Violence against women (2023)


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 deprivationof liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life."(1)

Intimate partner violencerefers 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 violenceis "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 includesrape, defined as the physically forced or otherwise coerced penetration of the vulva or anus with a penis, other body part or object, attempted rape, unwanted sexual touching and other non-contact forms".

  • World report on violence and health

Scope of the problem

Population-level surveys based on reports from survivors provide the most accurate estimates of the prevalence of intimate partner violence and sexual violence. A 2018 analysis of prevalence data from 2000-2018 across 161 countries and areas, conductedby WHO on behalf of the UN Interagency working group on violence against women, found that worldwide, nearly 1 in 3, or 30%, of women have been subjected to physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner or non-partner sexual violence or both(2).

  • Global and regional estimates of violence against women

Over a quarter of women aged15-49 years who have been in a relationship have been subjected to physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner at least once in their lifetime (since age 15). The prevalence estimates of lifetime intimate partnerviolence 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 Asiaregion.

(Video) Why does violence against women so often go unpunished? - BBC Newsnight

Globally as many as 38% of all murders of women are committed by intimate partners. In addition to intimate partner violence, globally 6% of women report having been sexually assaulted by someone other than a partner, although data for non-partner sexualviolence are more limited. Intimate partner and sexual violence are mostly perpetrated by men against women.

Lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic and its social and economic impacts have increased the exposure of women to abusive partners and known risk factors, while limiting their access to services. Situations of humanitarian crises and displacement mayexacerbate existing violence, such as by intimate partners, as well as non-partner sexual violence, and may also lead to new forms of violence against women.

  • COVID-19 and violence against women

Factors associated with intimate partner violence and sexual violence against women

Intimate partner and sexual violence is the result of factors occurring at individual, family, community and wider society levels that interact with each other to increase or reduce risk (protective). Some are associated with being a perpetrator of violence,some are associated with experiencing violence and some are associated with both.

Risk factors for both intimate partner and sexual violence include:

  • lower levels of education (perpetration of sexual violence and experience of sexual violence);
  • a history of exposure to child maltreatment (perpetration and experience);
  • witnessing family violence (perpetration and experience);
  • antisocial personality disorder (perpetration);
  • harmful use of alcohol (perpetration and experience);
  • harmful masculine behaviours, including having multiple partners or attitudes that condone violence (perpetration);
  • community norms that privilege or ascribe higher status to men and lower status to women;
  • low levels of women’s access to paid employment; and
  • low level of gender equality (discriminatory laws, etc.).

Factors specifically associated with intimate partner violence include:

(Video) WHO - Violence against women: Strengthening the health system response

  • past history of exposure to violence;
  • marital discord and dissatisfaction;
  • difficulties in communicating between partners; and
  • male controlling behaviours towards their partners.

Factors specifically associated with sexual violence perpetration include:

  • beliefs in family honour and sexual purity;
  • ideologies of male sexual entitlement; and
  • weak legal sanctions for sexual violence.

Gender inequality and norms on the acceptability of violence against women are a root cause of violence against women.

Health consequences

Intimate partner (physical, sexual and psychological) and sexual violence cause serious short- and long-term physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health problems for women. They also affect their children’s health and wellbeing. This violenceleads to high social and economic costs for women, their families and societies. Such violence can:

  • Have fatal outcomes like homicide or suicide.
  • Lead to injuries, with 42% of women who experience intimate partner violence reporting an injury as a consequence of this violence (3).
  • Lead to unintended pregnancies, induced abortions, gynaecological problems, and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. WHO's 2013 study on the health burden associated with violence against women found that women who had been physically orsexually abused were 1.5 times more likely to have a sexually transmitted infection and, in some regions, HIV, compared to women who had not experienced partner violence. They are also twice as likely to have an abortion (3).
  • Intimate partner violence in pregnancy also increases the likelihood of miscarriage, stillbirth, pre-term delivery and low birth weight babies. The same 2013 study showed that women who experienced intimate partner violence were 16% more likely tosuffer a miscarriage and 41% more likely to have a pre-term birth (3).
  • These forms of violence can lead to depression, post-traumatic stress and other anxiety disorders, sleep difficulties, eating disorders, and suicide attempts. The 2013 analysis found that women who have experienced intimate partner violence were almosttwice as likely to experience depression and problem drinking.
  • Health effects can also include headaches, pain syndromes (back pain, abdominal pain, chronic pelvic pain) gastrointestinal disorders, limited mobility and poor overall health.
  • Sexual violence, particularly during childhood, can lead to increased smoking, substance use, and risky sexual behaviours. It is also associated with perpetration of violence (for males) and being a victim of violence (for females).

