Gender, women and health

Violence against women by non-partners

Physical and sexual violence by non-partners since the age of 15 years

Women’s reports of the experience of physical or sexual violence, or both, by a non-partner since the age of 15 years varied widely. The combined prevalence of physical and sexual violence by a non-partner after the age of 15 years ranged from 5% in Ethiopia to 65% in Samoa. Higher levels of non-partner violence were reported in the urban settings than in the provincial settings in all countries except Peru. Interestingly, despite high levels of partner violence in Ethiopia, less than 5% of women in these settings reported being physically or sexually abused by someone other than a partner.

Physical violence since the age of 15 years

By far the highest level of physical violence by someone other than a partner was reported in Samoa at 62%, with the next highest prevalence being in Peru (28% in the urban setting and 32% in the provincial setting). Even in the settings with the lowest levels, Ethiopia and Japan, the figure was around 5%. In most settings, the violence was generally inflicted by one person, but in provincial Bangladesh, Namibia, Peru, Samoa, and the United Republic of Tanzania more than a fifth of respondents who had experienced non-partner physical violence reported two or more perpetrators. Commonly mentioned perpetrators for physical abuse by non-partners since the age of 15 years included fathers and other male or female family members, but in some settings (Bangladesh, Namibia, Samoa and the United Republic of Tanzania) teachers were also frequently mentioned.

Sexual violence since the age of 15 years

Respondents were asked whether, since the age of 15 years, they had been forced by a non-partner to have sex or to perform a sexual act when they did not want to. The highest levels – between 10% and 12% – were reported in Peru, Samoa, and urban United Republic of Tanzania, while levels below 1% were reported in provincial Bangladesh and Ethiopia. The perpetrators included strangers, boyfriends, and male family members (not including fathers) or male friends of the family.

Comparing partner and non-partner violence

A common perception is that women are more at risk of violence from strangers than from partners or other men they know. These data show that this is far from the case (Figure 7). Whereas between 4% (Ethiopia) and 35% (provincial Peru) of women reporting violence by any perpetrator since the age of 15 years have been abused by both partners and non-partners, in Ethiopia almost all violence is by partners, while in Samoa non-partner violence constitutes the largest part of the violence experienced by women. In the majority of settings, over 75% of women physically or sexually abused since the age of 15 years reported abuse by a partner. In only two settings, urban Brazil and Samoa, were at least 40% of women abused only by someone other than a partner.