Violence against women worldwide is 'epidemic'

Silhouette of a woman protecting herself from a blow from her partner The most common type of violence against women is by an intimate partner, the report says

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More than one in three women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence, a report by the World Health Organization and other groups says.

It says 38% of all women murdered were killed by their partners, and such violence is a major contributor to depression and other health problems.

WHO head Margaret Chan said violence against women was "a global health problem of epidemic proportions".

The study also calls for toleration of such attacks worldwide to be halted.

And it says new guidelines must be adopted by health officials around the world to prevent the abuse and offer better protection to victims.

'Fear of stigma'

The report on partner and non-partner violence against women was released by the WHO, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC).

Its authors say it is the first systematic study of global data, detailing the impact of the abuse on both the physical and mental health of women and girls.

The key findings are:

  • violence by an intimate partner is the most common type of abuse, affecting 30% of women across the globe
  • 38% of all women murdered were killed by their partners
  • 42% of women physically or sexually abused by partners had injuries as a result
  • Victims of non-partner attacks were 2.6 times more likely to experience depression and anxiety compared with women who had not experienced violence
  • Those abused by their partners were almost twice as likely to have similar problems
  • Victims were more likely to have alcohol problems, abortions and acquire sexually transmitted diseases and HIV

"This new data shows that violence against women is extremely common," said report co-author Prof Charlotte Watts from the LSHTM.

"We urgently need to invest in prevention to address the underlying causes of this global women's health problem."

The document adds that "fear of stigma" prevents many women from reporting sexual violence.

It stresses that health officials around the world need to take the issue "more seriously", providing better training for health workers in recognising when women may be at risk of violence and ensuring an appropriate response.

The WHO says it will start implementing new guidelines together with other organisations at the end of June.

Women who have suffered violence from a partner (%)

WHO region Prevalence

Source: WHO, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, South African Medical Research Council

Low and middle-income regions

AFRICA (Botswana, Cameroon, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe)

36.6%

AMERICAS (Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Bolivia)

29.8%

EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN (Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Palestinian territories)

37.0%

EUROPE (Albania, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Lithuania, Rep of Moldova, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine)

25.4%

SOUTH-EAST ASIA (Bangladesh, East Timor, India, Burma, Sri Lanka, Thailand)

37.7%

WESTERN PACIFIC (Cambodia, China, Philippines, Samoa, Vietnam)

24.6%

High income(Australia, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, US)

23.2%

Women who have suffered violence from someone who was not their partner (%)

WHO region Prevalence

Source: WHO, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, South African Medical Research Council

Low and middle income

Africa

11.9%

Americas

10.7%

Eastern Mediterranean

No data

Europe

5.2%

South-East Asia

4.9%

Western Pacific

6.8%

High income

12.6%

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