News / Health

UN: Epidemic of Violence Against Women is Global

A pedestrian walks over an illustration to draw attention to domestic violence against women, on International Women's Day in central Istanbul, Turkey, in this March 8, 2013, file photo.A pedestrian walks over an illustration to draw attention to domestic violence against women, on International Women's Day in central Istanbul, Turkey, in this March 8, 2013, file photo.
x
A pedestrian walks over an illustration to draw attention to domestic violence against women, on International Women's Day in central Istanbul, Turkey, in this March 8, 2013, file photo.
A pedestrian walks over an illustration to draw attention to domestic violence against women, on International Women's Day in central Istanbul, Turkey, in this March 8, 2013, file photo.
Lisa Schlein
The World Health Organization says physical and sexual violence against women has reached epidemic proportions, affecting more than one-third of all women globally.  A new study just released by WHO shows violence against women is widespread and pervasive, cutting across different regions and all income levels in society. The data is part of a report just unveiled in Geneva.
 
The study finds one woman in three in the world will experience physical or sexual violence sometime during her lifetime by someone she knows - a husband, a boyfriend, a family member or friend. 
 
The report says women of all ages, young and old alike, are subject to violence. The World Health Organization calls violence against women widespread and pervasive. It says it is a global health problem of epidemic proportions. 
 
In an analysis of international homicide statistics, the study finds that a husband or a close partner is responsible for 38 percent of the murders of women worldwide.
 
Claudia Garcia-Moreno, lead specialist of Gender, Reproductive Rights, Sexual Health and Adolescence at WHO and one of the authors of the report, says physical and sexual violence against women takes a tremendous toll on the health of women. She says 42 percent of women beaten up by their partners suffer injuries. 
 
“Women who have experienced physical or sexual violence were two times more likely to be depressed or to have problems with alcohol use compared to women who have never experienced this violence. They were twice as likely to have had an abortion. They were one and one half times more likely to have had a sexually-transmitted infection and in some regions to be affected by HIV. And, they are also more likely to have low-birth-weight babies,” said Garcia-Moreno.

This is the first systematic study of global data on the prevalence of violence against women by both intimate partners and non-partners. The World Health Organization, in partnership with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the South African Medical Research Council, has collected data from 81 countries in 2010.
 
The study finds the worst affected regions are Southeast Asia, the eastern Mediterranean region and Africa, where rates of violence against women from an intimate partner hover around 37 percent. For combined intimate partner and non-partner sexual violence, the data show Africa, with 45.6 percent, has the worst record, followed by Southeast Asia, with 40.2 percent. 
 
But the report dispels the notion that violence is a problem only in the developing countries. It shows 32.7 percent of physical and sexual violence against women occurs in high-income countries.

Intervention options

In addition to responding to women who are affected, Garcia-Moreno says measures are needed to stop the problem from happening in the first place. She highlights three areas of intervention.
 
“One is the prevention of child abuse and maltreatment. We know that children who are abused or who are exposed to their parents abusing each other are more likely to end up in an abusive relationship either as perpetrator or as victim…The second area is empowerment of women. Access to secondary education we know is protective, access to jobs, employment, other economical opportunities…The third area of intervention in terms of prevention is the issue of social norms. There are many countries in which this form of violence is seen as acceptable,” said Garcia-Moreno.  
 
The World Health Organization notes talking about violence against women is taboo in many countries, and so the abuse continues.  It says awareness and open discussion of the problem is key to prevention.
 
New WHO guidelines stress the importance of training all levels of health workers to recognize when women may be at risk of partner violence and to know how to deal with the problem. It says the enactment and implementation of more and better laws are necessary to curb violence against women.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs