- Violence against women – particularly intimate partner violence and sexual violence – are major public health problems and violations of women’s human rights.
- Recent global prevalence figures indicate that about 1 in 3 (35%) of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.
- Most of this violence is intimate partner violence. Worldwide, almost one third (30%) of women who have been in a relationship report that they have experienced some form of physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner.
- Globally, as many as 38% of murders of women are committed by an intimate partner.
- Violence can negatively affect women’s physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health, and may increase vulnerability to HIV.
- Factors associated with increased risk of perpetration of violence include low education, child maltreatment or exposure to violence in the family, harmful use of alcohol, attitudes accepting of violence and gender inequality.
- Factors associated with increased risk of experiencing intimate partner and sexual violence include low education, exposure to violence between parents, abuse during childhood, attitudes accepting violence and gender inequality.
- There is evidence from high-income settings that school-based programmes may be effective in preventing relationship violence (or dating violence) among young people.
- In low-income settings, primary prevention strategies, such as microfinance combined with gender equality training and community-based initiatives that address gender inequality and relationship skills, hold promise.
- Situations of conflict, post conflict and displacement may exacerbate existing violence, such as by intimate partners, and present additional forms of violence against women.
The United Nations General Assembly defines “violence against women” as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely in physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.” The 1993 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women noted that this violence could be perpetrated by assailants of gender, family members and even the “State” itself.
Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread violations of human rights. It can include physical, sexual, psychological and economic abuse, and it cuts across boundaries of age, race, culture, wealth and geography. It takes place in the home, on the streets, in schools, the workplace, in farm fields, refugee camps, during conflicts and crises. It has many manifestations – from the most universally prevalent forms of domestic and sexual violence, to harmful practices, abuse during pregnancy,
Globally, up to six out of every ten WOMEN experience physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime. A World Health Organization study of 24,000 women in 10 countries found that the prevalence of physical and/or sexual violence by a partner varied from 15 percent in urban Japan to 71 percent in rural Ethiopia, with most areas being in the 30–60 percent range.
Violence against women and girls has far-reaching consequences, harming families and communities. For women and girls 16–44 years old, violence is a major cause of death and disability. In 1994, a World Bank study on ten selected risk factors facing girls and women in this age group, found rape and domestic violence more dangerous than cancer, motor vehicle accidents, war and malaria.
Studies also reveal increasing links between violence against women and HIV and AIDS. A survey among 1,366 South African women showed that women who were beaten by their partners were 48 percent more likely to be infected with HIV than those who were not.
Marital rape is a prosecutor offence in at least 104 States, and 90 countries have laws on sexual harassment. However, in too many countries gaps remain. In 102 countries there are no specific legal provisions against domestic violence, and marital rape is not a prosecutor offence in at least 53 nations.
History of violence against women
The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993) states that “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.”
In the 1870s, courts in the United States stopped recognizing the common-law principle that a husband had the right to “physically chastise an errant wife”. In the UK the traditional right of a husband to inflict moderate corporal punishment on his wife in ORDER to keep her “within the bounds of duty” was removed in 1891.
Impact on society
The World Health Organization reports that violence against women puts an undue burden on health care services with women who have suffered violence being more likely to need health services and at higher cost, compared to women who have not suffered violence. Several studies have shown a link between poor treatment of women and international violence. These studies show that one of the best predictors of international violence is the maltreatment of women in the society.
Types of violence
Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person’s consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or with a person who is incapable of valid consent, such as one who is unconscious, incapacitated, or below the legal age of consent.
Internationally, the incidence of rapes recorded by the police during 2008 varied between 0.1 in Egypt per 100,000 people and 91.6 per 100,000 people in Lesotho with 4.9 per 100,000 people in Lithuania as the median. According to the American Medical Association (1995), sexual violence, and rape in particular, is considered the most underreported violent crime. The rate of reporting, prosecution and convictions for rape varies considerably in different jurisdictions. Rape by strangers is usually less common than rape by persons the victim knows.
Victims of rape can be severely traumatized and may suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder; in addition to psychological harm resulting from the act, rape may cause physical INJURY, or have additional effects on the victim, such as acquiring of a sexually transmitted infection or becoming pregnant. Furthermore, following a rape, a victim may face violence or threats of thereof from the rapist, and, in some cultures, from the victim’s own family and relatives.
WOMENare more likely to be victimized by someone that they are intimate with, commonly called “Intimate Partner Violence” or (IPV). The impact of domestic violence in the sphere of total violence against women can be understood through the example that 40–70% of murders of women are committed by their husband or boyfriend. Studies have shown that violence is not always perpetrated as a form of physical violence but can also be psychological and verbal. In unmarried relationships this is commonly called dating violence, whereas in the context of marriage it is called domestic violence.
Instances of IPV tend not to be reported to police and thus many experts believe that the true magnitude of the problem is hard to estimate. Women are much more likely than men to be murdered by an intimate partner. In the United States, in 2005, 1181 women, in comparison with 329 men, were killed by their intimate partners. In England and Wales about 100 women are killed by partners or former partners each year while 21 men were killed in 2010. In 2008, in France, 156 women in comparison with 27 men were killed by their intimate partner.
Though this form of violence is often portrayed as an issue within the context of heterosexual relationships, it also occurs in lesbian relationships daughter-mother relationships, roommate relationships and other domestic relationships involving two women. Violence against women in lesbian relationships is about as common as violence against women in heterosexual relationships.
Recommendations for clinicians making a diagnosis of Marital Relational Disorder should include the assessment of actual or “potential” male violence as regularly as they assess the potential for suicide in depressed patients. Further, “clinicians should not relax their vigilance after a battered wife leaves her husband, because some data suggest that the period immediately following a marital separation is the period of greatest risk for the women. Many men will stalk and batter their wives in an effort to get them to return or punish them for leaving. Initial assessments of the potential for violence in a marriage can be supplemented by standardized interviews and questionnaires, which have been reliable and valid aids in exploring marital violence more systematically.”
The risk of violence remains strong in a marriage in which it has been a feature in the past. Thus, treatment is essential here; the clinician cannot just wait and watch.”]The most urgent clinical priority is the protection of the wife because she is the one most frequently at risk, and clinicians must be aware that supporting assertiveness by a battered wife may lead to more beatings or even death.
UN Women’s Approach
UN WOMEN works on several fronts towards ending violence against women and girls. This includes tackling its main root: gender inequality. Efforts are multiplied through advocacy campaigns and partnerships with governments, civil society and the UN system. Initiatives range from working to establish legal frameworks and specific national actions, to supporting prevention at the grassroots level, including in conflict and post-conflict situations. UN Women has also supported data collection on violence against women, facilitating new learning on the issue.
UN Women plays an active role in supporting the UN Secretary-General’s multi-year Unite to End Violence against Women campaign, launched in 2008. As a designated coordinator, UN Women works together with the UN system and other partners on the campaign’s regional components in Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean.