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UN health agency urges action to halt violence against women

UN health agency urges action to halt violence against women

Nearly half the women who die due to homicide are killed by their current or former husband or boyfriend, according to a new report by the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO), which is urging governments to take action to reduce domestic violence.

The "World Report on Violence and Health" says violence accounts for approximately 7 per cent of all deaths among women aged 15 to 44 worldwide. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of lives destroyed, the report shows that violence against women has been linked to a number of immediate and long-term conditions, including physical injury, chronic pain syndromes, depression and suicidal behaviour. Partner violence can also affect a woman’s earning, job performance and her ability to stay employed.

The report also shows that, in some countries, up to 69 per cent of women report having been physically assaulted and nearly half, 47 per cent, say that their first sexual intercourse was forced.

"We need to voice the violence, to hear the stories of all those affected by violence. Spreading the word, breaking down the taboos and exposing the violence that takes place among us is the first step towards effective action to reduce violence in our own societies," said WHO Director-General Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which is observed on 25 November.

Massive differences in homicide rates among women show that there is nothing inevitable about violence. According to WHO, female homicide rates in a number of developing and transition countries exceed 6 per 100,000 population, 10 to 15 times higher than in countries with the lowest female homicide levels such as Japan, United Kingdom, Spain, France, Italy and Greece.

The release of the report initiated a Global Campaign for Violence Prevention with the objectives of raising awareness about violence as a major public health problem and the role that public health can play in its prevention, WHO said. Many countries have committed to hosting events to discuss the impact of violence and to implement the report’s recommendations.