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close this bookWHO Information Series on School Health - Document 3 - Violence Prevention: An Important Element of a Health-promoting School (UNESCO - WHO, 1999, 61 p.)
close this folder1. INTRODUCTION
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentWhy did WHO prepare this document?
View the documentWho should read this document?
View the documentWhat is meant by ''violence''?
View the documentWhat are the causes of violence?
View the documentWhy focus efforts through schools?
View the documentHow should this document be used?

What is meant by ''violence''?

Violence takes many forms and is understood differently in different countries and among different cultures. While there is no universally accepted definition of violence, the following is a working definition of violence that encompasses the broad range of understanding:

"Violence is the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation."(3)

Three main categories of violence can be identified: (4)

Self-inflicted violence refers to intentional and harmful behaviours directed at oneself, for which suicide represents the fatal outcome. Other types include attempts to commit suicide and behaviours where the intent is self destructive, but not lethal (e.g., self mutilation).

Interpersonal violence is violent behaviour between individuals and can best be classified by the victim-offender relationship. For example, interpersonal violence may occur among acquaintances or among persons who are not acquainted. Interpersonal violence may also be specified according to the age or sex of the victim. Violence against women is an important example and is occurring worldwide, often unrecognized. The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women defines violence against women as, "any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life."(5) Such violence may occur in the family or within the general community, and may be perpetrated or condoned by the state.

Other types of interpersonal violence include child abuse, bullying, harassment and criminally-linked violence such as assault and homicide.

Organised violence is violent behaviour of social or political groups motivated by specific political, economic or social objectives. Armed conflict and war may be considered the most highly organised types of violence. Other examples include racial or religious conflicts occurring among groups and gang or mob violence.