Impact on children

  • Children who grow up in families where there is violence may suffer a range of behavioural and emotional disturbances. These can also be associated with perpetrating or experiencing violence later in life.
  • Intimate partner violence has also been associated with higher rates of infant and child mortality and morbidity (through, for example diarrhoeal disease or malnutrition and lower immunization rates).

Social and economic costs

The social and economic costs of intimate partner and sexual violence are enormous and have ripple effects throughout society. Women may suffer isolation, inability to work, loss of wages, lack of participation in regular activities and limited abilityto care for themselves and their children.

Prevention and response

There is growing evidence on what works to prevent violence against women, based on well-designed evaluations. In 2019, WHO and UN Women with endorsement from 12 other UN and bilateral agencies published RESPECT women – a framework forpreventing violence against women aimed at policy makers.

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Each letter of RESPECT stands for one of seven strategies: Relationship skills strengthening; Empowerment of women; Services ensured; Poverty reduced; Enabling environments (schools, work places, public spaces) created; Child and adolescent abuse prevented;and Transformed attitudes, beliefs and norms.

For each of these seven strategies there are a range of interventions in low and high resource settings with varying degree of evidence of effectiveness. Examples of promising interventions include psychosocial support and psychological interventionsfor survivors of intimate partner violence; combined economic and social empowerment programmes; cash transfers; working with couples to improve communication and relationship skills; community mobilization interventions to change unequal gender norms;school programmes that enhance safety in schools and reduce/eliminate harsh punishment and include curricula that challenges gender stereotypes and promotes relationships based on equality and consent; and group-based participatory educationwith women and men to generate critical reflections about unequal gender power relationships.

RESPECT also highlights that successful interventions are those that prioritize safety of women; whose core elements involve challenging unequal gender power relationships; that are participatory; address multiple risk factors through combined programmingand that start early in the life course.

To achieve lasting change, it is important to enact and enforce legislation and develop and implement policies that promote gender equality; allocate resources to prevention and response; and invest in women’s rights organizations.

  • RESPECT women: Preventing violence against women

Role of the health sector

While preventing and responding to violence against women requires a multi-sectoral approach, the health sector has an important role to play. The health sector can:

(Video) Let’s talk about violence against women | Lily Banda | TEDxLilongwe

  • Advocate to make violence against women unacceptable and for such violence to be addressed as a public health problem.
  • Provide comprehensive services, sensitize and train health care providers in responding to the needs of survivors holistically and empathetically.
  • Prevent recurrence of violence through early identification of women and children who are experiencing violence and providing appropriate referral and support
  • Promote egalitarian gender norms as part of life skills and comprehensive sexuality education curricula taught to young people.
  • Generate evidence on what works and on the magnitude of the problem by carrying out population-based surveys, or including violence against women in population-based demographic and health surveys, as well as in surveillance and health informationsystems.

WHO response

At the World Health Assembly in May 2016, Member States endorsed a global plan of action on strengthening the role of the health systems in addressing interpersonal violence, in particular against women and girls and against children.

  • Global plan of action to strengthen the role of the health system within a national multisectoral response to address interpersonal violence, in particular against women and girls, and against children

WHO, in collaboration with partners, is:

