Sexual and reproductive health

Understanding and addressing violence against women

Violence against women is a major public health problem and a violation of human rights

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For women in many parts of the world, violence is a leading cause of injury and disability, as well as a risk factor for other physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health problems (1–3). Violence has long-term consequences for these women and their children, as well as social and economic costs for all society (1,4).

Many international agreements, including the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, have recognized women’s fundamental human right to live free from violence (4).

WHO information sheets


  • Heise L, Garcia Moreno C. Violence by intimate partners. In: Krug EG et al., eds. World report on violence and health. Geneva, World Health Organization, 2002:87–121.
  • Campbell JC. Health consequences of intimate partner violence. Lancet, 2002, 359(9314):1331–36.
  • Plichta SB. Intimate partner violence and physical health consequences: policy and practice implications. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 2004, 19(11):1296–1323
  • United Nations General Assembly. In-depth study on all forms of violence against women. New York, United Nations, 2006.
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United Nations definition

A community supervisor speaking to women on gender equality and domestic violence, in the Dharavi slums of Mumbai, India
Photoshare/Benazir Patil

The United Nations defines violence against women as 'any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.'