The WHO Multi-Country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence Against Women


Violence against women (VAW) has been identified as a major public health and human rights problem throughout the world, but lack of reliable and comparable data on the root causes, magnitude, and consequences of the problem has been a major obstacle in the search for solutions. In 1997, in order to collect such data, WHO initiated the ground-breaking WHO Multi-Country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence Against Women.


The Multi-Country Study, results of which will soon become available, aims to:

The findings of the study will be used nationally and internationally to advocate for an increased response to domestic and sexual violence against women.

Current Status

As of 2003 data collection has been completed in Bangladesh, Brazil, Japan, Namibia, Peru, Samoa, Tanzania, and Thailand.

New Zealand and Serbia are currently replicating the WHO study methodology.

Domestic violence research projects based on the methodology of the Multi-Country Study have been conducted in four other countries – Chile, China, Ethiopia, and Indonesia.

Brochure describing the study [pdf 110kb]

Ensuring women's safety

In conducting research on VAW, due attention is being paid to the fact that the subject is very sensitive, and at times fraught with danger. Women in abusive situations often feel shame, a desire to protect their families, and divided loyalties, all of which can make the subject very difficult for them to talk about. At a further extreme, talking about violence they have suffered may make certain women vulnerable to even more violence – and being seen to be “stirring up trouble” by investigating the issue can leave researchers, themselves, open to attack.

The ethical and safety recommendations that were developed for the WHO Multi-Country Study and other research on domestic violence are summarized in “Putting Women First: Ethical and Safety Recommendations for Research on Domestic Violence Against Women”. This booklet is available in English, French and Spanish.

Putting Women First [pdf 254kb]

GWH: VAW Ethics Booklet - Spanish [pdf 198kb]

GWH: VAW Ethics booklet -- French [pdf 194kb]

Why consider the WHO methodology?

The wealth of experience with this validated, cross-culturally tested, and consistent methodology can be built upon. Conducting new studies using this approach is an important way to expand existing databases and to enhance the growing body of consistent and comparable evidence. WHO will share the protocol, questionnaire, manuals, and data entry system of the Multi-Country Study with other researchers. In return, WHO requests that researchers using these tools make their data available for cross-national analysis and/or further methodological research.

If you would like to investigate using the Multi-Country Study methodology and tools in your research, or for other questions about the study, please contact GWH.

Considering doing research on domestic violence? [pdf 172kb]

GWH: VAW Ethics booklet -- French [pdf 194kb]

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