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Many forms of VAW, such as trafficking in women and forced prostitution are often perpetrated by organized criminal networks.

In recent years, there has been a trend of approaching VAW at an international level, through instruments such as conventions; or, in the European Union, through directives, such as the directive against sexual harassment, The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, also known as the Istanbul Convention, provides the following definition of violence against women: "violence against women" is understood as a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination against women and shall mean all acts of gender-based violence that result in, or are likely to result in, physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life it was the 1993 United Nations General Assembly resolution on the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which became the first international instrument to explicitly define VAW and elaborate on the subject.

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.

There is also debate and controversy about the ways in which cultural traditions, local customs and social expectations, as well as various interpretations of religion, interact with abusive practices.

Specifically, cultural justifications for certain violent acts against women are asserted by some states and social groups within many countries claiming to defend their traditions.

Female genital mutilation is found mostly in Africa, and to a lesser extent in the Middle East and some other parts of Asia.

These definitions of VAW as being gender-based are seen by some to be unsatisfactory and problematic.

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.

this type of violence targets a specific group with the victim's gender as a primary motive.

This type of violence is gender-based, meaning that the acts of violence are committed against women expressly because they are women.

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