It has been termed as one of the most pervasive violations of human rights.
Violence against women according to Population Reports “Ending Violence Against Women’ has devastating effects on a woman’s reproductive health as well as other aspects of her physical and mental well-being. It further expresses that not only does it cause injury, violence increases women’s long-term risk of a number of other health problems, including chronic pain, physical disability, drug and alcohol abuse, and depression.
There are different kinds of violence meted on women which include physical, sexual, psychological and economic abuse; taking different forms from domestic violence to female genital mutilation, son preference (abortion if it is girl), traditional practices, dowry-related violence, early marriage, rape, sexual assault within marriage (marital rape), sexual harassment, prostitution, trafficking of women and pornography (of young girls).
Facts and Figures on Violence Against Women
Information gathered by Amnesty International and Feminist.com on violence against women from studies done by various governmental and non-governmental organizations, individuals, private research institutions and universities, paint only a small picture of such acts: the magnitude overwhelming.
Some of the facts on violence against women all over the world are:
Globally up to 70% of female murder victims are killed by their male partners. This means in a country like Kenya , more than one woman a week is killed by her partner while in Zambia, five women a week are murdered.
In USA a woman is battered usually by her husband/partner every 15 seconds while two women per week are killed by their partners in the United Kingdom.
When it comes to rape, one in five women will be a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime. In South Africa, 147 women are raped every day while in USA a woman is raped every 90 seconds.
More than 135 million girls and women have undergone female genital mutilation and an additional 2 million girls and women are at risk each year.
82 million girls who are now aged 10 to 17 will be married before their 18th birthday.
In India there are close to 15,000 dowry deaths estimated per year. Mostly they are kitchen fires designed to look like accidents.
At least 60 million girls who would otherwise be expected to be alive are missing from various populations, mostly in Asia, as a result of sex-selective abortions, infanticide or neglect.
An estimated 50,000 women and children are trafficked into the United States annually for sexual exploitation or forced labor. An estimated one million children, mostly girls, enter the sex trade each year.
Effects of Violence on Women’s Reproductive Health
Violence against women can result to immediate and long-term effects on their reproductive health.
According to Population Reports, the health outcome of violence against women can be fatal or non-fatal.
Fatal outcome includes homicide, suicide, maternal mortality and AIDS-related.
Non-fatal on the other hand includes:
Physical health – Injury, functional impairment, physical symptoms, subjective health, permanent disability and severe obesity;
Chronic conditions – Chronic pain syndromes, irritable bowel syndromes, gastrointestinal disorders, somantic complaints and fibromyalgia;
Mental health – Post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, phobias/panic disorder, eating disorders, sexual dysfunction, low self-esteem and substance abuse.
Negative health behaviors – Smoking, alcohol and drug abuse, sexual risk-taking, physical inactivity and over-eating;
Reproductive health – Unwanted pregnancy, STIs/HIV, gynecological disorders, pregnancy complications, miscarriage/low birth weight and pelvic inflammatory disease.
Ending Violence Against Women
Ending violence against women, according to Population Reports, requires long-term commitment and strategies involving all parts of society. This includes governments passing and enforcing laws that ensure women’s legal rights and punishing abusers; community-based strategies that focus on empowering women, reaching out to men, and changing the beliefs and attitudes that permit abusive behavior.
The above statement is concurred by a report published by United Nations Department of Public Information, ‘Women and Violence,’ which states ‘Changing people’s attitude and mentality towards women will take a long time – at least a generation, many believe, and perhaps longer. Nevertheless, raising awareness of the issue of violence against women, and educating boys and men to view women as valuable partners in life, in the development of a society and in the attainment of peace are just as important as taking legal steps to protect women’s human rights.”
“Only when women gain their place as equal members of society will violence against women no longer be an invisible norm but, instead, a shocking aberration,” Population Reports.
Heise, L., Ellsberg, M. and Gottemweller, M. Violence Against Women. Population Reports, Series L., No. 11. Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, Population Information Program, December 1999.
United Nations Population Fund (UNPF). Violence Against Girls and Women. New York, UNFPA, 1992.