WHO: Violence against women a global health problem of epidemic proportion

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Empowering women and girls

Violence against women has become a global health problem of epidemic proportions with one out of every three women experiencing some form of physical or sexual violence, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

In a new study on violence against women, WHO says violence perpetrated by husbands and other intimate partners is the most common type of violence affecting 30 per cent of women worldwide.

The report says women and girls who experience violence are more likely to suffer life threatening injuries or even death, depression, become alcohol abusers, acquire sexually transmitted diseases and have unwanted pregnancies and abortion.

Dr Flavia Bustreo, WHO's Assistant Director-General for Family, Women and Children's Health, says governments need to scale up efforts to prevent all forms of violence against women by addressing the social and cultural factors behind it and improving women’s access to health care and judicial services.

"The very young women from 15 to 19 and the old women above 65 are equally subject of violence. This phenomenon cuts across the entire world, cuts across the different regions, cuts across the level of income that different countries have. The information and awareness of how pervasive this problem is key for the prevention. Because this is an issue in many societies many communities it is considered a taboo, its not spoken about, its not acted upon by the policy maker. Very often the health care workers are the fist point of contact for a woman who has been subjected to violence. And unfortunately very often the very fist point of entry is not able to take care and we are explaining in the guidelines what kind of care a woman that has been subjected to violence requires." 

The report says 45 per cent of women in Africa and 36 per cent of women in the Americas and Eastern Mediterranean regions have suffered sexual violence.

In high income countries about 33 per cent of women have been victims of sexual violence.

Violence against women perpetrated by husbands or partners is worst in South East Asia, Eastern Mediterranean and Africa where the prevalence rate is above 36 per cent.

Patrick Maigua, United Nations Radio, Geneva.

Duration 2.31

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