Updated 24 June 2013

1 in 3 women worldwide abused

The first major global review of violence against women finds that physical and sexual abuse against women by their partners is still a very big problem, with rates highest in Africa.


The first major global review of violence against women finds that nearly one in three have been physically or sexually assaulted by a current or former partner. And another study, published in The Lancet, finds that more than one-third of all female murder victims worldwide are killed by an intimate partner, a new study shows.

"Our results underscore that women are disproportionately vulnerable to violence and murder by an intimate partner, and their needs have been neglected for far too long," the author of one study , Dr Heidi Stockl, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said.

Meanwhile, data released by the World Health Organization (WHO) and others found that 30% of women experience physical or sexual abuse by a partner, the Associated Press reported. WHO defined physical violence as being slapped, pushed, punched, choked or being attacked using a weapon. Sexual violence was defined as feeling physically or mentally coerced into having sex and/or being compelled to engage in sexual acts that felt humiliating or degrading.

Africa rates high

The new numbers were based on data from 1983 to 2010 from 86 countries worldwide. Rates of domestic violence were highest in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, the WHO found. The United Nations says that more than 600 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not considered a crime, the AP reported.

In another study, researchers analyzed data on more than 492 000 murders in 66 countries over 20 years. They found that 13.5% of murders are committed by an intimate partner, and that intimate partners are responsible for 38.6% of all female murders, compared with 6.3% of all male murders.

Nations with the highest rates of murder of women by intimate partners include those in southeast Asia (about 59%), the Americas (40.5%), and Africa (40%), as well as high-income countries (about 41%).

A woman's greatest risk of murder comes from a current or former intimate partner, and women are six times more likely to be killed by an intimate partner than men, Stockl noted.

Rates of murder of men by intimate partners are highest in high-income countries (6.3%), Africa (4%), and the low-income and middle-income European region (3.6%). In all other parts of the world, rates were lower than 2%.

The researchers said that a lack of data means that their findings likely underestimate the true size of the problem.

"More needs to be done, particularly to increase investment in intimate partner violence prevention, to support women experiencing intimate partner violence [most women killed by a partner have been in long-term abusive relationships], and to control gun ownership for people with a history of violence," Stockl said.

More information

The World Health Organization has more about violence against women.

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