Sexual and reproductive health

WHO launches new manual to strengthen health systems to better respond to women survivors of violence

International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women 2017: Leave no one behind

A woman hides her face in a shelter for women, Bangladesh
UNICEF/Noorani

24 November 2017: Violence against women is a major public health problem, a gender inequality issue and a grave violation of human rights. Violence against women includes physical, sexual and psychological violence by an intimate partner and, non-partner sexual violence. WHO estimates that 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced physical and / or sexual violence, mostly by an intimate partner.

Violence damages women’s health in many ways, with both immediate and long-term consequences, which can be both obvious and hidden from view. Women who experience violence are more likely to seek health care though they usually do not disclose violence as the underlying reason for seeking care. Health care providers, therefore, have an important role to play in identifying women who experience violence, and responding to them with empathy. In order for health care providers to be able to respond appropriately, health systems need to be strengthened so that women receive high-quality and respectful care.

In recognition of this, WHO has launched a new manual to help health managers and policy-makers to strengthen health systems to deliver better quality of care to women who are subjected to violence.

About the new manual

Illustration of a hospital medical team

The manual is based on the WHO clinical and policy guidelines for “Responding to intimate partner violence and sexual violence against women” (2013). It provides ‘how to’ guidance to health managers and policy-makers for planning, managing and monitoring services to meet the psychological and physical health needs of women and girls, and for ensuring that ongoing safety, support and mental health needs are addressed.

While care for women subjected to violence needs to be available to women at every level of health-care delivery, WHO recommends that care be integrated in primary health care. Health services also provide an important opportunity to connect women to other supporting social and legal services.

WHO Global Plan of Action on Violence

This manual supports implementation of the “Global plan of action to strengthen the role of the health system within a national multisectoral response to address interpersonal violence, in particular against women and girls, and against children”. This plan of action was endorsed by Member States at the World Health Assembly in 2016. For more information about the global plan of action

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

The new WHO manual is being launched on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which is is held every year on the 25th November. This important event is marked by individuals and organizations worldwide to raise awareness about this global issue and to take a stand to counter violence against women and girls. It is followed by 16 days of activism against gender based violence, which culminate on the 10th December, Human Rights Day. During this time, people are encouraged to wear orange, and buildings are lit up in the same colour, to symbolise a future without violence.

Events are being held by HRP and WHO staff to stand in solidarity with this important campaign. For more information, follow @HRPresearch on social media.

Commentaries