"Unite to End Violence Against Women Fact Sheet - the United Nations"

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Violence against women and girls continues unabated in every continent,
country and culture. It takes a devastating toll on women’s lives, on their
families and on society as a whole. Most societies prohibit such violence –
yet the reality is that too often, it is covered up or tacitly condoned.
– United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Fact Sheet
HOW WIDESPREAD IS VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN?
The most common form of violence experienced by women
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) refers to several types of
globally is physical violence inflicted by an intimate partner. On
deeply-rooted traditional cutting operations performed on
average, at least one in three women is beaten, coerced into sex
women and girls. It is estimated that more than 130 million
or otherwise abused by an intimate partner in the course of her
girls and women alive today have undergone FGM, mainly in
lifetime.
Africa and some Middle Eastern countries, and 2 million girls
a year are at risk of mutilation. As of April 2006, 15 of the 28
Women aged 15
- 44 are more at risk from rape and domestic
African States where FGM is prevalent had made it an offence
violence than from cancer, motor accidents, war and malaria,
under criminal law.
according to World Bank data.
In many societies, rape victims, women suspected of engaging
Several global surveys suggest that half of all women who die
in premarital sex, and women accused of adultery have been
from homicide are killed by their current or former husbands
murdered by their relatives because the violation of a woman’s
or partners. In Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the
chastity is viewed as an affront to the family’s honour. The
United States, 40% - 70% of female murder victims were killed
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that the
by their partners, according to the World Health Organization
annual worldwide number of so-called “honour killing” victims
(WHO). In Colombia, one woman is reportedly killed by her
may be as high as 5,000 women.
partner or former partner every six days. Hundreds of women
were abducted, raped and murdered in and around Ciudad
Many women face multiple forms of discrimination and
Juarez, Mexico, over a 10-year period.
increased risk of violence. Indigenous women in Canada are
five times more likely than other women of the same age to
It is estimated that, worldwide, one in five women will become
die as the result of violence. In Europe, North America and
a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime.
Australia, over half of women with disabilities have experienced
Violence against women during or after armed conflicts has been
physical abuse, compared to one-third of non-disabled women.
reported in every international or non-international war-zone.
Women experience sexual harassment throughout their lives.
Between 250,000 and 500,000 women were raped during the
Between 40% and 50% of women in the European Union
1994 genocide in Rwanda; between 20,000 and 50,000 women
reported some form of sexual harassment in the workplace.
were raped during the conflict in Bosnia in the early 1990s.
In Malawi, 50% of schoolgirls surveyed reported sexual
WHY AND HOW DOES VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN OCCUR?
harassment at school.
Young women are particularly vulnerable to coerced sex and are
Violence against women is not confined to a specific culture,
increasingly being infected with HIV/AIDS. Over half of new
region or country, or to particular groups of women within a
HIV infections worldwide are occurring among young people
society. The roots of violence against women lie in historically
between the ages of 15 and 24, and more than 60% of HIV-
unequal power relations between men and women, and
positive youth in this age bracket are female.
persistent discrimination against women.
Violence against women in police custody is common and
Rape has long been used as a weapon of war. Women as old as
includes sexual violence, inappropriate surveillance, strip
grandmothers and as young as toddlers have routinely suffered
searches conducted by men and demands for sexual acts in
violent sexual abuse at the hands of military and rebel forces.
exchange for privileges or basic necessities.
Dowry murder is a brutal practice where a woman is killed by
Female infanticide, prenatal sex selection and systematic
her husband or in-laws because her family cannot meet their
neglect of girls are widespread in South and East Asia, North
demands for dowry — a payment made to a woman’s in-laws
Africa, and the Middle East.
upon her marriage as a gift to her new family. While dowries
or similar payments are prevalent worldwide, dowry murder
COSTS AND CONSEQUENCES
occurs predominantly in South Asia.
The costs of violence against women are extremely high. They
The practice of early marriage is common worldwide, especially
include the direct costs of services to treat and support abused
in Africa and South Asia. This is a form of sexual violence, for
women and their children and to bring perpetrators to justice.
young girls are often forced into the marriage and into sexual
The indirect costs include lost employment and productivity,
relations, causing health risks, including exposure to HIV/AIDS,
and the costs in human pain and suffering.
and limiting their attendance in school.
The cost of intimate partner violence in the United States
Between 500,000 to 2 million people, the majority of them
alone exceeds US$5.8 billion per year: US$4.1 billion is for
women and children, are trafficked annually into situations
direct medical and health care services, while productivity
including prostitution, forced labour, slavery or servitude,
losses account for nearly US$1.8 billion.
according to estimates.
