Addressing violence against women and achieving the Millennium Development Goals
MDG 4: Reduce child mortality
Child mortality is affected by violence against women in several ways. The most direct is through death and injury inflicted on girls and infants through both physical and sexual violence.
Female infanticide is still practised in many parts of the world, sometimes through direct violence, but also by intentional neglect or starvation. This is particularly the case where male children are considered more valuable than females. This attitude may also be manifested in traditions such as costly dowry obligations placed on the families of prospective brides (20). Efforts to reduce child mortality must include efforts to eradicate female infanticide and discrimination against girls. Such efforts must address underlying harmful gender norms and biases, and prohibit practices that economically burden the birth of females. They should also include measures to support women’s right to choose when and whether they want to have children, including family planning programmes and better access to quality contraception.
Violence against women by an intimate partner has been shown to be associated with – among other things – mortality in children aged under 5 years (21,22). In addition, although pregnancy may be a protective factor against violence in some societies, violence during pregnancy is widely prevalent (23). It is estimated that one in four women worldwide is physically or sexually abused during pregnancy, usually by her partner (6). As well as traumatic injury to the fetus, violence against pregnant women is associated with a risk of miscarriage, premature labour, and fetal distress, and may be related to low-birth-weight (24,25) 8. Efforts to reduce infant and child mortality should include measures to reduce partner-violence against women.
Efforts to address gender-based child mortality are severely limited by lack of information. To better monitor gender-based infant and child mortality, all statistics collected on the health of under-5-year-olds should be disaggregated by sex and age.
8 The findings on the relationship between violence in pregnancy and low-birth-weight are not entirely conclusive, but at least seven studies suggest that violence during pregnancy contribute substantially to low-birth-weight. See reference 25.