African women the worst off - report
Johannesburg - Violence against women pervades all corners of the globe, puts women’s health at risk, limits their participation in society and causes great human suffering.
This came out in a report entitled Global and Regional Estimates of Violence Against Women: Prevalence and Health Effects of Intimate Partner Violence and Non-Partner Sexual Violence.
The report, which was compiled by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the SA Medical Research Council (MRC), reveals that 45.6 percent of women in Africa experienced physical or sexual violence, either by an intimate partner or a non-partner, as compared to 35 percent of women globally.
Globally, as much as 38 percent of all murders of women are reported as being committed by intimate partners, while 42 percent of women who have experienced intimate-partner violence suffer from injuries.
“This new, groundbreaking data shows that violence is a common occurrence in many homes and we need to be serious in tackling this issue by investing in prevention such as addressing the social norms that promote the use of violence,” said MRC gender and health unit deputy director Dr Naeemah Abrahams.
In the case of non-partner sexual violence, women are blamed for deviating from accepted social roles, for being in the wrong place, or for wearing the “wrong” clothes.
In the case of partner violence, women are blamed for talking to another man, refusing sexual intercourse, and not asking their partner’s permission to go out of the home, for example.
The prevalence of intimate-partner murder was highest in the South-East Asia region, with 55 percent of women murdered by their intimate partners.
In Africa, it was at about 40 percent and the Americas region was at about 38 percent.
New WHO clinical and policy guidelines were also released with the report. These aim to address the health sector’s responses to woman abuse by improving health workers’ knowledge in cases of sexual and other forms of violence, and for health services to assist women to receive assistance from other services such as post-abortion care, mental health and other emergency services.
The new WHO guidelines speak of the urgent need to integrate the correlation between violence against women and women’s health into undergraduate curriculums for all health-care courses, as well as for in-service training.
In relation to sexual violence, whether by a partner or non-partner, access to comprehensive post-rape care is deemed essential, and must ideally happen within 72 hours.
The new guidelines describe this as including first-line psychological support, emergency contraception, prophylaxis for HIV, diagnosis and prophylaxis for other sexually transmitted infections, and short and long-term mental health support.
This should also include access to collection and analysis of forensic evidence for those women who choose to follow a judicial procedure.
Similarly, for intimate-partner violence, access to first-line psychological support, mental health and other support services need to be developed and strengthened.
In South Africa, the rape and murder cases of teenagers, including Anene Booysen and Thandeka Madonsela, have pushed the issue of violence against women high on the national agenda.