The term 'gender-based violence' is often used to highlight that much violence against women is rooted in gender inequality and also perpetuates women's subordinate legal, social or economic status in society. At the global level, the most common forms of violence against women include: intimate partner violence1 and other forms of family violence; sexual violence; female genital mutilation (FGM); femicide, including honor and dowry-related killings; human trafficking, including forced prostitution and economic exploitation of girls and women; and violence against women in humanitarian and conflict settings.
Population-based evidence from the Americas confirms that IPV against women remains a widespread public health and human rights problem in the Americas, with a reported prevalence of physical and/or sexual IPV across countries ranging from about 14-17% to 58.5% women.
While reported IPV prevalence declined in several countries, some changes were small, some indicators remained unchanged, and in two countries, reported prevalence rose over time.
Intimate partner violence is preventable, but measurable changes in prevalence levels require continuity of policies and programs over a number of years.
There is a need for greater and more sustained investment in evidence-based violence prevention and response.
The evidence base has geographic gaps in coverage and barriers to comparability.
More research is needed to understand the impact of IPV across different age groups and among specific groups of women, including minority ethnic and racial populations, women with disabilities and older women, amongst others.
Ideally, countries would carry out high quality, national, population-based surveys every few years ensuring that these adhere to international scientific and ethical guidelines.10
Well-designed population-based surveys can give countries evidence they need to develop policies and programs, monitor changes in the prevalence of violence against women over time and to measure progress towards the SDGs, as PAHO Member States have agreed to do.
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. Certain high-risk behaviors are all significantly more frequent among victims of intimate partner and sexual violence.
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/WHO has a long history of working to improve prevention and response to violence against women and violence against children.
Below are four priority areas for violence prevention in the region:
- Improving the scope, quality, dissemination, and use of data on violence against women and violence against children for evidence-based policy and programming.
- Strengthening capacity for preventing violence against women and children.
- Improving the health sector response to violence against women and violence against children.
- Supporting the development and revision of national policies and plans on violence prevention and response including specific policies and plans for addressing violence against women.