”WHO report highlights violence against women as a ‘global health problem of epidemic proportions’

New clinical and policy guidelines launched to guide health sector response

See the full Report here on


20 June 2013 | Geneva – Physical or sexual violence is a public health problem that affects more than one third of all women globally, according to a new report released by WHO in partnership with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the South African Medical Research Council.

The report, Global and regional estimates of violence against women: Prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence, represents the first systematic study of global data on the prevalence of violence against women – both by partners and non-partners. Some 35% of all women will experience either intimate partner or non-partner violence. The study finds that intimate partner violence is the most common type of violence against women, affecting 30% of women worldwide.

The study highlights the need for all sectors to engage in eliminating tolerance for violence against women and better support for women who experience it. New WHO guidelines, launched with the report, aim to help countries improve their health sector’s capacity to respond to violence against women”.

A huge scope for prevention through Education for Nonviolence

In addition to the very important measures highlighted by the WHO Report, it is necessary to widen the scope of intervention by understanding gender violence not as an isolated form of violence but as a direct consequence of the structural violence that pervades the present socioeconomic system. Men who attack women may have very low self esteem (due to poverty, stressful working conditions and/or unemployment) and be under pressure to comply with a “macho” culture in which beating up a wife is justified through “traditional” and “cultural” norms, accepted by the women too, as they are forced to obey such norms lest they become ostracised and abandoned, with few options for survival other than becoming prostitutes.

Such landscape, found in many parts of the world, stretches the limits of the well meaning but misguided concept of “cultural relativity” often brought into the discussion as an argument against intervention. Experience shows that when women are free to choose they choose not to be beaten up. The same goes for other forms of violence such as female genital mutilation, killing baby girls at birth or aborting female foetuses and so many other forms of gender violence.

The question is then one of creating a different type of culture, something that has to start early in the lives of both men and women. There are different proposals for Education for nonviolence, some of the workshops developed on the basis of the Psychology of New Humanism have been incorporated into a wide system of nonviolence training and are freely available. They have been successfully delivered in various countries of Europe, Africa and the Americas. However a common experience is a kind of resistance found in certain educational establishments to implement such programme as the structure of the education system does not leave much room for manoeuvring for individual schools, and teachers often feel too overwhelmed by the pressure to produce results on the curriculum to add an extra piece of work. In other words, the same violence that horrifies us in the WHO report finds its way in other forms to prevent effective responses.

If we are serious about eliminating gender violence we must promote the creation of a nonviolent system that also eliminates physical, economic, racial, religious and psychological violence. As this may take some time, whilst new generations formed in this new culture reach maturity, all the emergency measures to protect the victims of gender violence must be given top priority, but education for a culture of non violence must start now, and both the WHO and other international agencies like UNESCO are well placed to make sure this trend is not piecemeal.

The ecological consciousness is already installed (let us not confuse the resistance to act due to vested interests) because for the past three decades schools all over the world have made an effort to involve the new generations in the theme. Now is the time for installing a consciousness for nonviolence. How can this help specifically the gender issue?

. Learning to communicate: difficulties in communication are very important in all forms of domestic violence and the formation of children within the family who often grow up as abusers after witnessing it in the family.
. Increasing self-esteem: in men lack of self-esteem is an important factor in developing the compulsion to impose their will over weaker partners, and in women it makes them unable to leave situations of appalling violence.
. Empathy and solidarity: dehumanisation can happen both at personal and social level and empathy training has been shown to improve situations of domestic violence, can change rapists perception of their victims and can bridge the gap between human beings coming from different backgrounds.
. Tools for nonviolent action in the world: frustration due to social injustice is often displaced towards the personal environment. Forming the young in forms of participation that lead to positive change can protect also the recipients of this kind of violence.
. The Golden Rule: treating others the way we would like to be treated appears in all epochs and in all cultures as an enlightened form of interpersonal relationships, but learning to apply it, making it really a guide for behaviour is not that straightforward as it clashes with conflictive messages that extol selfishness, individualism, vengeance and ‘justified’ violence. Creating a culture based on this principle requires an intentional effort of education and self-education based on deep personal reflection.
. Bullying: schools take this issue seriously but it is difficult to give consistent education when the media, news, workplaces and the family have so many examples of bullying. A concerted effort to link all such forms would improve the outcomes and help prevent gender bullying too.

These are only a few of the themes that Education for nonviolence deals with, more links can be found in https://www.facebook.com/pages/Education-for-Nonviolence/205043369630999
A campaign to include Education for nonviolence in school curriculums can emerge at this crucial time as well as taking it to other environments such as communities, places of work, etc. This call was made at the time of the international uproar in relation to the recent rape-murder in India, and the WHO report reinforces this need. World without Wars and Violence UK (worldwithoutwarsuk-at-googlemail.com) will make freely available the courses and training for all those who wish to participate.