Facts and Figures: Ending Violence against Women

A pandemic in diverse forms

  • According to a 2013 global review of available data, 35 per cent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence. However, some national violence studies show that up to 70 per cent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime from an intimate partner [1].
  • It is estimated that of all women killed in 2012, almost half were killed by intimate partners or family members [2].
  • More often than not, cases of violence against women go unreported. For instance, a study based on interviews with 42,000 women across the 28 Member States of the European Union revealed that only 14 per cent of women reported their most serious incident of intimate partner violence to the police, and 13 per cent reported their most serious incident of non-partner violence to the police [3].
  • Worldwide, more than 700 million women alive today were married as children (below 18 years of age). More than one in three—or some 250 million—were married before 15. Child brides are often unable to effectively negotiate safer sex, leaving themselves vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, along with early pregnancy. The fact that girls are not physically mature enough to give birth, places both mothers and their babies at risk. Poor girls are also 2.5 times more likely to marry in childhood than those living in the wealthiest quintile [4].
  • Among ever-married girls, current and/or former intimate partners are the most commonly reported perpetrators of physical violence in all the countries with available data [5].
  • Around 120 million girls worldwide (slightly more than 1 in 10) have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point in their lives [6].
  • More than 133 million girls and women have experienced some form of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where the harmful practice is most common. Beyond extreme physical and psychological pain, girls who undergo FGM are at risk of prolonged bleeding, infection (including HIV), infertility, complications during pregnancy and death [7].
  • Trafficking ensnares millions of women and girls in modern-day slavery. Women and girls represent 55 per cent of the estimated 20.9 million victims of forced labour worldwide, and 98 per cent of the estimated 4.5 million forced into sexual exploitation [8].
  • Between 40 and 50 per cent of women in European Union countries experience unwanted sexual advances, physical contact or other forms of sexual harassment at work [9].
  • In the United States, 83 per cent of girls in grades 8 through 11 (aged 12 to 16)have experienced some form of sexual harassment in public schools [10].

Extra vulnerabilities

  • Women in urban areas are twice as likely as men to experience violence, particularly in developing countries [11].
  • In New Delhi, a 2010 study found that 66 per cent of women reported experiencing sexual harassment between two and five times during the past year [12].
  • Research conducted in different countries has documented associations between HIV and physical and/or sexual violence, both as a risk factor for HIV infection and as a potential consequence of being identified as living with HIV [13]. A decade of cross-sectional research from African countries, including Rwanda, Tanzania, South Africa and more recently, India, has consistently found women who have experienced partner violence to be more likely to be infected with HIV [14].
  • In the United States, 11.8 per cent of new HIV infections among women more than 20 years old during the previous year were attributed to intimate partner violence [15].

The high cost of violence

  • Annual costs of intimate partner violence have been calculated at USD 5.8 billion in the United States in 2003 [16] and GBP 22.9 billion in England and Wales in 2004 [17].
  • A 2009 study in Australia estimated the cost of violence against women and children at AUD 13.6 billion per year [18].
  • A recent estimation of the costs of domestic violence against women at the household level to the economy in Viet Nam suggests that both out-of-pocket expenditures and lost earnings represent nearly 1.4 per cent of GDP in that country. An estimate of overall productivity loss however, comes to 1.8 per cent of GDP [19].


[1] World Health Organization, Global and Regional Estimates of Violence against Women, http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/85239/1/9789241564625_eng.pdf, p. 2. For individual country information, see full compilation of data in UN Women, 2012, Violence against Women Prevalence Data: Surveys by Country.

[2] UNODC Global Study on Homicide: 2013 http://www.unodc.org/documents/gsh/pdfs/2014_GLOBAL_HOMICIDE_BOOK_web.pdf ,

[3] Violence against women: an EU-wide survey, European Union, 2014, Foreword, p. 3.

[4] Ending Child Marriage: Progress and Prospects, http://www.unicef.org/media/files/Child_Marriage_Report_7_17_LR..pdf

[5] UNICEF, Hidden in Plain Sight: A Statistical Analysis of Violence against Children http://www.unicef.org/publications/files/Hidden_in_plain_sight_statistical_analysis_Summary_EN_2_Sept_2014.pdf

[6] Hidden in Plain Sight: A Statistical Analysis of Violence against Children (UNICEF) http://www.unicef.org/publications/files/Hidden_in_plain_sight_statistical_analysis_Summary_EN_2_Sept_2014.pdf

[7] UNICEF, Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: What might the future hold, http://www.unicef.org/media/files/FGM-C_Report_7_15_Final_LR.pdf

[8] Figure derived from data based on a 2002-2011 reference period. International Labour Organization, 2012, “ILO Global Estimate of Forced Labour: Results and Methodology,” p. 14, Geneva.

[9] Directorate-General for Employment, Industrial Relations and Social Affairs, 1998, “Sexual harassment at the workplace in the European Union,” p. iii, Brussels, European Commission. Cited in UN General Assembly, 2006, “In-depth Study on All Forms of Violence against Women: Report of the Secretary-General,” A/61/122/Add.1, p. 42, New York.

[10] Based on a nationally representative study among female and male students in grades 8 through 11. American Association of University Women, 2001, “Hostile Hallways: Bullying, Teasing, and Sexual Harassment in School,” p. 4, Washington, DC. Cited in UN General Assembly, 2006, “In-depth Study on All Forms of Violence against Women: Report of the Secretary-General,” A/61/122/Add.1, p. 42, New York.

[11] F. Vanderschueren, 2000, “The Prevention of Urban Crime.” Paper presented at the Africities 2000 Summit, Windhoek, Namibia. Cited in UN-HABITAT, 2006, State of the World’s Cities 2006/2007, p. 144, Nairobi.

[12] JAGORI and UN Women (2010). Report on the Baseline Survey. Available at: http://jagori.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Baseline-Survey_layout_for-Print_12_03_2011.pdf.

[13] World Health Organization and UNAIDS, 16 Ideas for addressing violence against women in the context of the HIV epidemic, http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/95156/1/9789241506533_eng.pdf?ua= , p.1

[14] Rachel K. Jewkes and Robert Morell., “Gender and sexuality: emerging perspectives from the heterosexual epidemic in South Africa and implications for HIV risk and prevention”, J Int AIDS Soc. 2010; 13: 6.

[15] Based on a nationally representative study. J. Sareen, J. Pagura and B. Grant, 2009, “Is Intimate Partner Violence Associated with HIV Infection among Women in the United States?” General Hospital Psychiatry, 31(3), p. 277, Manitoba.

[16] Figure includes direct health costs and indirect productivity losses from intimate partner violence based on 1995 annual estimates. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 2003, Costs of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women in the United States, p. 2, Atlanta, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cited in UN General Assembly, 2006, “In-depth Study on All Forms of Violence against Women: Report of the Secretary-General,” A/61/122/Add.1, p. 137, New York.

[17] Figure includes direct and indirect individual, employer and State expenses related to violence. S. Walby, 2004, The Costs of Domestic Violence, p. 12, Leeds, Women and Equality Unit and University of Leeds.

[18] Data calculated for both intimate partner and non-partner violence based on estimated prevalence rates for 2007–2008, including direct and indirect individual and public costs related to suffering, health, legal and employment expenses, among others. The National Council to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children, 2009, The Cost of Violence against Women and their Children, p. 4, Canberra, Commonwealth of Australia.

[19] UN Women Viet Nam. Estimating the cost of domestic violence against women in Viet Nam, December 2012.

[Page last updated in October 2014.]