An estimated 1 in 6 women in the world have experienced physical or sexual violence, according to a new statistic that has been developed by the UN’s World Health Organization.
The World Health Office (WHO) said in a statement that 1 in 5 women worldwide experienced rape or sexual assault at some point in their lives.
The figure does not include those who experienced unwanted sexual intercourse.
“It is the most serious form of violence against women, and we are calling on governments to act to protect women and girls from this scourge,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said.
“In light of the unprecedented nature of this epidemic, governments should work with partners and partners agencies to implement proven strategies for addressing sexual violence against girls and women.”
“Achieving lasting and sustainable action on sexual violence is a major challenge, but also one where women are the greatest beneficiaries,” Chan said, adding that the WHO’s efforts to improve the situation include the establishment of a “Global Partnership on Women and Girls”, the implementation of the International Convention for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (CEDAW) in 2015, and strengthening the role of local women’s organisations and advocacy groups in the fight against sexual violence.
The report, released today (March 25) at the WHO Women’s Forum in Geneva, comes as millions of women across the globe struggle to cope with the epidemic of sexual violence and abuse.
In a separate announcement, the UN agency’s chief medical officer Dr Margaret Chan, said more than 2.3 million women around the world are “at risk” of sexual assault, including 1.4 million women globally who have experienced violence.
“A clear majority of sexual assaults happen in rural areas, where the majority of survivors are women,” Chan told a press briefing.
“For these survivors, they often face a double burden.
On one hand, they have to deal with the trauma of being sexually assaulted and on the other hand, these crimes leave scars that can last for years.”
The report found that women in developing countries face higher rates of rape, forced marriage and genital mutilation than those in wealthier nations.
“The impact of sexual abuse and sexual violence on women is widespread, affecting both men and women,” the report said.
“Sexual violence has a severe and long-lasting impact on women’s health and well-being, and its impact on children and young people is especially devastating.”
Chan said that the global epidemic of gender-based violence is “one of the most significant public health challenges of our time”, adding that it is particularly worrying because it is happening at a time when governments are “stumbling from crisis to crisis”.
“More than one in 10 women globally are raped in their lifetime, and more than one-third of these victims are girls,” Chan added.
“Many of these girls suffer trauma that they cannot share with their families, and some have died.”
Chan called on governments and partners to adopt policies and practices to help address the epidemic.
“Governments need to act now to increase the number of schools, health centres, shelters and other programs that address sexual violence among girls and ensure women’s access to health care, including early intervention, health promotion, prevention, education and support services,” Chan urged.
“More countries should also commit to gender-neutral legislation to ensure that women are not excluded from all health care and welfare systems, such as in the labour market,” Chan warned.
“Many countries have not fully addressed the issue of sexual and gender-specific violence in their own national laws, and a growing number of countries are moving forward with this issue, but more needs to be done,” Chan continued.
“I urge all governments to do all they can to implement and promote this important global policy agenda.”WHO statistics about rape and sexual assaultThe new report, which aims to be the first comprehensive assessment of gender violence and rape statistics in a single country, has been produced by the WHO as part of the World Health Assembly’s “World Report on the State of the Global Health” process.
It was published online in the journal Health, Violence and Gender, and has been accepted for publication by WHO’s Joint Communicative Committee on Violence against Women, Women’s Issues and Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Geneva.
The findings come after a similar report published by the US government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last year that found the rate of sexual attacks was twice that of rape.
“I think what is very clear from this report is that sexual violence affects women and affects children as well,” said Dr Laura Ruggiero, WHO Director of Gender and Sexual Health.
“This report confirms what we have been saying for a long time: there is a high risk of violence, and that violence against men is also highly prevalent.
This report also gives us a sense of what we know about the causes of the problem.”
Ruggieros remarks echo those of a WHO report last year, which found that one in four women in Europe were at risk of rape or attempted rape.
The WHO’s report