According to a new report by the World Health Organization (WHO) physical or sexual violence is a serious public health problem that affects more than one-third of all women globally. Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO, said that the findings “send a powerful message that violence against women is a global health problem of epidemic proportions.”
The study indicated that 35% of all women will experience either intimate partner or non-partner violence, with intimate partner violence being the most common kind of violence experienced by women in both developing and industrialized countries.
Prevalence rates for intimate partner and non-partner sexual violence among all women aged fifteen years or over are: Africa: 45.6%; Americas: 36.1%; Eastern Mediterranean: 36.4%; Europe: 27.2%; South-East Asia: 40.2%; Western Pacific: 27.9%. In high-income countries the prevalence of violence against women is 32.7%.
The study found that in Russia more than 14,000 women are killed annually as the result of domestic violence. In China one-third of the country’s 270 million households cope with domestic violence. Domestic violence is also rife in most African countries with domestic violence in Zimbabwe accounting for more than 60% of murder cases and 42% of Kenyan and 41% of Ugandan women reported being beaten by their husbands.
Female victims of violence suffer a wide variety of health problems, including organ and bone damage, miscarriage, exacerbation of chronic illness, gynaecological problems, sexually transmitted diseases and are more susceptible to a variety of mental health problems such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep disorder, eating disorders, emotional distress and suicide.
Worldwide 25-45% of women are battered during pregnancy. Children who grow up in families where there is domestic violence are prone to a wide range of behavioural and emotional disturbances with one in three abused children becoming an adult abuser or victim.
According to The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention the cost of the consequences of violence against women is estimated to be $37 billion annually.