  • Building the evidence base on the size and nature of violence against women in different settings and supporting countries' efforts to document and measure this violence and its consequences, including improving the methods for measuring violenceagainst women in the context of monitoring for the Sustainable Development Goals. This is central to understanding the magnitude and nature of the problem and to initiating action in countries and globally.
  • Strengthening research and capacity to assess interventions to prevent and respond to violence against women.
  • Undertaking interventions research to test and identify effective health sector interventions to address violence against women.
  • Developing guidelines and implementation tools for strengthening the health sector response to intimate partner and sexual violence and synthesizing evidence on what works to prevent such violence.
  • Supporting countries and partners to implement the global plan of action on violence and monitoring progress including through documentation of lessons learned.
  • Collaborating with international agencies and organizations to reduce and eliminate violence globally through initiatives such as the Sexual Violence Research Initiative, Together for Girls, the UN Women-WHO Joint Programme on Strengthening Violenceagainst Women measurement and data Collection and use, the UN Joint Programme on Essential Services Package for Women Subject to Violence, and the Secretary General’s political strategy to address violence against women and COVID-19.
  • WHO and UN Women, along with other partners, co-lead the Action Coalition on Gender-based Violence, an innovative partnership of governments, civil society, youth leaders, private sector and philanthropies to develop a bold agenda of catalytic actionsand leverage funding to eradicate violence against women. These bold actions and investments will be announced at the Generation Equality Forum in Mexico (March 29-31) and in France (June), along with those of other fiveGeneration Equality Action Coalitions.


(1) United Nations. Declaration on the elimination of violence against women. New York : UN, 1993.

(2) Violence against women Prevalence Estimates, 2018. Global, regional and national prevalence estimates for intimate partner violence against women and global and regional prevalence estimates for non-partner sexual violence against women.WHO: Geneva, 2021

(Video) Violence against women: On the frontline

(3) WHO, LSHTM, SAMRC. Global and regional estimates of violence against women: prevalence and health impacts of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence. WHO: Geneva, 2013.


What can you say about violence against women? ›

'The term violence against women means any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.

What is the conclusion of violence against women? ›

Violence against women is one of the paramount threats facing women in terms of equality and enjoyment of human rights. However, there is no clear treaty provision which expressly prohibits violence against women in any of the nine core human rights treaties.

Which is the most common form of violence among females? ›

Domestic violence

It encompasses all physical, sexual, emotional, economic and psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This is one of the most common forms of violence experienced by women globally.

What is the impact of violence and struggle in the life of women? ›

For the women affected, violence can result in physical, psychological or social consequences, or even death. This also applies to sexualised violence. They include physical injuries, infertility or sexually transmitted diseases, and also trauma, depression, anxiety or panic attacks.

Why is it important to stop violence? ›

Violence has lifelong consequences.

Toxic stress associated with repeated exposure to violence in early childhood can interfere with healthy brain development, and can lead to aggressive and anti-social behaviours, substance abuse, risky sexual behaviour and criminal activity.

Why is violence against women an important issue? ›

Violence against women and girls is a human rights violation, and the immediate and long-term physical, sexual, and mental consequences for women and girls can be devastating, including death. Violence negatively affects women's general well-being and prevents women from fully participating in society.

What are the main problem of violence against women? ›

Reproductive age Abuse by intimate male partners, marital rape; dowry abuse and murder; partner homicide; psychological abuse; sexual abuse in the workplace; sexual harassment; rape; forced prostitution and pornography; trafficking; abuse of women with disabilities.

How can we stop violence? ›

Tips for Youth to Stop Violence
  1. Tell someone. If you are the victim or are witness to violence, tell someone. ...
  2. Take all violence and abuse seriously. ...
  3. Take a stand. ...
  4. Be an individual. ...
  5. Take back the power. ...
  6. Remember, putting others down doesn't raise you up. ...
  7. Wrong. ...
  8. Be a friend.

What can government do to stop violence? ›

Five ways governments are responding to violence against women and children during COVID-19
  1. Expansion of helplines and information sharing. ...
  2. Funding shelters and other safe accommodation options for survivors. ...
  3. Expansion of access to services for survivors. ...
  4. Limiting risk factors associated with violence.
Apr 11, 2020

What are the main causes of violence? ›

Other factors which can be causes of violence include:
  • The influence of one's peers.
  • Having a lack of attention or respect.
  • Having low self-worth.
  • Experiencing abuse or neglect.
  • Witnessing violence in the home, community, or medias.
  • Access to weapons.
Nov 29, 2022

What is the root cause of violence? ›

The Urban Peace Institute believes violence is a symptom of many risk factors. Gang violence can result from living in a poor neighborhood, attending a low performing school, exposure to child abuse or neglect, or facing widespread social inequities.

