November 25, 2014

How can we fight the “epidemic” of violence against women?

A new study claims that violence against women and girls is a "global public health and clinical problem of epidemic proportions."

A five-part series published this week in The Lancet compares and analyzes global levels of violence against women, as well as associated activities including child and forced marriage, sex trafficking, and rape.

The series highlights some shocking statistics: an estimated 30% of women worldwide have experienced partner violence; and around 7% of women have experienced sexual assault from someone other than their partner.

Meanwhile, almost 70m girls worldwide have been married before they reached the age of 18.

The study found that health workers are often the first to know about abuse, putting them in a unique position to help victims. As such, the series suggests that strengthening health and education sectors may effectively reduce levels of violence against women.

Series co-lead Dr Claudia Garcia-Moreno said: "The health community is missing important opportunities to integrate violence programming meaningfully into public health initiatives on HIV/AIDS, adolescent health, maternal health, and mental health."

The series also suggests implementing measures to alter policy structures which discriminate against women; allocate resources specifically to protect victims; and promote support for survivors.

Our author Lisa Cameron has looked at how policymakers can work to protect vulnerable or marginalized women. She notes that social protection programs need to be designed with women in mind, and often work best at the community level.

Elsewhere, Siwan Anderson has analyzed how investments in female human capital affect prospects for women. She finds that countries which implement programs to empower women through education and employment report higher levels of female welfare. Brideprice and dowry prices, which are often associated with domestic abuse, are also less common.

The Lancet's study coincides with the UN’s International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women today.

Related articles:
Social protection programs for women in developing countries, by Lisa Cameron
Human capital effects of marriage payments, by Siwan Anderson