WHO’s response to the challenge to end violence against women and girls
Ending violence against women and girls
Violence against women is a widespread public health problem as well as a major human rights violation affecting women worldwide. It takes many forms: physical, sexual, and emotional, and is perpetrated in the home, the community, institutions, public or private. This violence is associated with a wide range of physical and mental health consequences. These include: injuries, sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS and unwanted pregnancy, In many countries, women who become pregnant as a result of rape are forced to bear the child or risk their lives through unsafe abortion. Mental health consequences include anxiety disorders, depression and post traumatic stress. Women who experience violence are also more likely to attempt or commit suicide.
In situations of crises and displacement women and children may be particularly vulnerable to many forms of violence. Sexual violence in particular is increasingly documented in crises (including those associated with natural disasters and in armed conflicts). In crises, women may be forced to submit to sexual abuse by gatekeepers in order to obtain food and other basic life necessities, they may face violence by an intimate partner, and in conflict sexual violence is used also as a method of warfare to brutalize and humiliate women and girls.
Survivors of sexual violence often experience social consequences such as stigmatization and social exclusion. In some cultural settings, they are blamed for being raped, and subsequently lose their position or function within their community and society or are repudiated by their intimate partners or families. The violence and inequalities that women face in crises do not exist in a vacuum. Rather, they are the direct results and reflections of the violence, discrimination and marginalization that women face in times of relative peace.
In Resolution WHA 58.1 (2005) the World Health Assembly urged WHO's Member States to pay increased attention to gender-based violence as a public health concern during disasters and crises.