These include threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.
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.
Types of violence against women
Violence strikes women from all kinds of backgrounds and of all ages. It could happen at work, on the street, or at home. Women and girls experience violence in the environment: dating violence; domestic and intimate partner violence; emotional abuse; human trafficking; same-sex relationship violence; sexual assault and abuse; stalking; violence against immigrant and refugee women; violence against women at work; and violence against women with disabilities.
Sometimes, women are attacked by strangers but most often they are hurt by people who are close to them such as a husband or partner. Whether you are attacked by a stranger or mistreated by a partner, violence and abuse could have terrible effects.
The UN Secretary-General’s review of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action has analysed progress and formulated concrete recommendations to step up the efforts to ensure gender equality and women’s empowerment that touches the lives of all women and girls worldwide.
• All regions have unacceptably high rates of violence against women, with recent global estimates showing that 35 per cent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.
• A major obstacle for ending violence against women is the persistence of discriminatory attitudes and social norms that normalise and permit violence.
• Ensuring the implementation of strong and comprehensive legal and policy frameworks which address all forms of violence against women in all countries remains an urgent priority, along with adequate resourcing for implementation, long term strategies to prevent violence against women and ensuring accessibly and high quality services for survivors.
The Platform for Action recognises violence against women as a violation of women’s human rights and fundamental freedoms and as an obstacle to the achievement of equality, development and peace.
The Platform for Action called on states to take integrated measures to prevent and eliminate violence against women; to study the causes and consequences of violence against women and to eliminate trafficking in women.
Recent global estimates show that 35 per cent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.
While there is some variation across regions, all regions have unacceptably high rates of violence against women. Among low and middle- income regions, Africa has the highest proportion of women reporting either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence, at 45.6 per cent, followed by South-East Asia (40.2 per cent), Eastern Mediterranean (36.4 per cent), the Americas (36.1 per cent), Western Pacific (27.9 per cent) and Europe (27.2 per cent).
In high income countries, 32.7 per cent of women have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. Owing to the limited availability of data and comparability challenges, an analysis of global and regional trends over time is not possible.
The most common form of violence experienced by women is intimate partner violence, which often leads to injuries and at times, results in death.
As confirmed in a global study on homicide, almost half of female homicide victims are killed by their intimate partner or family members, whereas the figure for men is just over one in 20 homicide victims.
Alarmingly, the majority of women who experience violence do not seek help or support. While global data are not available, a study of 42,000 women undertaken across 28 member States of the European Union found that only one third of victims of partner violence and one quarter of victims of non-partner violence contacted either the police or support services following the most serious incident of violence.
Victims reported the most serious incident of partner violence to the police in only 14 per cent of cases.
A major obstacle for ending violence against women is the persistence of discriminatory attitudes and social norms that normalise and permit violence. Victim blaming attitudes are widespread across all countries.
Data from 37 developing countries show that 21 per cent of women believe that a husband is justified in beating his wife if she argues with him. Similarly 27 per cent of women believe that a husband is justified in beating his wife if she neglects the children.
While those surveys collected data from women about their attitudes, surveys of men also reveal high levels of acceptance of violence against women. A 2010 survey conducted in 15 out of 27 member states of the European Union asked whether women’s behaviour was a cause of domestic violence against women.
The proportion of individuals who agreed with this statement averaged 52 per cent and ranged from 33 per cent to 86 per cent across countries.
The most recent Global Report on Trafficking in Persons provides an overview of patterns and flows of trafficking in persons at the global, regional and national levels and is based on trafficking cases detected mainly between 2007 and 2010.
Women account for between 55 per cent and 60 per cent of all trafficking victims detected globally, and women and girls together account for some 75 per cent. Moreover, the trafficking of children remains a serious problem, as 27 per cent of all victims are children and, of every three child victims, two are girls and one is a boy.
There is limited availability of global trend data on other forms of violence experienced by women. A study of 42,000 women in the European Union found that 55 per cent of women have experienced sexual harassment at least once since the age of 15, and one in five women (21 per cent) had experienced such harassment in the 12 months prior to the survey.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimated in 2013 that more than 125 million girls and women had undergone some form of female genital mutilation/cutting in 29 countries across Africa and the Middle East.
Another 30 million girls were estimated to be at risk of being cut in the next decade. Trend data show that the practice is becoming less common in a little over half of the 29 countries studied.
However, owing to population growth, the number of women affected by female genital mutilation/cutting is actually increasing. With respect to child, early and forced marriage (see Section L.) UNICEF estimates that more than 700 million women alive in 2014 were married before their eighteenth birthday.
The harmful practice is declining, but still persists at unacceptably high levels in countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
Emerging trends in national-level implementation
• Strengthening legal and policy frameworks to address all forms of violence against women through: the adoption and reforms of laws; increased efforts to implement and enforce laws and improve women’s access to justice and continued efforts to adopt and improve national action plans.
• Accelerating efforts to prevent violence against women through public awareness campaigns, interventions in the education system and community mobilization activities.
• Increasing the provision and integration of multi-sectoral support services by strengthening referral mechanisms, improving specialized services and a greater focus on training and capacity building of service providers.
• Improving data and evidence on violence against women through dedicated surveys and crime surveys and research on the causes of violence against women, prevalence, attitudes and consequences.
Priorities for future action and accelerated implementation and ensuring the implementation of strong and comprehensive legal and policy frameworks which address all forms of violence against women in all countries remains an urgent priority, along with adequate resourcing for implementation.
Accelerating implementation would require comprehensive and long term strategies to prevent violence against women which address unequal power relations, change attitudes and realize women’s human rights in all areas.
There is a need to strengthen responses by integrating the prevention and response to such violence within broader policy frameworks such as national development plans, health, education, security and justice policies.
Laws, policies and programmes to address violence against women should specifically address the factors that place marginalised women and girls at particular risk of violence and create an enabling environment for these groups of women to find support in addressing violence.
In addition, comprehensive strategies are needed to combat the multiple and newly emerging forms of violence against women and the various contexts in which violence occurs.
There is also a need for much greater attention to the accessibility of, the quality of services, including through training of providers and better integration and coordination.
Finally, States should increase their efforts to collect and report data in accordance with the nine violence against women indicators endorsed by the United Nations Statistical Commission.
By Francis Ameyibor