Current efforts to prevent violence especially against women and girls are inadequate. Estimates suggest that globally, 1 in 3 women has experienced either physical or sexual violence from their partner, and that 7% of women will experience sexual assault by a non-partner at some point in their lives.
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Yet, despite increased global attention to violence perpetrated against women and girls, and recent advances in knowledge about how to tackle these abuses, levels of violence against women – including intimate partner violence, rape, female genital mutilation, trafficking, and forced marriages – remain unacceptably high, with serious consequences for victims’ physical and mental health. Conflict and other humanitarian crises may exacerbate ongoing violence.
Between 100 and 140 million girls and women worldwide have undergone female genital mutilation with more than 3 million girls at risk of the practice every year in Africa alone. Some 70 million girls worldwide have been married before their eighteenth birthday, many against their will.
Although many countries have made substantial progress towards criminalizing violence against women and promoting gender equality, the Series authors argue that governments and donors need to commit sufficient financial resources to ensure their verbal commitments translate into real change. Even where laws are progressive, many women and girls still suffer discrimination, experience violence, and lack access to vital health and legal services.
Action needed on causes of violence
Importantly, reviewing the latest evidence, the authors show that not enough is being done to prevent violence against women and girls from occurring in the first place. Although resources have grown to support women and girls in the aftermath of violence, research suggests that actions to tackle gender inequity and other root causes of violence are needed to prevent all forms of abuse, and thereby reduce violence overall.
The following steps are being suggested:
First, governments must allocate necessary resources to address violence against women as a priority, recognising it as a barrier to health and development.
Second, they must change discriminatory structures (laws, policies, institutions) that perpetuate inequality between women and men and foster violence.
Third, they must invest in promoting equality, non-violent behaviours and non-stigmatising support for survivors.
Fourth, they must strengthen the role of health, security, education, justice, and other relevant sectors by creating and implementing policies for prevention and response across these sectors, and integrating violence prevention and response into training efforts.
Finally, they must support research and programming to learn what interventions are effective and how to turn evidence into action.