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Ending Violence Against Women and Girls

Overview

Every year, millions of women and girls worldwide suffer violence, be it domestic violence, rape, female genital mutilation/cutting, dowry-related killing, trafficking, sexual violence in conflict-related situations, or other manifestations of abuse.

Violence against women takes many forms – physical, sexual, psychological and economic. These forms of violence are interrelated and affect women from before birth to old age. Some types of violence, such as trafficking, cross national boundaries.

Women and girls who experience violence suffer a range of health problems and their ability to participate in public life is diminished. Violence against women harms families and communities across generations and reinforces other violence prevalent in society.

Violence against women also impoverishes women, their families, communities and nations.

Launch of "16 days of Activism" campaign to strengthen women's rights and stop gender based violence at City Hall in Monrovia, Liberia.  UNMIL Photo/Christopher Herwig.

Launch of "16 days of Activism" campaign to strengthen women's rights and stop gender based violence at City Hall in Monrovia, Liberia. UNMIL Photo/Christopher Herwig.

Violence against women and girls is not confined to a specific culture, region or country, or to particular groups of women within a society. The roots of violence against women lie in persistent discrimination against women and girls.

Up to 70 per cent of women experience violence in their lifetime, according to country data available.

Women aged 15-44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war and malaria, according to World Bank data.

Violence by an intimate partner

The most common form of violence experienced by women globally is physical violence inflicted by an intimate partner, with women beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused.

Psychological or emotional violence by intimate partners is also widespread.

Video: Stop Rape Now PSA

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Sexual violence

It is estimated that, worldwide, one in five women will become a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime. The practice of early marriage – a form of sexual violence – is common worldwide, especially in Africa and South Asia. Young girls are often forced into the marriage and sexual relations, causing health risks, including exposure to HIV/AIDS, and limiting their attendance in school. One effect of sexual abuse is traumatic gynecologic fistula: an injury resulting from severe tearing of the vaginal tissues, rendering the woman incontinent and socially undesirable.

Sexual violence in conflict

Charlize Theron, UN Messenger of Peace with a focus on ending violence against women, visits Panzi Hospital (which specializes in sexual violence against women) in Bukavu, South Kivu, DRC. While visiting the location for upcoming construction site of City of Joy (a transit centre for women-victims of sexual violence), Ms Theron greets local children.

Charlize Theron, UN Messenger of Peace with a focus on ending violence against women, visits Panzi Hospital (which specializes in sexual violence against women) in Bukavu, South Kivu, DRC.

Sexual violence in conflict is a serious, present-day atrocity affecting millions of people, primarily women and girls.

It is frequently a conscious strategy employed on a large scale by armed groups to humiliate opponents, terrify individuals and destroy societies. Women and girls may also be subjected to sexual exploitation by those mandated to protect them.

Women and girls as old as grandmothers and as young as toddlers have routinely suffered violent sexual abuse at the hands of military and rebel forces.

Rape has long been used as a tactic of war, with violence against women during or after armed conflicts reported in every international or non-international war-zone.

Violence and HIV/AIDS

Women’s inability to negotiate safe sex and refuse unwanted sex is closely linked to the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS. Unwanted sex results in a higher risk of abrasion and bleeding and easier transmission of the virus.

Young women are particularly vulnerable to coerced sex and are increasingly being infected with HIV/AIDS. Over half of new HIV infections worldwide are occurring among young people between the ages of 15 and 24, and more than 60 per cent of HIV-positive youth in this age bracket are female.

Female Genital Mutilation/Genital Cutting

Female Genital Mutilation/Genital Cutting (FGM/C) refers to several types of traditional cutting operations performed on women and girls.

Dowry murder

Dowry murder is a brutal practice where a woman is killed by her husband or in-laws because her family cannot meet their demands for dowry — a payment made to a woman’s in-laws upon her marriage as a gift to her new family. While dowries or similar payments are prevalent worldwide, dowry murder occurs predominantly in South Asia.

“Honour killing”

In many societies, rape victims, women and girls suspected of engaging in premarital sex, and women accused of adultery have been murdered by their relatives because the violation of a woman’s chastity is viewed as an affront to the family’s honour.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that the annual worldwide number of so-called “honour killing” victims may be as high as 5,000 women.

Trafficking in persons

Between 500,000 to 2 million people are trafficked annually into situations including prostitution, forced labour, slavery or servitude, according to estimates. Women and girls account for about 80 per cent of the detected victims.

Violence during pregnancy

Violence before and during pregnancy has serious health consequences for both mother and child. It leads to high-risk pregnancies and pregnancy-related problems, including miscarriage, pre-term labour and low birth weight. Female infanticide, prenatal sex selection and systematic neglect of girls are widespread in South and East Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East.

Discrimination and violence

Many women face multiple forms of discrimination and increased risk of violence.