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Violence Against World's Women 'Pervasive': UN Report

Originally published in:
Agence France Presse

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - Violence against women is "severe and pervasive" worldwide with
one in three women subjected to intimate partner abuse during her lifetime, according to
a UN report.

"There is compelling evidence that violence against women is severe and pervasive
throughout the world," said UN chief Kofi Annan's report, titled "Ending Violence
Against Women: from Words to Action."

The study cited surveys on violence against women conducted in at least 71 countries
showing "a significant proportion of women suffer physical, sexual or psychological
violence...On average, at least one in three women is subjected to intimate partner
violence in the course of her lifetime."

A World Health Organization study in 11 countries found that the percentage of women
subjected to sexual violence by an intimate partner ranged between six percent in Japan
and Serbia and Montenegro, and 59 percent in Ethiopia.

Murders of women often involve sexual violence, with between 40 and 70 percent of
female murder victims killed by husbands or boyfriends in Australia, Canada, Israel,
South Africa and the United States, Annan's report said.

It noted that more than 130 million girls are victims of female genital mutilation, a
practice most prevalent in Africa and some Middle Eastern countries but also found in
immigrant communities in Europe, North America and Australia.

Female infanticide, prenatal sex selection and systematic neglect of girls were said to
be widespread in South Asia, Southeast Asia, North Africa and the Middle East.

The study also highlighted the fact that women experience sexual harassment throughout
their lives, with between 40 and 50 percent of women in the European Union reporting
some form of sexual harassment.

"The majority of the hundreds of thousands of women trafficked each year are women and
children and many are trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation," it added.

It also focused on the phenomenon, including sexual violence, in armed conflicts,
noting that between 250,000 and 500,000 women were raped during the 1994 genocide in
Rwanda while between 20,000 and 50,000 suffered the same fate during the conflict in
Bosnia in the early 1990s.

In Europe, North America and Australia, more than half of women with disabilities have
experienced physical abuse, compared with one third of non-disabled women, it said.

The study noted that women subjected to violence were more likely to abuse alcohol and
drugs and to report sexual dysfunction, suicide attempts, post-traumatic stress and
central nervous system disorders.

And it concluded that despite progress in recent decades, "violence against women has
not yet received the priority required to enable significant change."

"A more cohesive and strategic approach is needed from all actors, including
governments, the international community and civil society," the report said.