Violence against women and girls is a problem of pandemic proportions. Based on country data available, up to 70% of women experience physical or sexual violence from men in their lifetime – the majority by husbands, intimate partners or someone they know. Among women aged between 15 and 44, acts of violence cause more death and disability than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined. Violence against women devastates lives, fractures communities, and stalls development. It takes many forms and occurs in many places domestic violence in the home, sexual abuse of girls in schools, sexual harassment at work, rape by husbands or strangers, in refugee camps or as a tactic of war.
Let us remember some facts and retain some numbers: In South Africa, a woman is killed every 6 hours by an intimate partner. In India, 22 women were killed each day in dowry-related murders in 2007. In Guatemala, two women are murdered, on average, each day. Women and girls comprise 80% of the estimated 800,000 people trafficked annually, with the majority trafficked for sexual exploitation. Approximately 100 to 140 million girls and women in the world have experienced female genital mutilation/cutting, with more than 3 million girls in Africa annually at risk of the practice. Over 60 million girls worldwide are child brides, married before the age of 18, primarily in South Asia (31.1 million and Sub-Saharan Africa (14.1 million). An estimated 150 million girls under 18 suffered some form of sexual violence in 2002 alone. As many as 1 in 4 women experience physical and/or sexual violence during pregnancy, which increases the likelihood of having a miscarriage, stillbirth and abortion. Up to 53% of women physically abused by their intimate partners are being kicked or punched in the abdomen. In Sao Paulo, Brazil, a woman is assaulted every 15 seconds. Approximately 250,000 to 500,000 women and girls were raped in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Domestic violence alone cost approximately US$1.16 billion in Canada and US$5.8 billion in the United States. In Australia, violence against women and children costs an estimated US$11.38 billion per year. Between 40 and 50% of women in European Union countries experience unwanted sexual advancements, physical contact or other forms of sexual harassment at their workplace. In the United States, 83% of girls aged 12 to 16 experienced some form of sexual harassment in public schools.