Violence against women and girls continues unabated in every continent,
country and culture. It takes a devastating toll on women’s lives, on their
families and on society as a whole. Most societies prohibit such violence –
yet the reality is that too often, it is covered up or tacitly condoned.
– United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Fact Sheet
HOW WIDESPREAD IS VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN?
The most common form of violence experienced by women
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) refers to several types of
globally is physical violence inflicted by an intimate partner. On
deeply-rooted traditional cutting operations performed on
average, at least one in three women is beaten, coerced into sex
women and girls. It is estimated that more than 130 million
or otherwise abused by an intimate partner in the course of her
girls and women alive today have undergone FGM, mainly in
lifetime.
Africa and some Middle Eastern countries, and 2 million girls
a year are at risk of mutilation. As of April 2006, 15 of the 28
Women aged 15
- 44 are more at risk from rape and domestic
African States where FGM is prevalent had made it an offence
violence than from cancer, motor accidents, war and malaria,
under criminal law.
according to World Bank data.
In many societies, rape victims, women suspected of engaging
Several global surveys suggest that half of all women who die
in premarital sex, and women accused of adultery have been
from homicide are killed by their current or former husbands
murdered by their relatives because the violation of a woman’s
or partners. In Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the
chastity is viewed as an affront to the family’s honour. The
United States, 40% - 70% of female murder victims were killed
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that the
by their partners, according to the World Health Organization
annual worldwide number of so-called “honour killing” victims
(WHO). In Colombia, one woman is reportedly killed by her
may be as high as 5,000 women.
partner or former partner every six days. Hundreds of women
were abducted, raped and murdered in and around Ciudad
Many women face multiple forms of discrimination and
Juarez, Mexico, over a 10-year period.
increased risk of violence. Indigenous women in Canada are
five times more likely than other women of the same age to
It is estimated that, worldwide, one in five women will become
die as the result of violence. In Europe, North America and
a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime.
Australia, over half of women with disabilities have experienced
Violence against women during or after armed conflicts has been
physical abuse, compared to one-third of non-disabled women.
reported in every international or non-international war-zone.
Women experience sexual harassment throughout their lives.
Between 250,000 and 500,000 women were raped during the
Between 40% and 50% of women in the European Union
1994 genocide in Rwanda; between 20,000 and 50,000 women
reported some form of sexual harassment in the workplace.
were raped during the conflict in Bosnia in the early 1990s.
In Malawi, 50% of schoolgirls surveyed reported sexual
WHY AND HOW DOES VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN OCCUR?
harassment at school.
Young women are particularly vulnerable to coerced sex and are
Violence against women is not confined to a specific culture,
increasingly being infected with HIV/AIDS. Over half of new
region or country, or to particular groups of women within a
HIV infections worldwide are occurring among young people
society. The roots of violence against women lie in historically
between the ages of 15 and 24, and more than 60% of HIV-
unequal power relations between men and women, and
positive youth in this age bracket are female.
persistent discrimination against women.
Violence against women in police custody is common and
Rape has long been used as a weapon of war. Women as old as
includes sexual violence, inappropriate surveillance, strip
grandmothers and as young as toddlers have routinely suffered
searches conducted by men and demands for sexual acts in
violent sexual abuse at the hands of military and rebel forces.
exchange for privileges or basic necessities.
Dowry murder is a brutal practice where a woman is killed by
Female infanticide, prenatal sex selection and systematic
her husband or in-laws because her family cannot meet their
neglect of girls are widespread in South and East Asia, North
demands for dowry — a payment made to a woman’s in-laws
Africa, and the Middle East.
upon her marriage as a gift to her new family. While dowries
or similar payments are prevalent worldwide, dowry murder
COSTS AND CONSEQUENCES
occurs predominantly in South Asia.
The costs of violence against women are extremely high. They
The practice of early marriage is common worldwide, especially
include the direct costs of services to treat and support abused
in Africa and South Asia. This is a form of sexual violence, for
women and their children and to bring perpetrators to justice.
young girls are often forced into the marriage and into sexual
The indirect costs include lost employment and productivity,
relations, causing health risks, including exposure to HIV/AIDS,
and the costs in human pain and suffering.
and limiting their attendance in school.
The cost of intimate partner violence in the United States
Between 500,000 to 2 million people, the majority of them
alone exceeds US$5.8 billion per year: US$4.1 billion is for
women and children, are trafficked annually into situations
direct medical and health care services, while productivity
including prostitution, forced labour, slavery or servitude,
losses account for nearly US$1.8 billion.
according to estimates.
In Canada, a 1995 study estimated the annual direct costs of
Courtroom procedures that protect the privacy of victims
violence against women to be Can$684 million for the criminal
during trial, such as allowing evidence to be given by video link
justice system, Can$187 million for police and Can$294 million
or restricting access to courtrooms during rape trials, are being
for the cost of counseling and training, totaling more than
used more often, including in Finland, Ireland, Japan and Nepal.
