Evidence has existed for some time that partner violence is an important risk factor for a range of health problems, but this has come mainly from studies in the United States and Canada. The World Health Organisation Study (WHO) on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence against Women extends these findings globally, and demonstrates that violence operates similarly in both the industrial and developing worlds.
The study consists of interviews with 24,000 women of reproductive age from 15 sites in ten countries. It reveals that between 15% to 71% of ever-partnered women have been physically or sexually abused by intimate partners. In most settings, more than half of documented physical violence qualified as “severe.” Likewise, about half the respondents reported ongoing violence that had occurred within the last twelve months.
The study found clear, significant associations between lifetime experiences of partner violence and a range of health problems that include injury, emotional distress, suicidal thoughts and attempts, and physical symptoms of illness.
The study also shows the remarkable degree to which women in some settings internalise social norms that justify abuse. In about half the sites, between 50 and over 90% of women agreed that a man was justified in beating his wife under certain circumstances - for example, if she disobeyed him, refused sex, did not complete the housework on time, asked about other women, or was suspected of infidelity. In some settings women felt unable to refuse sex; in three of the rural provincial sites, as many as 44% to 51% of women did not feel entitled to refuse sex, even if their husbands mistreated them.
“These findings illustrate the importance of interventions that challenge the acceptability of violence around the world”, said Dr Churunrurtai Kanchanachita, one of the principal investigators from Thailand.
MEDICA.de; Source: World Health Organisation