The World Health Organization (WHO) has released a new report on violence against women. This article will present the salient findings of the report.
Violence against women: 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.”
Intimate partner violence refers to behaviours 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 violence is “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 includes rape, 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 “
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.
Factors associated with 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; and
- low levels of women’s access to paid employment.
- low levels of gender equality (discriminatory laws, etc)
Factors specifically associated with intimate partner violence include:
- past history of exposure to violence
- marital discord and dissatisfaction
- difficulties in communicating between partners
- 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
- 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.