The United Nations (U.N) General Assembly adopted a resolution on September 2, 2022 condemning all forms of sexual and gender-based violence. The resolution, co-sponsored by Sierra Leone and Japan, was adopted by consensus. While this resolution is non-binding on U.N. member states, it reflects a growing recognition of the profound consequences of gender-based violence (GBV) on emotional, financial and social well-being.

But is GBV a problem only for the U.N. and other global development organizations to tackle? We think not. Beyond its personal and social implications, gender-based violence has economic effects. We therefore see an important role for investors to play when it comes to preventing and mitigating GBV.

It is important to note that the term gender refers to the social and cultural roles assigned to men and women, while sex refers to the biological differences between men and women. Gender-based violence, therefore, is violence that targets a person because of the gender that person is perceived to be. GBV can take many forms, including domestic violence, sexual harassment and sexual assault.

While the evidence from numerous studies is clear, the impact of GBV on economic growth is not always well understood. In many cases, this is because the formal and informal costs of GBV are not included when measuring gross domestic product (GDP), making GBV a hidden contributor to lower economic growth. In addition, the effect of gender-based violence on GDP is difficult to isolate due to its overlap with other factors, such as infrastructure, employment and education.

However, efforts have been made to quantify the economic impact of GBV, with the U.N. estimating its global cost as approximately $1.5 trillion each year, equivalent to 2% of global GDP—larger than the economy of Mexico. And it’s clear that the negative physical, mental and emotional impacts of GBV drastically impact not only women’s ability to participate in society and strengthen their households, but also their involvement in the workforce. In the U.S. alone, domestic violence leads to a loss of over 7.9 million paid workdays each year. A stakeholder we interviewed as part of a project assessing GBV as an investment risk shared that workplace harassment at businesses in Bangladesh’s garment industry sometimes led to employee turnover rates that exceeded 100%.

Read the full article about investment in combatting gender-based violence by Alana Kolundzija and Josh Dobiac at India Development Review.