Violence against women can fit into several broad categories.

These include violence carried out by "individuals" as well as "states".

The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993) states, "violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women, and that violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men." Several forms of violence are more prevalent in certain parts of the world, often in developing countries.

These definitions are conceptualized in an understanding of society as patriarchal, signifying unequal relations between men and women.

Opponents of such definitions argue that the definitions disregard violence against men and that the term gender, as used in gender based violence, only refers to women.

For instance, in Italy, before 1981, the Criminal Code provided for mitigating circumstances in case of a killing of a woman or her sexual partner for reasons related to honor, providing for a reduced sentence.

Invoking culture to explain particular forms of violence against women risks appearing to legitimize them.

In addition, the term gender-based violence refers to "any acts or threats of acts intended to hurt or make women suffer physically, sexually or psychologically, and which affect women because they are women or affect women disproportionately".

Moreover, the definition stated by the 1993 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women also supported the notion that violence is rooted in the inequality between men and women when the term violence is used together with the term 'gender-based.' In Recommendation Rec(2002)5 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the protection of women against violence, the Council of Europe stipulated that VAW "includes, but is not limited to, the following":a.Abuse related to payment of bride price (such as violence, trafficking and forced marriage) is linked to parts of Sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania.(Also see lobolo.) Certain regions are no longer associated with a specific form of violence, but such violence was common until quite recently in those places; this is true of honor-based crimes in Southern/Mediterranean Europe.Other critics argue that employing the term gender in this particular way may introduce notions of inferiority and subordination for femininity and superiority for masculinity.There is no widely accepted current definition that covers all the dimensions of gender based violence rather than the one for women that tends to reproduce the concept of binary oppositions: masculinity versus femininity.violence occurring in the family or domestic unit, including, inter alia, physical and mental aggression, emotional and psychological abuse, rape and sexual abuse, incest, rape between spouses, regular or occasional partners and cohabitants, crimes committed in the name of honour, female genital and sexual mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, such as forced marriages;b.