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WHO Report Shows Almost 1 in 3 Women Experienced Violence Even Before Pandemic

WHO Report Shows Almost 1 in 3 Women Experienced Violence Even Before Pandemic


On Tuesday, the World Health Organization released a new report detailing violence perpetrated against women around the world. The report found that almost one in three women experience physical or sexual abuse in their lifetime.

The data that was analyzed for the study was gathered between 2000-2018, so it does not take into account the coronavirus effect. It includes information from 161 countries about women and girls ages 15-49, and reaches conclusions regarding sexual violence and intimate partner violence.The report details the terms of its findings, stating,

The United Nations defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.” 

Violence committed against women has lingering and tragic consequences, as the report explains. Abuse can lead to homicide, suicide, injuries, a higher chance of miscarriage in pregnancy, increased substance abuse, sexually-transmitted infections, depression, and much more. When violence occurs in a household, it can have a negative effect on children, and might even lead to them experiencing or committing violence in the future. Intimate partner violence has even been linked to a higher rate of infant and child mortality and morbidity. There are social and economic costs as well, when women are not able to work or become isolated.

The data shows that violence against women was already a significant global problem before the pandemic became a factor, but the effects of the coronavirus lockdowns have led to elevated concerns over the issue of domestic abuse. The uptick in isolation has created more scenarios for victims to be at home with abusers while also decreasing the availability of centers that can help women escape dangerous situations.

UN Women, the United Nations body focused on gender equality and women empowerment, described the issue of violence against women during the pandemic as the “shadow pandemic” in May 2020. At the time, UN Women launched its Shadow Pandemic campaign to increase public knowledge of the growing incidents of domestic violence.

UN Women explained the problem last year, stating that there have been more calls to domestic violence helplines since the beginning of the pandemic. They also describe how some countries had to move assets toward eradicating the coronavirus and away from efforts to decrease violence against women.

NPR reports on Tuesday’s WHO analysis release and what it might mean for the current status of violence against women.

According to NPR:

The figures “really bring to the fore how widely prevalent this problem already was” even prior to the pandemic, said WHO’s Dr. Claudia Garcia-Moreno, one of the report’s authors. She says researchers won’t know the pandemic’s true impact on violence against women until they can conduct new population-based surveys again in the future.

The problem ranges in different regions throughout the world as well. The WHO report released on Tuesday states that the “prevalence estimates of lifetime intimate partner violence range from 20% in the Western Pacific, 22% in high-income countries and Europe and 25% in the WHO Regions of  the Americas to 33% in the WHO African region, 31% in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean region, and 33% in the WHO South-East Asia region.”

According to NPR, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference on Tuesday that “the results paint a horrifying picture” of the amount of violence against women. In a statement, he reportedly called it a problem “endemic in every country and culture that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Tedros added, “But unlike COVID-19, violence against women cannot be stopped with a vaccine. We can only fight it with deep-rooted and sustained efforts – by governments, communities and individuals – to change harmful attitudes, improve access to opportunities and services for women and girls, and foster healthy and mutually respectful relationships.”

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