Making Violence Against Women Count: The Global Village

How will violence against women look in a scaled down world, in a global village of 1,000 people? (the figures are based on statistics from UN, WHO and governmental and non-governmental organizations).

  • 500 are women
  • It would be 510, but 10 were never born due to gender-selective abortion or died in infancy due to neglect
  • 300 are Asian women
  • 167 of the women will be beaten or in some other way exposed to violence during their lifetime
  • 100 of the women will be victims of rape or attempted rape in their lifetime

I recently came across this Amnesty International document entitled ‘Making Violence Against Women Count’, and although published almost a decade ago, the statistics reported in it are just as relevant today.

I think this is something everyone should have read.  Such blunt facts and figures paint a sad and disturbing picture of the state of women’s rights the world over.  From abortion and neglect of female babies due to their lesser worth in many societies, to the sexual violence suffered by women and girls throughout their lives, often at the hands of their partners, the report tells the story of a world still failing to protect women, and failing to change the attitudes and practices that have perpetuated gender discrimination for so many years.

According to the report, 1 in 5 women will be the victim of rape or attempted rape in their lifetime.  That is a staggering figure.  Although taken from a 1997 WHO report, if put in today’s context that is about 688 million women in the world today.  And of course this statistic will vary – in many regions, particularly in conflict zones, the percentage will be much higher.  Rape as a weapon of war is something that has been increasingly recognised in recent decades as an all too common practice, and a violation of women’s rights on a massive scale.  Its use in situations such as the Bosnian war and the conflict in the DRC has brought greater attention to the issue, but despite its recognition in international criminal law (widespread and systematic use of rape and sexual violence are crimes against humanity under article 7 of the Statute of the International Criminal Court, which entered into force in 2002) it is still very much a widespread problem, which continues to inflict horrific trauma on whole communities.

However, rape is of course a huge problem in stable, conflict-free societies too.  Unfortunately, the stigma attached to rape in many countries (and the ‘shame’ it is often thought to bring upon a woman) combined with the extremely poor rates of rape convictions in most countries mean it goes unreported all too often.  The failures of the Indian justice system in prosecuting and punishing rapists have been brought to the fore recently following the rape and murder of a young woman in Delhi earlier this year.  The infographic below also illustrates the failings of the US on this issue.

From The Washington Post
From The Washington Post

Young women and girls also often have their lives and opportunities restricted by discriminatory and harmful traditional practices.  Child marriages are common in many regions of the world, with girls as young as 8 being married to much older men, and expected to take on the role of mother and domestic worker before their own childhood is over. This practice also has serious consequences for young girls’ education, something highlighted by Plan International in their recent ‘Because I Am A Girl’ campaign.

From The National Geographic
From The National Geographic

Amnesty campaigns internationally and within the UK (as part of the End Violence Against Women coalition) for women’s rights, and you can take a look at their various campaigns on the issues here.  The statistics in this report demonstrate that discrimination and violence against women is still a problem faced in every society.  Raising awareness of such disturbing facts on the daily violation of women’s rights is an important step towards changing this.

Emma Hunter

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