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Domestic Violence is a Global Public Health Concern

The Boston Globe | 7-15-2013

Physical or sexual violence is a serious public health problem that affects more than one third of all women globally, according to a new report by the World Health Organization. The findings of the report “send a powerful message that violence against women is a global health problem of epidemic proportions,” says Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of WHO.

The WHO report, “Global and regional estimates of violence against women: Prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence,’’ is the first systematic study of global information on the prevalence of violence against women — both by partners and by non-partners. According to the study, 35 percent of all women will experience violence. Intimate partner violence is the most common kind of violence experienced by women worldwide, both in developing and in industrialized countries.

According to WHO, the prevalence rates for intimate partner and non-partner sexual violence among all women 15 years old or older, are the following: Africa: 45.6 percent; Americas: 36.1 percent; Eastern Mediterranean: 36.4 percent; Europe: 27.2 percent; South-East Asia: 40.2 percent; Western Pacific: 27.9 percent. In high income countries, the prevalence of this problem is 32.7 percent.

Because of the extent of this phenomenon, a global momentum for more effective action is building up, according to the medical magazine Lancet. In March, 103 member states at the Commission on the Status of Women at the UN agreed on the need to end violence against women and girls and to protect their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

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