The World Health Organization reported on Tuesday that nearly one in three women worldwide is subjected to physical or sexual violence during her lifetime, pervasive criminal behavior that has increased during the pandemic.
The UN urged governments to prevent violence, improve services for victims and tackle economic inequalities that often leave women and girls trapped in abusive relationships.
Boys should be taught in school about the need for mutual respect in relationships and mutual consent in sex, WHO officials added.
“Violence against women is endemic in every country and culture, causing harm to millions of women and their families, and has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
Some 31 percent of women aged 15-49, or up to 852 million women, have experienced physical or sexual violence, the WHO said in what it called the largest ever such study, encompassing national data and surveys from 2000-2018.
A husband or intimate partner is the most common perpetrator and a disproportionate number of victims are in the poorest countries. True figures are likely to be far higher due to under reporting of sexual abuse, a heavily-stigmatized crime.
Violence starts at an “alarmingly young” age. One in four adolescent girls aged 15-19 who have had a relationship have been subjected to either physical or sexual violence, report author Claudia Garcia-Moreno noted.
“This is a very important and formative time in life. And we know that the impacts of this violence can be long-lasting and can affect physical and mental health and lead to unwanted pregnancies and other complications,” she said.
While protecting women from physical and sexual violence is an ongoing effort that has seen tangible improvements in recent years, the data suggests that there is much more work to be done to make societies safer, especially for women who until recently, have been generally and unfairly regarded as the weaker sex.
It will take a massive and sustained effort from government and the private sector if we are to reeducate the next generation’s views and tendencies towards women and equality. The seeds have already been sown and are taking root but unless we nurture those ideas until they become the norm, we could easily lose any progress we have made towards making our world equally safe for humans of all genders and sexes.*