Violence Against Women Fact Sheet
Violence against women and girls is a major human rights and public health concern.
It encompasses, a wide range of abuses, from “physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family and in the general community, including battering, sexual abuse of children, dowry-related violence, rape, female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, non-spousal violence and violence related to exploitation, sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere, trafficking in women, forced prostitution, and violence perpetrated or condoned by the state." 1
Domestic violence is the most common form of gender-based violence. In every country where reliable, large-scale studies have been conducted, between 10 and 69 per cent of women report they have been physically abused by an intimate partner in their lifetime. 2
Population-based studies report that from 12 to 25 per cent of women have experienced attempted or completed forced sex by an intimate partner or ex-partner at some time in their lives.
Studies on violence against women indicate that:
- The perpetrators of violence against women are almost exclusively men.
- Physical abuse in intimate relationships is almost always accompanied by severe psychological and verbal abuse. In 1 of 4 cases of domestic violence, women will also experience sexual abuse. 5
- Women are at greatest risk of violence from men they know. In Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the United States, 40-70 per cent of female murder victims were killed by their partners. 6
Many men and women believe wife-beating is justified. The shame associated with domestic violence, rape and other forms of abuse may contribute to the fact that women often suffer it in silence, afraid of repercussions and stigma, and never tell anyone.
Other widespread forms of violence also have devastating impacts:
- Systematic rape, used as a weapon of war, has left millions of women and adolescent girls traumatized, forcibly impregnated, or infected with HIV. 7
- In Asia, at least 60 million girls are ‘missing' due to prenatal sex selection, infanticide or neglect. 8
- Female genital mutilation/cutting affects an estimated 130 million women and girls. Each year, 2 million more undergo the practice. Violence against women also takes the form of other harmful practices – such as child marriage, honour killings, acid burning, dowry-related violence, and widow inheritance and cleansing (both of which increase HIV risks). 9
Forced prostitution, trafficking for sex and sex tourism appear to be growing problems. Each year, an estimated 800,000 people are trafficked across borders – 80 per cent of them women and girls. Most of them end up trapped in the commercial sex trade. This figure does not include the substantial number of women and girls who are bought and sold within their own countries, for which there are scant data. 10
Reports of trafficking in women come from nearly every world region. The greatest number of victims are believed to come from Asia (about 250,000 per year), the former Soviet Union 11 (about 100,000), and from Central and Eastern Europe (about 175,000). An estimated 100,000 trafficked women have come from Latin America and the Caribbean, with more than 50,000 from Africa. 12 War, displacement, and economic and social inequities between and within countries, and the demand for low-wage labour and sex work drive this illicit trade in women. 13
Abused women are more likely than others to suffer from depression, anxiety, psychosomatic symptoms, eating problems, sexual dysfunction and many reproductive health problems, including miscarriage and stillbirth, premature delivery, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions.
Consequences of abuse, such as HIV/AIDS or unplanned pregnancies, may in themselves act as risk factors for further aggression, forming a cycle of abuse. Adolescents who have experienced sexual abuse are more likely to experience it again later in life. 14
About 1 in 4 women are abused during pregnancy, which puts both mother and child at risk. 15
Gender-based violence burdens health care systems: Studies from Nicaragua, the United States and Zimbabwe indicate that women who have been physically or sexually assaulted use health services more than women with no history of violence. 16
Violence against women represents a drain on the economically productive workforce: Canada's national survey on violence against women reported that 30 per cent of battered wives had to cease regular activities due to the abuse, and 50 per cent of women had to take sick leave from work because of the harm sustained. 17
Violence against women has high costs in terms of national expenditures on health, courts and police, as well as losses in educational achievement and productivity. In the United States, intimate partner violence is estimated to cost some $12.6 billion a year. In India, a survey showed that for each incidence of violence, women lost an average of 7 working days. 18
A study of abused women in Managua, Nicaragua, found that abused women earned 46 per cent less than women who did not suffer abuse, even after controlling for other factors that affect earnings. 19