2014 Partners’ Forum – Johannesburg, (June 30/July1)

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Violence against Women

Intimate partner and sexual violence against women

Introduction

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 behavior by an intimate partner or ex-partner that causes physical, sexual or psychological harm, including physical aggression, sexual coercion, psychological abuse and controlling behaviors.

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.

Scope of the problem

Population-level surveys based on reports from victims provide the most accurate estimates of the prevalence of intimate partner violence and sexual violence in non-conflict settings. The first report of the “WHO Multi-country study on women’s health and domestic violence against women” (2005) in 10 mainly developing countries found that, among women aged 15-49:

  • between 15% of women in Japan and 71% of women in Ethiopia reported physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime;
  • between 0.3–11.5% of women reported experiencing sexual violence by a non-partner since the age of 15 years;
  • the first sexual experience for many women was reported as forced – 17% in rural Tanzania, 24% in rural Peru, and 30% in rural Bangladesh.

A more recent analysis of WHO with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Medical Research Council, based on existing data from over 80 countries, found that globally 35% of women have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence. Most of this violence is intimate partner violence. Worldwide, almost one third (30%) of all women who have been in a relationship have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner, in some regions this is much higher. Globally as many as 38% of all murders of women are committed by intimate partners.

Intimate partner and sexual violence are mostly perpetrated by men against women and child sexual abuse affects both boys and girls. International studies reveal that approximately 20% of women and 5–10% of men report being victims of sexual violence as children. Violence among young people, including dating violence, is also a major problem.

Risk factors

Factors found to be associated with intimate partner and sexual violence occur within individuals, families and communities and wider society. Some factors 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);
  • exposure to child maltreatment (perpetration and experience);
  • witnessing family violence (perpetration and experience);
  • antisocial personality disorder (perpetration);
  • harmful use of alcohol (perpetration and experience);
  • having multiple partners or suspected by their partners of infidelity (perpetration); and
  • attitudes that are accepting of violence and gender inequality (perpetration and experience).

Factors specifically associated with intimate partner violence include:

  • past history of violence;
  • marital discord and dissatisfaction;
  • difficulties in communicating between 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.

The unequal position of women relative to men and the normative use of violence to resolve conflict are strongly associated with both intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence.

Health consequences

Intimate partner and sexual violence have serious short- and long-term physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health problems for survivors and for their children, and lead to high social and economic costs.

  • Violence against women can have fatal results like homicide or suicide.
  • It can lead to injuries, with 42% of women who experience intimate partner reporting an injury as a consequences of this violence.
  • Intimate partner violence and sexual violence can lead to unintended pregnancies, induced abortions, gynaecological problems, and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. The 2013 analysis found that women who had been physically or sexually abused were 1.5 times more likely to have a sexually transmitted infection and, in some regions, HIV, compared to women who have not experienced partner violence. They are also twice as likely to have an abortion.
  • Intimate partner violence in pregnancy also increases the likelihood of miscarriage, stillbirth, pre-term delivery and low birth weight babies.
  • These forms of violence can lead to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep difficulties, eating disorders, emotional distress and suicide attempts. The same study found that women who have experienced intimate partner violence were almost twice as likely to experience depression and problem drinking. The rate was even higher for women who had experienced non partner sexual violence.
  • Health effects can also include headaches, back pain, abdominal pain, fibromyalgia, gastrointestinal disorders, limited mobility and poor overall health.
  • Sexual violence, particularly during childhood, can lead to increased smoking, drug and alcohol misuse, and risky sexual behaviours in later life. 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 (e.g. diarrhoeal disease, malnutrition).

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 ability to care for themselves and their children.

Prevention and response

Currently, there are few interventions whose effectiveness has been proven through well designed studies. More resources are needed to strengthen the prevention of intimate partner and sexual violence, including primary prevention, i.e. stopping it from happening in the first place.

