New WHO report finds violence against women a 'global health problem of epidemic proportions'
Fri 21 Jun 2013
The World Health Organization has released the first systematic review and synthesis of the body of scientific data on the prevalence of two ...
The World Health Organization has released the first systematic review and synthesis of the body of scientific data on the prevalence of two forms of violence against women – violence by an intimate partner and sexual violence by someone other than an intimate partner.
The report, Global and regional estimates of violence against women: Prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence, was developed in partnership with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the South African Medical Research Council.
It noted that fear of stigma prevents many women from reporting non-partner sexual violence, that fewer countries collected data on sexual violence and that the data collections techniques were often less sophisticated.
Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General, WHO, said "These findings send a powerful message that violence against women is a global health problem of epidemic proportions."
WHO also released new clinical and policy guidelines for health care providers on responding to intimate partner violence and sexual violence against women.
The report’s key findings on the health impacts of violence by an intimate partner were:
- Death and injury – The study found that globally, 38% of all women who were murdered were murdered by their intimate partners, and 42% of women who have experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of a partner had experienced injuries as a result.
- Depression – Partner violence is a major contributor to women’s mental health problems, with women who have experienced partner violence being almost twice as likely to experience depression compared to women who have not experienced any violence.
- Alcohol use problems – Women experiencing intimate partner violence are almost twice as likely as other women to have alcohol-use problems.
- Sexually transmitted infections – Women who experience physical and/or sexual partner violence are 1.5 times more likely to acquire syphilis infection, chlamydia, or gonorrhoea. In some regions (including sub-Saharan Africa), they are 1.5 times more likely to acquire HIV.
- Unwanted pregnancy and abortion – Both partner violence and non-partner sexual violence are associated with unwanted pregnancy; the report found that women experiencing physical and/or sexual partner violence are twice as likely to have an abortion than women who do not experience this violence.
- Low birth-weight babies – Women who experience partner violence have a 16% greater chance of having a low birth-weight baby.
WHO said it will begin to work with countries in South-East Asia to implement the new recommendations at the end of June. The Organization will partner with ministries of health, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and sister United Nations agencies to disseminate the guidelines, and support their adaptation and use.