Violence against women and girls continues to be the most fundamental and globally widespread violation of women’s human rights. The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”
Violence against women is a large public health issue, especially as it relates to sexual, reproductive, and mental health of women and girls. Compared to those that have not experienced intimate partner violence, women who experience intimate partner violence are more likely to experience serious mental health problems such as depression and are 1.5 more likely to get HIV (UN Women, 2016).
Intimate partner violence is the most common manifestation of violence against women. Around 35 percent of women in the world have experienced some form of sexual and/or physical violence at some point in their lives, many of these women experience this violence perpetrated by an intimate partner (WHO, 2016). In certain countries, the percentage of women who have experienced intimate partner violence is as high as 70 percent. However, this number may be higher as many women are afraid to report the violence that they face. In fact, under 40 percent of women experiencing violence seek assistance (UN Women, 2016).
The World Medical Association (WMA) recognizes that violence can include dangerous cultural and traditional practices in addition to physical and psychological violence. Female genital mutilation and human trafficking are two critical issues that must be addressed in addressing violence against women. At least 200 million women girls have experienced female genital mutilation around the world. Additionally, women and girls make up around 70 percent of all trafficking victims globally (UN Women, 2016). The WMA condemns both of these practices explicitly in the WMA Statement on Female Genital Mutilation and Statement on Supporting Health Support to Street Children.
The WMA actively advocates for ending violence and discrimination against women and recognizes the important role that physicians can play. The WMA Resolution on Violence Against Women and Girls encourages national medical associations advocate to end violence against women in their countries, encourage training that emphasizes violence awareness and prevention, and increase research efforts to publish issues on violence against women.