What is Violence Against Women?

The United Nations defines Violence Against Women (VAW) as:

VAW includes (but is not limited to):

  • Domestic/family/dating/intimate partner violence
  • Rape, marital rape, incest, rape as a weapon of war, and other forms of sexual assault
  • Forced marriage including arranged marriage, child married, bride kidnapping, and bride trafficking.
  • Female genital mutilation
  • Femicide including dowry-related violence, female infanticide, and honour killings
  • Human trafficking including sex trafficking (forced prostitution)
  • Street harassment (including Eve teasing)
  • Online/Cyber violence against women
  • Acid attacks

Violence Against Women – Some Key Facts

Violence Against Women is a global public health epidemic and the gender-based violation of human rights. According to the World Health Organisation, one in three women have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence which result in a wide range of physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health issues in their lives.

Women and girls across all levels of society, culture and nationality are at risk. However, poorly-educated women with low social status in their community are at a higher risk of being abused and violated due to the lack of access to healthcare, education, and economic opportunity.

Here are some hard facts:

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The Consequences of Violence Against Women

Depending on the type of VAW, consequences may vary but may include some of the following physical and psychological symptoms and behaviour listed.

Physical

  • Traumatic Bodily Injuries/Symptoms: back pains, bleeding, broken/sprained limbs, bruising, concussion, gastrointestinal disorders, migraine/headaches, vomiting.
  • Reproductive and Sexual Injuries/Symptoms: Adverse pregnancy outcomes/complications (including miscarriage, low birth weight and fetal death), damaged sexual and reproductive systems, difficulty having children in subsequent years, difficulty establishing relationships, induced abortions, unplanned and unwanted pregnancy, pain during sexual intercourse, sexually transmitted diseases, vaginal bleeding.

Psychological and Emotional

  • Addiction of alcohol or drugs, anxiety, attempted suicide, bewilderment, confusion, denial, depression, eating disorders, exhibiting numbness, flashbacks, guilt, hysteria, hypersensitivity to what others might say, hypervigilance, inability to enjoy sex, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), shame, sleep difficulties.

Socio-Economic

  • The disruption of girls’ education, the prevention of women and girls’ participation in economic, political, and social spheres, the hounding of women and girls from public spaces, the jeopardisation of the economic independence and agency of women and girls, the loss of stability for families, the loss of labour for the national and global economy, increased pressure on the healthcare system of the country.

Death (Femicide)

  • Death from battering and other physical violence, female infanticide (murder of infant girls) resulting in gender imbalance, honour killings (by families for cultural reasons),  maternal death from unsafe abortion and battery, selective gender-based abortion resulting in gender imbalance, suicide.

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Footnotes and Further Reading:

  1. “Violence Against Women,” World Health Organisation.
  2. “Global Study on Homicide: Gender-related Killing of Women and Girls”, United Nations Office on Drug and Crime.
  3. “Sexual Harassment: How It Stands Around The Globe,” Meera Senthilingam, CNN
  4. “Conflict and Violence Assessment Paper: Benefits and Costs of the Conflict and Violence Targets for the Post-2015 Development Agenda”, Anke Hoeffler and James Fearon, The Copenhagen Consensus Centre.
  5. “About Child Marriage”, Girls Not Brides.
  6. “Child Marriage: Latest Trends and Future Prospects”, UNICEF.
  7. “Female Genital Mutilation”, World Health Organisation.
  8. “Urgent Action Needed To Combat Online Violence Against Women and Girls, says new UN report,” UN Women.
  9. “Facts & Figures on Violence Against Women.” UN Women.