More than a quarter of women worldwide have been victims of domestic violence before the age of 50

The world’s largest ever survey on domestic violence reveals that more than a quarter of women (27%) have experienced physical or sexual abuse from an intimate partner before the age of 50. This analysis, conducted by researchers from the World Health Organization (WHO) and McGill University, confirms that in addition to the legal aspect, domestic violence is a major public health problem.

According to the study published in the journal The Lancetin 2018, more than 492 million women aged 15 to 49 had experienced this type of violence at least once in their lives since they were 15. “Violence against women in the home, that is, physical and sexual violence committed by a man, a boyfriend or another spouse, is very common in the world, “emphasizes Mathieu Maheu-Giroux.

McGill University professor and holder of the Canada Research Chair in Population Health Modeling developed the methodological framework for this comprehensive study, conducted to support the Sustainable Development Goals established in 2015 by the United Nations.

“Goal 5 aims to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls,” said Mathieu Maheu-Giroux. When setting goals, you need to be able to measure where you are starting from and where you are going, hence the need for indicators. »

To produce this global statistical portrait, the results of 366 surveys on domestic violence were conducted in 161 countries among two million women prepared by WHO and McGill researchers.

young women

In addition to establishing that more than one in four women have experienced physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner before the age of 50, the results of this study establish that this violence often occurs early in life.

Thus, 24% of women aged 15 to 19 and 26% of women aged 19 to 24 say that they have been exposed to this type of violence at least once since they were 15, we can read in the article entitled “Global , regional, and national prevalence estimates of physical or sexual, or both, violence against women in intimate partnership in 2018 ”.

Regional variations were also observed: higher incidence of violence in close relationships was noted in low-income countries. The regions with the highest prevalence are Oceania (49%), Central sub-Saharan Africa (44%), the Andean region of Latin America (38%), Eastern sub-Saharan Africa (38%), South Asia (35%). ) and North Africa and the Middle East (31%).

As for the lowest rates, they were listed in Central Europe (16%), Central Asia (18%) and Western Europe (20%). A prevalence rate of 25% has been collected in North America.

Public health issues

WHO and McGill researchers believe that the “high global prevalence” of domestic violence makes it a “worrying” international public health problem.

“Violence committed by an intimate partner can have major effects on short- and long-term physical and mental health, including injuries, depression, anxiety, unwanted pregnancies. sexually transmitted infections in addition to being able to lead to death, ”the authors write.

The results of this study are all the more worrying as they may underestimate the phenomenon. ” [Les recherches se basent] on self-reported responses from women, notes Mathieu Maheu-Giroux. So a woman may be ashamed to tell that she has been abused. »

The analysis also does not take into account psychological violence, which can have harmful consequences for the lives of women and their children, but which is difficult to assess. Finally, the data were collected before the COVID-19 epidemic, which exacerbated the problem of domestic violence due in particular to barricades, curfews and other restrictions on mobility.

Despite advances in the implementation of various initiatives aimed at promoting equal relationships and reducing the incidence of violence, “these advances are largely insufficient to achieve the goal of sustainable development goals of eliminating violence against women in ‘within 2030 ‘, “the researchers point out. out. These encourage governments and communities to act more actively and invest more to reduce domestic violence around the world. “Especially considering that violence between intimate partners can be prevented,” they note.

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