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Violence against women is a global epidemic that affects rich, poor

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
June 20th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A photograph of celebrity chef Nigella Lawson being grabbed by the throat by her art collector husband Charles Saatchi shocked Charlotte Watts, a health policy expert at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. "We don't know the details of what is going there, but it does illustrate this happens to all women - it's not just poor women, or women in a certain country. This really is a global issue," Watts said.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - In an author co-authored by Watts and Claudia Garcia-Moreno of the World Health Organization, more than a third of all women worldwide are victims of physical or sexual violence, posing a global health problem of epidemic proportions.

According to the report, the majority of women are attacked or abused by their husbands or boyfriends, and common health problems they suffer include broken bones, bruises, pregnancy complications, depression and other mental illnesses. "This is an everyday reality for many, many women," Watts adds.

The report also found that almost two fifths, or 38 percent of all women murder victims were murdered by intimate partners, and 42 percent of women who have been victims of physical or sexual violence by a partner have injuries as a result.

Garcia-Moreno pointed to recent high-profile rape cases in India and South Africa that have put a spotlight on the treatment of women worldwide, including the brutal gang rape of a female college student aboard a speeding bus in Delhi, India. Her death prompted widespread protests against violence against women, and India's attitudes towards girls and women. 

"These kinds of cases raise awareness, which is important, and at the same time we must remember there are hundreds of women every day who are being raped on the streets and in their homes, but that doesn't make the headlines," Garcia-Moreno said.

In addition, violence against women is a root cause for a range of acute and chronic health problems, ranging from immediate injury to sexually transmitted infections, to HIV, to depression and stress and alcohol-related health disorders.

Women who suffer violence from their partners are 1.5 times more likely to get syphilis, Chlamydia, or gonorrhea. And in some regions, including sub-Saharan Africa, they are 1.5 times more likely to become infected with the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS, the report found.

The report stresses the importance of training health workers to recognize when women may be at risk of partner violence and to know how to respond. Recommendations include ensuring that consultation rooms can be totally private and confidential, that appropriate referral systems are in place and that women at risk from partners should not be sent back home.

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