How women's rights are violated? ›

The Istanbul Convention recognizes that sexual harassment, rape, forced marriage, honor crimes, genital mutilation, and other forms of violence constitute serious human rights violations and “a major obstacle to the achievement of equality between women and men.” Istanbul Convention, preamble.

How does violence affect our lives? ›

Community violence can cause significant physical injuries and mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Living in a community experiencing violence is also associated with increased risk of developing chronic diseases.

How does violence affect a person socially? ›

The impacts of family violence can be physical, mental, cognitive and behavioural. Family violence can also affect people's social or economic situations. For example, the experience of family violence can contribute to living in poverty, dropping out of school or having limited options for safe and affordable housing.

What are three negative effects of violence? ›

Conclusion. Violence against children is a significant cause of physical problems, psychological distress, permanent physical disability and long-term physical or mental ill-health.

Why does the victim protect the abuser? ›

Feelings of pity toward the abusers, believing they are actually victims themselves. Because of this, victims may go on a crusade or mission to “save” their abuser. Unwillingness to learn to detach from their perpetrators and heal.

Why is it important to fight women's rights? ›

It leads to better legal protections. Under the law, women aren't well-protected from domestic sexual and economic violence. Both of these types of violence affect a woman's safety and freedom. Increasing women's legal rights keeps them safe and able to build productive happy lives.

What are women's main problems? ›

They have to go through gender discrimination, harassment, sexual abuse, lack of education, dowry-related harassment, gender pay gap and much more. Q. 2 How can we tackle these issues?

What are women's rights issues today? ›

Today, gender bias continues to create huge barriers for many women. Ongoing struggles include ensuring equal economic opportunities, educational equity, and an end to gender-based violence.

What are 3 ways to prevent abuse? ›

Ten Things You Can Do to Prevent Child Abuse
  1. Volunteer your time. Get involved with other parents in your community. ...
  2. Discipline your children thoughtfully. ...
  3. Examine your behavior. ...
  4. Educate yourself and others. ...
  5. Teach children their rights. ...
  6. Support prevention programs. ...
  7. Know what child abuse is. ...
  8. Know the signs.

What are 2 ways you can prevent violence or avoid violence? ›

Types of violence and crime-prevention measures

Examples of this include, reclaiming public spaces via participatory urban planning and the provision of public infrastructure and services; or local interventions to improve the safety of individuals and their sense of identification with public spaces.

What are 4 things we can do to minimize our risk of violence? ›

Stay in well-lighted, busy areas; travel with a friend if possible; walk in a confident, assured way. Avoid known trouble spots. 4. Report crimes and suspicious activity to police; agree to testify when necessary.

How can we support victims of violence? ›

Helping Domestic Violence Victims
  1. Approach the person at a time and place that is safe and confidential.
  2. Start by expressing concern, such as, I am worried about your safety, I am concerned someone is hurting you.
  3. Take the time to listen and believe what they say.

What personality causes violence? ›

Recent findings: Recent data suggest that personality disorders, especially antisocial and borderline, are strongly related to the manifestation of violent acts. Substance abuse is another strong factor which could act either independently or additively.

What is the most common form of violence? ›

Dating Violence

In fact, it is by far the most prevalent type of youth violence, and it impacts our nation's youth regardless of gender, race, socioeconomic class, or sexual orientation.

Is violence learned or natural? ›

While humans are genetically predisposed to engage in aggressive behaviors to survive, other forms of aggression are not “natural” human qualities. Psychologists maintain that violence is an acquired, learned behavior—a cultural phenomenon.

What are 3 factors that contribute to violent behavior? ›

A combination of individual, relationship, community, and societal factors contribute to the risk of youth violence.

Which are the 3 main warning signs that someone may be an abuser? ›

What Are the "Warning Signs" of an Abuser?
  • Extreme jealousy.
  • Possessiveness.
  • Unpredictability.
  • A bad temper.
  • Cruelty to animals.
  • Verbal abuse.
  • Extremely controlling behavior.
  • Antiquated beliefs about roles of women and men in relationships.

