1 in 3 Women Globally Face Sexual Violence & It Starts Young: WHO

6 percent of women globally report being sexually assaulted by someone other than their husband or partner.

3 min read
6 percent of women globally report being sexually assaulted by someone other than their husband or partner.

One in three women is subjected to physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner or sexual violence from a non-partner. This figure has remained “largely unchanged” over the past ten years and stands at approximately 736 million.

These are just some of the key findings of a report titled, ‘Global, regional and national estimates for intimate partner violence against women and global and regional estimates for non-partner sexual violence against women’ published on Tuesday, 9 March, by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The report was developed by WHO and the UNDP-UNFPA-UNICEF-WHO-World Bank Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction (HRP), for the United Nations Inter-Agency Working Group on Violence Against Women Estimation and Data.


Violence Against Women Starts Alarmingly Young

As per the report, violence against women is not just common, but also starts “alarmingly young”.

Across the world, one in every four young women (aged 15-24 years) who has ever been in a relationship experiences violence by an intimate partner even before they enter their mid-twenties.

Even though intimate partner violence is significantly the more prevalent form of violence against women, six percent of women globally report being sexually assaulted by someone other than their husband or partner. The news release to the report also notes: “Given the high levels of stigma and under-reporting of sexual abuse, the true figure is likely to be significantly higher.”

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka has pointed out that it is “deeply disturbing that this pervasive violence by men against women not only persists unchanged, but is at its worst for young women aged 15-24 who may also be young mothers.”

The COVID-Impact

WHO and the organisation’s partners have cautioned that the coronavirus pandemic has further made women more vulnerable to violence, due to measures such as lockdown and restraint on vital support services.

“We know that the multiple impacts of COVID-19 have triggered a ‘shadow pandemic’ of increased reported violence of all kinds against women and girls.”
UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

Mlambo-Ngcuka has asked every government to take “strong proactive steps to address this” and to involve women in doing so.

How Is South-Asia Faring?

As per the report, the regions of Oceania, Southern Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa have the highest prevalence rates of intimate partner violence among women aged 15-49, ranging from 33% - 51%.

For Southern Asia (of which India is a part) the prevalence rate is 35%.

The lowest rates are found in Europe (16–23%), Central Asia (18%), Eastern Asia (20%), and South-Eastern Asia (21%).

Preventing Violence Against Women

Violence against women is associated with an increased risk of a multitude of health problems, including:

  • Injuries
  • Depression
  • Anxiety Disorder
  • Unplanned pregnancies
  • Sexually transmitted infections, including HIV

Further, as per the press release to the report, it has consequence on society as a whole, impacting national budgets and overall developments.

Dr Claudia Garcia-Moreno of WHO has said that to “address violence against women, there’s an urgent need to reduce stigma around this issue, train health professionals to interview survivors with compassion, and dismantle the foundations of gender inequality. Interventions with adolescents and young people to foster gender equality and gender-equitable attitudes are also vital.”

WHO has asked countries to honour their commitment to tackle this “endemic” through:

  • Sound gender transformative policies, from policies that look into childcare to those that address equal pay, and laws that support gender equality
  • A strengthened health system response that ensures access to survivor-centred care and referral to other services as needed
  • School and educational interventions to challenge discriminatory attitudes and beliefs, including comprehensive education on sexuality
  • Targeted investment in sustainable and effective evidence-based prevention strategies at local, national, regional, and global levels
  • Strengthening data collection and investing in high-quality surveys on violence against women and improving measurement of the different forms of violence experienced by women, including those who are most marginalised

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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