One in four women and girls worldwide has been physically or sexually assaulted by her husband or male partner, according to the largest study to date on the prevalence of violence against women.
The report, conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UN partners, found that domestic violence began at an early age, and an estimated one-quarter of girls and young women ages 15 to 19 have been abused at least once in their lives. . The highest rates were found to be among people ages 30 to 39.
When figures for violence outside of the partner are included, the WHO estimates that around a third of women aged 15 and over, between 736 million and 852 million, will experience some form of sexual or physical violence in their lifetime.
The study analyzed data on non-intimate violence, defined as perpetrated by a stranger or someone the victim knows, and intimate partner violence covering 161 countries, published between 2000 and 2018. It does not reflect the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Last year, the UN predicted at least 15 million additional cases of domestic violence worldwide as a result of coronavirus restrictions.
The WHO report focused on physical and sexual violence, but noted that actual rates would be much higher if other types of abuse were included, such as online violence and sexual harassment.
Levels of violence were highest in low- and middle-income countries. South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa had some of the highest rates of intimate partner violence among women and girls ages 15-49. In five countries (Kiribati, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Bangladesh, and the Solomon Islands), more than half of women have been abused by a partner at least once.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo had the highest rate among this age cohort in sub-Saharan Africa, at 47%, followed by Equatorial Guinea (46%), Uganda (45%), and Liberia (43%).
The lowest rates of violence were found in southern and eastern Europe and central and eastern Asia. In the UK, 24% of young people aged 15-49 have been abused by their partner.
“Violence against women is endemic in all countries and cultures, harms millions of women and their families, and has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, CEO of The OMS.
But unlike Covid-19, violence against women cannot be stopped with a vaccine. We can only combat it with deep-rooted and sustained efforts – by governments, communities and individuals – to change harmful attitudes, improve access to opportunities and services for women and girls, and foster healthy relationships and mutual respect. “
Dr. Claudia García-Moreno, who leads the WHO’s work on violence against women, said the figures should be a “wake-up call” to governments about the urgency of the situation.
“There is an urgent need to reduce the stigma around this issue, train health professionals to interview survivors compassionately and dismantle the foundations of gender inequality,” she said.
“Starting with making schools safe, because in many countries and settings, unfortunately they are not,” he said.
Comprehensive sex education and lessons are needed on how to build healthy relationships, based on equality and mutual respect, he added.
However, fundamentally, violence against women must be treated as a social problem, with men and boys involved in addressing it, García-Moreno said. “One of the challenges is that it is often overlooked as a women’s issue.”
Anthony Davis, a gender policy adviser at the UK branch of the children’s charity Plan International, agreed. She said it was important for girls to have full access to resources and services to help prevent and respond to violence.
But she added that gender-based violence was both a cause and a consequence of gender inequalities that needed to be eliminated. “An important part of that is working with men and boys directly to understand their perspectives, why they have certain points of view, and really working with them in the long term to dismantle some of these core beliefs, as well as support and empower girls and women. . to reach their potential. “
Funding to address violence against women has increased significantly in the last five years. Bilateral aid from donor countries to the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) increased from $ 121 million in 2016 to $ 449 million in 2019, mostly from EU programs, according to an analysis on the website. of financing trends. Donor tracker.
But this represented only 0.33% of the total budget of the DAC countries. “It’s a pittance when you consider the magnitude of the problem, when you consider the prevalence, when you consider the millions of women and their children who are affected,” García-Moreno said.
In the first of two, a budgeted blueprint to address violence against women and girls, drawn up by NGOs, government officials and business leaders, will be released. Generation equality forums, convened by UN Women later this month. It will include a call for a 50% increase in funding for women’s rights organizations to address violence over the next five years.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism