Mar 10, 2021 - World

WHO: 1 in 3 women globally experiences violence

Photo of a masked protester raising their arm with police in the backdrop
Hundreds of women protested worldwide to demand justice for victims of femicide and stop violence against women on International Women's Day on Monday. Photo: Amaresh V. Narro/Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

One in three women — about 736 million around the world — face physical or sexual violence, according to a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) published Tuesday.

Why it matters: Violence against women remains a global epidemic. The pandemic has further increased exposure to violence, the WHO warned, due to lockdowns and disruptions to vital support services.

Driving the news: Younger women are at highest risk for recent violence, according to the report, which is based on data gathered from 161 countries between 2000 and 2018.

  • One in four young women — aged 15-24 — who have been in a relationship will have already experienced violence by an intimate partner by the time they are in their mid-twenties.
  • Violence also disproportionately affects women in low- and lower-middle-income countries.
  • About 37% of women living in the poorest countries have experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence. In some of these countries, the prevalence is as high as one in two.
  • Oceania, Southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa have the highest prevalence rates of intimate partner violence among women aged 15-49.

What they're saying: "It's deeply disturbing that this pervasive violence by men against women not only persists unchanged, but is at its worst for young women aged 15-24 who may also be young mothers," United Nations Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said in a statement.

  • "And that was the situation before the pandemic stay-at home orders. We know that the multiple impacts of COVID-19 have triggered a 'shadow pandemic' of increased reported violence of all kinds against women and girls.
  • "Every government should be taking strong, proactive steps to address this, and involving women in doing so," she added.
"To address violence against women, there’s an urgent need to reduce stigma around this issue, train health professionals to interview survivors with compassion, and dismantle the foundations of gender inequality," said the WHO's Claudia Garcia-Moreno, a physician who leads the team working on violence against women.

Worth noting: President Biden applauded the House for introducing the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act this week, and called for swift passage.

  • "Delay is not an option, especially when the pandemic and economic crisis have only further increased the risks of abuse and the barriers to safety for women in the United States," he said in a statement.
  • The act would increase funding for programs that combat domestic violence.
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