Around the world, as many as one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex, or abused in some other way - most often by someone she knows, including by her husband or another male family member; one woman in four has been abused during pregnancy. Gender-based violence both reflects and reinforces inequities between men and women and compromises the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims.
It encompasses a wide range of human rights violations, including sexual abuse of children, rape, domestic violence, sexual assault and harassment, trafficking of women and girls and several harmful traditional practices. Any one of these abuses can leave deep psychological scars, damage the health of women and girls in general, including their reproductive and sexual health, and in some instances, results in death.
Violence against women has been called "the most pervasive yet least recognized human rights abuse in the world." Accordingly, the Vienna Human Rights Conference and the Fourth World Conference on Women gave priority to this issue, which jeopardizes women’s lives, bodies, psychological integrity and freedom. Gender-based violence also serves by intention or effect to perpetuate male power and control. It is sustained by a culture of silence and denial of the seriousness of the health consequences of abuse. In addition to the harm they exact on the individual level, these consequences also exact a social toll and place a heavy and unnecessary burden on health services. Can we reverse the trend so that the long standing issue is solved once for all?