How can we protect women's rights? ›

9 ways men can become allies for equal rights
  1. Communicate with the women and girls that are your friends, family members, and loved ones. ...
  2. Start with yourself when joining the women's rights movement. ...
  3. Learn about the women's rights movement. ...
  4. Avoid sharing content that normalizes violence. ...
  5. Support women's organizations.

What laws protect women's rights? ›

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (as well as California's Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits discrimination against women in the workplace.

Is violence a social problem? ›

Violence not only affects individuals, families, and ethnic and religious groups, but also whole nations are affected with violence. In that regard, it can be stated that violence is an important problem in the society in which community violence can be seen as one of the most common types, which raises major concerns.

How does violence affect emotions? ›

Grief, anger, self-blame, disbelief, depression, and anxiety have all been well-documented in children who have experienced explosive violence. These effects are likely to persist into adulthood -- long after the violence has stopped.

How abuse affects a person's behavior? ›

antisocial behaviour (aggression or withdrawal); anxiety or depression; attention-seeking behaviour; delinquent behaviour; or.

Is violence a learned behavior? ›

Violent behavior often begins with verbal threats but over time escalates to involve physical harm. Violence is learned behavior, so it is especially important to help your children learn that violence is not a healthy way to resolve conflict. Set a good example by handling conflict in a calm and thoughtful manner.

What are 2 consequences of violence? ›

Individual and Community Consequences and Costs

immediate injuries such as fractures and hemorrhaging, and long-term physical conditions (e.g. gastrointestinal, central nervous system disorders, chronic pain);

What is the impact of violence on women's health? ›

These women reported more episodes of anxiety and depression, and increased risk of low birth weight babies, pre-term delivery, and neonatal deaths. Studies from Bangladesh and Nepal show the association between violence and women's poor nutritional status, increased stress, and poor self-care.

What does violence against women say about society? ›

Violence against women and girls not only devastates women's lives and divides communities, but it also undermines development efforts and the building of strong democracies and just, peaceful societies. Violence locks women and girls into poverty.

What is a good quote about violence? ›

If you injure your neighbor, better not do it by halves. Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent. Violent excitement exhausts the mind and leaves it withered and sterile. Nothing good ever comes of violence.

Why is violence against women and girls important? ›

Violence against women and girls can lead to significant and long-lasting impacts such as mental health issues, suicide attempts and homelessness, ONS analysis shows. “Violence against women and girls” includes a variety of crime types such as domestic abuse, harassment and domestic homicide.

What is a good thesis statement for violence? ›

Thesis statement : Domestic violence is a very important social issue because it has a large negative affect on the victims. Even though Domestic violence can be caused by either male or female it is usually caused by the male due to the large physical advantage.

What is the main cause of violence in society? ›

Conventionally, violence is understood to be often driven by negative emotions, such as anger or fear. For example, a person might become aggressive because they were enraged at another person, or they were afraid the other person might hurt them.

What are 3 causes of violence? ›

The causes of violence are multiple. The psychological literature usually divides these causes into four highly overlapping categories: (1) biological, (2) socialization, (3) cognitive, and (4) situational factors.

Is violence a choice? ›

Violence and abuse are used to establish and maintain power and control over another person, and often reflect an imbalance of power between the victim and the abuser. Violence is a choice, and it is preventable.

Is violence positive or negative? ›

Regardless of its cause, violence has a negative impact on those who experience or witness it. Violence can cause physical injury as well as psychological harm.

How can we protect women? ›

Take action: 10 ways you can help end violence against women, even during a pandemic
  1. Listen to and believe survivors. ...
  2. Teach the next generation and learn from them. ...
  3. Call for responses and services fit for purpose. ...
  4. Understand consent. ...
  5. Learn the signs of abuse and how you can help. ...
  6. Start a conversation.
Nov 17, 2020


1. Violence against women. Time to act
(Socialists and Democrats)
2. Ending Violence against women and girls: If not you, who?
(UN Women)
3. Violence Against Women Throughout The Life Cycle
(asean secretariat)
4. Jackson Katz: Violence against women—it's a men's issue
5. Enough. Campaign to Tackle Violence Against Women & Girls Launches
(Home Office)
6. Violence Against Women and the Law | David Richards | TEDxUConn
(TEDx Talks)
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