls.
For more information, see our page about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and the Truth and Reconciliation report.
- Calls for Justice. Final Report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. (2019)
Poverty & Socio-Economic Inequalities
Poverty and socio-economic status play a clear role in survivors’ ability to access the justice system. Access to justice has traditionally referred to a range of institutional arrangements to assure that people who lack the resources or other capacities to protect their legal rights and to solve their law-related problems have access to the justice system.1
It is important that access to justice is made affordable and that there is physical access to state and non-state justice institutions; additionally, the response must be survivor-centred and ensure the dignity and safety of the person seeking justice.
Access to justice for individuals is often assumed to reside in a criminal justice response to the perpetrator. However, survivors may identify other aspirations as their idea of justice for the harm they have experienced:
- the ability to seek safety through effective protection orders
- physical and mental recovery through good quality and accessible health services
- the opportunity to seek a divorce and a new life free from the violence of a spouse
Often these forms of justice must be in place before someone subjected to violence feels able to embark on the process of seeking justice through the criminal law.2,3
- Albert Currie, “Riding the Third Wave: Rethinking Criminal Legal Aid within an Access to Justice Framework”. Department of Justice Canada
- Women’s Access to Justice for Gender-Based Violence: a practioner’s guide.
- United Nations Virtual Knowledge Centre. “Access to Justice” (2013)