Progress on tackling violence against women is too small – the latest WHO prevalence estimates report 2010-2018 indicates that little progress being made!
Violence against women is not only a major human rights violation, but also a global public health problem. Statistics on prevalence of violence against women are crucial for the development of more effective and sustainable prevention, policies and programmes for reducing violence against women. The latest estimates presented in the WHO report "Violence Against Women Prevalence Estimates, 2018" (https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/violence-against-women-prevalence-estimates) just published in March 2021, which is based on data from 2000-2018 across 161 countries and areas, highlighted that the prevalence of violence against women is still alarmingly high and despite many measures and best intentions not much progress has been made. Still, one in three women aged 15–49 years (on average about 800 million women!) experienced at least once in their life some form of violence.
The WHO report provides updated estimates for two of the most common forms of violence against women: intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence. While intimate partner violence refers to behaviour by an intimate partner or ex-partner that causes physical, sexual or psychological harm, including physical aggression, sexual coercion, psychological abuse and controlling behaviours, sexual violence is "any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, or other act directed against a person's sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting. It includes rape, defined as the physically forced or otherwise coerced penetration of the vulva or anus with a penis, other body part or object, attempted rape, unwanted sexual touching and other non-contact forms". The estimates are presented for two age groups (women aged 15-49 and women aged 15 and older), including: global, regional and national estimates of lifetime (since age 15) and past 12 months physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence, global and regional estimates of lifetime (since age 15) non-partner sexual violence, and combined global and regional prevalence estimates of lifetime (since age 15) intimate partner violence, non-partner sexual violence, or both.
The 2018 global estimates indicated that:
- 26% (UI 22–30%) of ever-married/partnered women aged 15 years and older and 27% (UI 23–31%) of ever-married/partnered women aged 15–49 years have been subjected to physical and/or sexual violence from a current or former husband or male intimate partner at least once in their lifetime (since the age of 15). This indicates that 641 million and up to 753 million ever-married/partnered women aged 15 years and older had been subjected to physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence at least once since the age of 15.
- 10% (UI 8–12%) of ever-married/ partnered women aged 15 years and older and 13% (UI 10–16%) of ever-married/ partnered women aged 15–49 years have been subjected to physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence at some point within the past 12 months. This indicates that 245 million and up to 307 million ever-married/partnered women aged 15 years and older had been subjected to recent physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence.
- The prevalence of intimate partner violence was the lowest for women in later age groups within the past 12 months ranging from: 8% (45-49 years) to 4% (65+ years); it was mentioned however that there was a lack of data in many country reports of these age groups.
- Intimate partner violence starts early. Almost 1 in 4 ever-married/partnered adolescent girls in the youngest age cohort (15–19 years old) is estimated to have already been subjected to physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner at least once in their lifetime (24%, UI 21–28%), and 16% of young women aged 15–24 experienced this violence within the past 12 months.
These new estimates mostly fall within the confidence intervals of the previous 2010 estimates published by WHO in 2013 (based on data from 1983 to 2010).
A more detailed summary on the WHO violence estimates and which data gaps still exists and need to be tackled can be found on the IMPRODOVA training platform (https://training.improdova.eu/en/training-modules-for-the-health-sector/module-1-forms-and-dynamics-of-domestic-violence/2/#Facts-about-gender-based-violence-in-Europe), as well as further information on gender-based violence (https://training.improdova.eu/).
In response, WHO and UN Women with endorsement from 12 other UN and bilateral agencies published RESPECT women – a framework for preventing violence against women aimed at policy makers in 2019. The framework outlines seven inter-related intervention strategies derived from the word "respect":
- Relationships skills strengthened;
- Empowerment of women;
- Services ensured;
- Poverty reduced;
- Environments made safe;
- Child and adolescent abuse prevented; and
- Transformed attitudes, beliefs and norms.
RESPECT highlights that successful interventions are those that prioritize safety of women, whose core elements involve challenging unequal gender power relationships, that are participatory, address multiple risk factors through combined programming and that start early in the life course. Ending violence against women begins with RESPECT and a collective commitment to act today.
RESPECT Women: Preventing violence against women. United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women); World Health Organization (WHO); 2019. Available from: https://www.unwomen.org/en/digital-library/publications/2019/05/respect-women-preventing-violence-against-women
RESPECT Women: Preventing violence against women – Implementation package. United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women); 2020. Available from: https://www.unwomen.org/en/digital-library/publications/2020/07/respect-women-implementation-package
Violence against women prevalence estimates, 2018. Global, regional and national prevalence estimates for intimate partner violence against women and global and regional prevalence estimates for non-partner sexual violence against women. Geneva: World Health Organization, on behalf of the United Nations Inter-Agency Working Group on Violence Against Women Estimation and Data (UNICEF, UNFPA, UNODC, UNSD, UNWomen); 2021. Available from: https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/violence-against-women-prevalence-estimates
2021-04-22 by M.A. Paulina Juszczyk and Prof. Dr. Dr. Bettina Pfleiderer, Research Group Cognition & Gender, Medical Faculty, University of Münster ((WWU), Germany) and IMPRODOVA partner