Devastatingly pervasive: 1 in 3 women globally experience violence


GENEVA | NEW YORK – Violence against women remains devastatingly pervasive and starts alarmingly young, shows new data from WHO and partners. Across their lifetime, 1 in 3 women, around 736 million, are subjected to physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner or sexual violence from a non-partner – a number that has remained largely unchanged over the past decade.


This violence starts early: 1 in 4 young women (aged 15-24 years) who have been in a relationship will have already experienced violence by an intimate partner by the time they reach their mid-twenties.


“Violence against women is endemic in every country and culture, causing harm to millions of women and their families, and has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.


“But unlike COVID-19, violence against women cannot be stopped with a vaccine. We can only fight it with deep-rooted and sustained efforts – by governments, communities and individuals – to change harmful attitudes, improve access to opportunities and services for women and girls, and foster healthy and mutually respectful relationships.” Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General

Intimate partner violence is by far the most prevalent form of violence against women globally (affecting around 641 million). However, 6 per cent of women globally report being sexually assaulted by someone other than their husband or partner. Given the high levels of stigma and under-reporting of sexual abuse, the true figure is likely to be significantly higher.


Emergencies exacerbate violence, increasing vulnerability and risks


This report presents data from the largest ever study of the prevalence of violence against women, conducted by WHO on behalf of a special working group of the United Nations. Based on data from 2000 to 2018, it updates previous estimates released in 2013.


While the numbers reveal already alarmingly high rates of violence against women and girls, they do not reflect the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.


WHO and partners warn that the COVID-19 pandemic has further increased women’s exposure to violence, as a result of measures such as lockdowns and disruptions to vital support services.


“It’s deeply disturbing that this pervasive violence by men against women not only persists unchanged, but is at its worst for young women aged 15-24 who may also be young mothers. And that was the situation before the pandemic stay-at home orders." - UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

“Every government should be taking strong, proactive steps to address this, and involving women in doing so”, she added. "We know that the multiple impacts of COVID-19 have triggered a “shadow pandemic” of increased reported violence of all kinds against women and girls,”