Preventing violence against women: the WHO shows the way, now it’s time to act.

Too often, violence against women is underestimated and, according to some people, the topic is exacerbated by the media. This post is dedicated to those people. I will give some information, because it is evident that if you agree with that, you are not well (or at all) informed.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1 in 3 women (35%, equivalent to 800 million people) worldwide experienced “physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner or sexual violence by any perpetrator”. This statistics doesn’t take into account sexual harassment, and the risk of violence increases if the woman/girl belongs to ethnic and other minorities, transwomen, or has disabilities. This is in line with the trivial law according to which the stronger takes the weaker.

What is the place where violence has higher chance to occur? Home. According to WHO, 30% of women had experienced violence by an intimate partner during their lifetime, and between 38%-50% of murders of women are committed by partners. Scary, isn’t it?

What are the consequences of such violence? The majority (55-95%) of women survivors of violence do not disclose or seek any type of services. Therefore, violence remains as a deep scar that will hurt forever. Violence negatively affects women’s physical and mental health and well-being. Consequences are at social and economic levels for families, communities and societies involved.

Most important, violence is preventable. At different levels, it is possible to act in order to protect women against violence and to provide proper assistance. The WHO developed a guideline based on the acrostic of the word “RESPECT”:

  • R –elationship skills strengthened
  • E –mpowerment of women
  • S –ervices ensured
  • P –overty reduced
  • E –nvironments made safe
  • C –hild and adolescent abuse prevented
  • T –ransformed attitudes, beliefs, and norms

This framework develops on different levels. At individual level, it is essential to promote secondary education for women and men without disparity in education levels. Moreover, both boys and girls are socialized to, and hold gender equitable attitudes. In addition, non-exposure to violence within the family is essential. At interpersonal level, intimate relationships should be based on gender equality, including shared decision-making and household responsibilities. At a community level, norms should support nonviolence and gender equitable relationships, and promote women’s empowerment. Last, at societal level, laws should promote gender equality, women’s access to formal employment and address violence against women.

These guidelines have been established after observing that violence is more frequent in countries/societies that lack education and laws addressing violence against women, where discrimination is common in institutions (police, healthcare) and relationships. Poverty and unemployment are other factors that correlate with higher violence rate.

Evidently, the WHO cannot solve the issue by providing some guidelines. Countries that are more ready to guarantee full gender equality should act first, giving the example in a concrete way (investing real money). Then, the international community should put some pressure on the countries that are not so keen in guaranteeing equal right and safety to all their people.

Sources

https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/312261/WHO-RHR-18.19-eng.pdf?ua=1

https://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/preventing-vaw-framework-policymakers/en/

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