It impacts us all – our shared responsibility in ending violence against women

Article Date

10 December 2014

Article Author

Sarah Degnan Kambou

Media Contact

Anne McPherson

Vice President, Global Communications email [email protected]

One in three women worldwide have experienced physical and/or sexual violence at the hands of their intimate partners. Seven percent of women have been sexually assaulted by non-partners. These statistics, released in 2013 by the World Health Organization are staggering and underscore the horrifying fact that no woman, regardless of whom she is as a person and the conditions of her life, is immune to violence. Violence against women and girls is a worldwide problem that crosses cultures, religions, socioeconomic groupings and geographies. While policy attention to the silent epidemic of violence against women and girls is growing across the world, not enough is being done to eliminate its existence altogether.

Violence against women and girls, when broadly conceptualized, takes many forms. As an example, ICRW’s 2012 study on sexual violence in public spaces of New Delhi found that nine out of 10 women reported having experienced at least one form of sexual violence, e.g., harassment, lewd gestures, groping, assault, in the city’s public spaces during their lifetime. Six out of 10 reported having experienced some form of sexual violence in the six months leading up to the survey.

While advocacy on violence against women and girls must be grounded in a human rights framework, the argument for aggressive investment by governments in addressing violence against women and girls becomes that much more robust when its broader implications on public health, social development and economic growth are better understood.

As part of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign, ICRW has been raising awareness through its blog postings about the social and economic costs of violence – to the woman, the family, community and society as a whole. We know that violence severely impacts women’s health, well-being and effective participation in social, economic and political life. We are aware of the negative effects that exposure and experience to violence in the household can have on multiple aspects of child development, including the troubling fact that boys exposed to violence in the household are more likely to perpetrate violence as older adolescents and men. The intergenerational effects of violence against women are devastating to society, and heighten the importance of strategies aimed at its prevention.

Importantly, the economic costs of violence against women and girls have significant ripple effects throughout society. For those new to the subject, economic costs include lost productivity and potential salaries, and out-of-pocket expenditures to access medical treatment, legal services, and counseling. ICRW data calculated that the economic cost due to loss of productivity in Bangladesh is $262 million – or 1.28% of GDP.

At ICRW we work to understand the many inter-related dimensions of the issue of violence against women and girls. We delve into its origins and manifestations, its social and economic costs, and assess promising strategies to prevent and mitigate its occurrence. Through our applied research, we are building the evidence base on what works to prevent and respond to violence, including comprehensive approaches such as economically empowering women, engaging boys and men, health and social support to survivors of violence and holding perpetrators accountable. Evidence on economic and social costs is important for understanding the far-reaching consequences of violence at all levels. We must use this evidence to drive investments and community based action focused in prevention and response to violence.

The holiday season is now upon us. This is a time of celebration and reflection. It is the perfect time to make a personal resolution to take action in ending violence against women and girls. There are many ways for you to be involved. You can invest in research identifying solutions that help women and girls lead safe, healthy and productive lives. Support programs teaching our children about the social construction of gender, and help eliminate harmful norms that promote or condone violence.

We cannot afford to be bystanders in efforts to defeat violence against women and girls.
Such violence affects us all – and we can all play a role in ending it. It is our shared responsibility to do so. In the end, we are ensuring a brighter future for us all.