Violence against women is a human rights violation, social justice and public health problem that touches every level of society in every part of the world. From young girls to older women, one out of every three is beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime. WHO studies show that intimate partner violence is the most common form of violence against women worldwide.
Violence against women poses serious consequences to women’s health and well-being. Studies have linked violence against women and girls to a host of physical and mental health problems, such as broken bones, unwanted pregnancies, and depression. High-risk behaviors such as smoking, harmful use of alcohol and drugs, and unsafe sex are all significantly more frequent among victims of intimate partner and sexual violence.
Violence against women poses considerable direct and indirect costs to societies. Violence drains health, social and justice sector budgets with necessary expenditures for treating survivors and apprehending and prosecuting perpetrators. Violence also reduces productivity, increases absenteeism, and poses considerable inter-generational costs from the impacts of violence on survivors’ children.
The health sector can play a vital role in responding to and preventing violence against women. This role includes helping to identify abuse early, providing victims with treatment, and referring women to appropriate and informed care.
The health sector must also work to prevent violence from ever taking place. And as the public health approach to prevention clearly stipulates, the first step in preventing violence is to understand it and the health sector has a key role in helping us to measure and understand violence against women.
PAHO is committed to supporting Member States in their effort to eliminate violence against women in the Latin America and Caribbean Region. To this end we have identified the following areas of priority:
- Improving the quality, access and use of data for evidence-based policy and programming;
- Strengthening the health sector response to survivors of violence through normative efforts, including the productions of guidelines and training methodologies (for instance, producing, training methodologies, etc.);
- Strengthening primary prevention by improving the evidence on primary prevention and by increasing the capacity of key stakeholders to implement primary prevention efforts in the Region; and
- Supporting the development of national plans on violence prevention.