Regarding primary prevention, there is some evidence from high-income countries that school-based programmes to prevent violence within dating relationships have shown effectiveness. However, these have yet to be assessed for use in resource-poor settings. Several other primary prevention strategies: those that combine microfinance with gender equality training; that promote communication and relationship skills within couples and communities; that reduce access to, and harmful use of alcohol; and that change cultural gender norms, have shown some promise but need to be evaluated further.

To achieve lasting change, it is important to enact legislation and develop policies that:

  • address discrimination against women;
  • promote gender equality;
  • support women; and
  • help to move towards more peaceful cultural norms.

An appropriate response from the health sector can play an important role in the prevention of violence. Sensitization and education of health and other service providers is therefore another important strategy. To address fully the consequences of violence and the needs of victims/survivors requires a multi-sectoral response.

WHO actions

WHO, in collaboration with a number of 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. This is central to understanding the magnitude and nature of the problem at a global level and to initiating action in countries;
  • strengthening research and research capacity to assess interventions to address partner violence
  • developing technical guidance for evidence-based intimate partner and sexual violence prevention and for strengthening the health sector responses to such violence;
  • disseminating information and supporting national efforts to advance women’s rights and the prevention of and response to violence against women; and
  • collaborating with international agencies and organizations to reduce/eliminate violence globally.

About WHO

WHO is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system. It is responsible for providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends.

In the 21st century, health is a shared responsibility, involving equitable access to essential care and collective defence against transnational threats.

WHO is Taking Action

WHO forum 20142014 Partners’ Forum

Where Johannesburg, South Africa

When 30 June – 1 July 2014

The 2014 Forum will be a key event, part of a larger strategic process aimed at bringing together key stakeholders in women’s and children’s health as well as other sectors. It will be an important opportunity to establish a strategic vision and to align partners across health and all sectors to ensure that women, adolescents, children and newborn well-being, equity and accountability are at the heart of the Post-2015 development agenda.

The Forum is co-hosted by Government of South Africa, PMNCH, Countdown to 2015, A Promise Renewed, and the independent Expert Review Group.

The Partners’ Forum will include the launch of four landmark reports:

  • Every Newborn Action Plan provides a roadmap and joint platform for reducing preventable newborn deaths and stillbirths.
  • Success Factors for Women’s and Children’s Health Report spotlights 10 countries making considerable progress improving maternal and child health, and offering a model for high-need countries.
  • Countdown to 2015 Report for 2014 assesses maternal and child health intervention, coverage, equity in coverage, and the policy, health systems, and financial factors that affect whether every woman and child receives proven interventions that can save their lives.
  • State of the World’s Midwifery 2014 (Africa focused launch) highlights progress and challenges that 41 Sub-Saharan countries have seen since 2011 in delivering life-saving midwifery services.

Key objectives

  • Develop a strategic vision for the RMNCH community for the Post-2015 era.
  • Take stock and learn lessons from the MDG achievements to date to inform the future, and guide investment and action.
  • Strengthen implementation of existing commitments and promote greater accountability to enable women and children to realise their right to the highest attainable standard of health in the years to 2015 and beyond.

With deliberations underway for a post-2015 development agenda, we have a unique opportunity to envisage the world we want by 2030 and take stock of progress in women’s and children’s health. We hope that our discussions leading up to, and during the Partners’ Forum, will emphasize the need to ensure the empowerment, well-being, and social protection of the world’s most vulnerable people, especially women and children. We also hope to examine how these principles can be translated by different sectors and constituencies into action and tangible results to guarantee a life of dignity for all.

Up to 800 representatives of the health, nutrition, education, gender and development, public and private sector communities are expected to attend the two-day meeting.

PMNCH has held two previous Partners’ Forums. The first, in Dar es Salaam in 2007, marked the emergence of PMNCH as the first dedicated partnership focused on maternal and child health and the pursuit of MDGs 4 and 5. The second Forum, in New Delhi in November 2010, aimed to develop joint approaches and strategies operational to the UN Secretary General’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health to accelerate progress towards the MDGs by 2015. This meeting, the third, will prioritize discussion on joint action and accountability across sectors in anticipation of the post-2015 development goals.

LIVE WEBCAST TO BE HERE – DETAILS COMING SOON

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