Abstract While it is true that human rights violations are committed against men as well as women, their impact clearly differs depending on the sex of the victim. Studies of the subject indicate that all acts of aggression against women exhibit some characteristic or other that provides a basis for their classification as gender-based violence. This means that such violence is directly related to the unequal distribution of power and to the asymmetrical relationships that exist between men and women in our society, which perpetuate the devaluation of women and their subordination to men. What differentiates this type of violence from other forms of aggression or coercion is that the risk factor in this case is the mere fact of being a woman. Gender-based violence can take many forms and, depending on the type of relationship that is its context and the type of power being exerted, this crime may therefore fall into any of the following categories: rape and incest, sexual harassment at work or at school, sexual violence against women detainees or prisoners, acts of violence against displaced women, trafficking in women and domestic violence. The following study explores the last of these crimes in detail, but also discusses the other forms, since in recent years it has led to the establishment of new institutions and the adoption of legislative amendments that have served as a focal point for collective action by women. The lack of the necessary statistical data to provide an accurate picture of this phenomenon in Latin America and the Caribbean constitutes an obstacle to a fuller understanding of the issues associated with gender-based violence. Although clearly it occurs much more frequently than is indicated by official records, studies on the subject suggest that the problem is actually one of epidemic proportions. Most of the data cited in this study have been drawn from research papers and documents prepared by non-governmental organizations and international bodies that have studied the subject in recent years. The proposals presented here are based on the indivisible nature of women's rights, on the obligation of the State to protect and uphold those rights, and on the conviction that respect for human rights is also an essential condition for the development of our countries and the full citizenship of all their inhabitants. A case is also made for the necessity of analysing the subject of human rights and gender-based violence from a perspective that holds out the possibility of cultural changes of a structural nature that will entail respect for women's rights and will call into question the inevitability of violence as an element in gender relations.