Can$1 billion a year. A 2004 study in the United Kingdom
Providing Services
estimated the total direct and indirect costs of domestic
violence, including pain and suffering, to be £23 billion per year
In Timor Leste, Fokupers, an NGO, provides legal aid services
or £440 per person.
for women victims and raises public awareness of women’s legal
rights. It distributes information to service providers, religious
One effect of sexual abuse is traumatic gynecologic fistula:
institutions, government agencies and lawmakers.
an injury resulting from severe tearing of the vaginal tissues,
rendering the woman incontinent and socially undesirable. It is
It has proven effective to bring together health services for
believed that tens of thousands of women have suffered from
victims of violence in one interagency unit, often called a
sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since
“One-Stop Centre”. First developed in Malaysia, this model is
armed conflict began.
currently being replicated in much of Asia as well as in other
countries, including South Africa.
The prevalence of violence and of HIV/AIDS are interlinked.
Women’s inability to negotiate safe sex and refuse unwanted sex
Preventing Violence
is closely linked to the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS. Unwanted
sex results in a higher risk of abrasion and bleeding and easier
There are promising strategies to engage men in the prevention
transmission of the virus. Women who are beaten by their
of violence against women. The White Ribbon Campaign,
partners are 48% more likely to be infected with HIV/AIDS.
established in Canada in 1991, has spread to 47 countries.
States have become increasingly involved in trying to change
HOW ARE COUNTRIES DOING ON LEGISLATION?
attitudes. In Denmark, a comprehensive nation-wide
According to the 2006 Secretary-General’s In-Depth Study on
government campaign was launched in Danish, English, Arabic,
All Forms of Violence against Women, 89 States worldwide had
Turkish and Somali.
some form of legislative prohibition on domestic violence, and
In Upper Egypt, NGOs used community mobilization to
a growing number of countries had instituted national plans
inform local and religious leaders of the adverse effects of
of action to end violence against women. Marital rape may be
female genital mutilation/cutting and to call for an end to the
prosecuted in at least 104 States, and 90 States have some form
practice.
of legislative provision against sexual harassment
There are 102 States that have no specific legal provisions against
THE WAY FORWARD
domestic violence. Marital rape is not a prosecutable offence
There has been significant progress in establishing
in at least 53 States. Only 93 States (of 191 reviewed) have some
international standards and norms. International and regional
legislative provision prohibiting trafficking in human beings.
legal and policy instruments have clarified the obligations of
In many places, laws contain loopholes that allow perpetrators
countries to eradicate and punish violence against women.
to act with impunity. In a number of countries, a rapist can go
However, States are failing to meet the requirements of the
free under the penal code if he marries the victim.
international legal and policy framework.
UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and
Violence against women must be prioritized at all levels — it
Security, adopted in the year 2000, calls for women’s equal
has not yet received the priority required to enable significant
participation in peace and security issues. Yet, eight years later,
change. Leadership and political will is critical.
it is evident that much more effort is needed to strengthen
There is need for investment of resources and for consistent
mechanisms to prevent, prosecute and remedy violence against
assistance, especially to the least developed countries and
women in times of war, and to ensure that their voices are
countries emerging from conflict. A more cohesive and
heard in peacebuilding.
strategic approach is needed from all actors, including
Although the 1981 Convention on the Elimination of All
governments, the international community and civil society.
Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) does
There is compelling evidence that violence against women
not explicitly mention violence against women, the CEDAW
is severe and pervasive throughout the world: in 71 countries
Committee clarified in its General Recommendation No. 19
at least one survey has been conducted. However, there is an
(1992) that countries party to the Convention are under an
urgent need to strengthen data collection in order to inform
obligation to eliminate violence against women.
policy.
The problem of under-reporting complicates data collection.
WHAT IS BEING DONE: SOME EXAMPLES
A 2005 WHO study based on data from 24,000 women in
Improving Criminal Justice Systems
ten countries noted that 55% to 95% of women who had been
The Mongolian Domestic Violence Law, enacted in May
physically abused by their partners had never contacted the
2004, was the result of collaboration between two prominent
police, NGOs or shelters for help. Stigma and fear prevent
Mongolian women’s NGOs and the parliamentary domestic
women from seeking assistance and redress.
violence legislative taskforce.
In the United Kingdom, there are guidelines for police, social
workers and educators on addressing forced marriages.
Information excerpted from the United Nations Secretary-General’s In-depth Study on Violence against Women, 2006, and from websites for the United Nations Fund for Women
(UNIFEM) and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), unless otherwise specified.
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