Facts and figures: Ending violence against women
Prevalence of violence against women and girls
- Globally, an estimated 736 million women—almost one in three—have been subjected to physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence, non-partner sexual violence, or both at least once in their life (30 per cent of women aged 15 and older). This figure does not include sexual harassment. The rates of depression, anxiety disorders, unplanned pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections and HIV are higher in women who have experienced violence compared to women who have not, as well as many other health problems that can last even after the violence has ended.
- Most violence against women is perpetrated by current or former husbands or intimate partners.More than 640 million women aged 15 and older have been subjected to intimate partner violence (26 per cent of women aged 15 and older).
- Of those who have been in a relationship, almost one in four adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 (24 per cent) have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner or husband. Sixteen per cent of young women aged 15 to 24 experienced this violence in the past 12 months.
- In 2018, an estimated one in seven women had experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner or husband in the past 12 months (13 per cent of women aged 15 to 49).These numbers do not reflect the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has increased risk factors for violence against women.
- Globally, violence against women disproportionately affects low- and lower-middle-income countries and regions. Thirty-seven per cent of women aged 15 to 49 living in countries classified by the Sustainable Development Goals as “least developed” have been subject to physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence in their life. Twenty-two per cent of women living in “least developed countries” have been subjected to intimate partner violence in the past 12 months—substantially higher than the world average of 13 per cent.
- 137 women are killed by a member of their family every day. It is estimated that of the 87,000 women who were intentionally killed in 2017 globally, more than half (50,000) were killed by intimate partners or family members. More than a third (30,000) of the women intentionally killed in 2017 were killed by their current or former intimate partner. Women make up for 82 per cent of all victims of homicide perpetrated exclusively by an intimate partner.
The impact of COVID-19 on violence against women and girls
- There is initial evidence of intensification of violence against women and girls across the globe. Reports from service-use data in different countries have shown an important increase in reported cases of domestic violence to helplines, women’s refuges/shelters and the police, linked to COVID-19. Calls to helplines have increased five-fold in some countries. Other countries, however, have observed a decrease in the number of domestic violence incidents reported, highlighting accessibility and availability challenges during lockdowns and other social distancing measures.
- Emerging data collected by UN Women through rapid gender assessments on the impact of COVID-19 on violence against women confirm a shadow pandemic. The report Measuring the Shadow Pandemic: Violence against Women during COVID-19 presents the first set of reliable, cross-country, and nationally representative data on topics related to VAW, women’s safety at home and in the public sphere during COVID-19 and access to resources, services, among others.
- By October 2021, 52 countries had integrated violence against women and girls prevention and response into COVID-19 plans, and 150 countries have adopted measures to strengthen services for women survivors of violence during the global crisis. Continuing efforts are needed to ensure the recovery responses fully integrate ending violence against women measures to build a post-pandemic equal world.
- Big data analysis in eight Asian countries shows that Internet searches related to violence against women and help-seeking rose significantly during COVID-19 lockdowns. Searches related to physical violence, including keywords such as “physical abuse signs”, “violent relationship”, and “cover bruises on face” increased 47 per cent in Malaysia, 63 per cent in the Philippines and 55 per cent in Nepal between October 2019 and September 2020. Searches using help-seeking keywords such as “domestic violence hotline” increased in almost all countries, including a 70 per cent rise in Malaysia. 
Reporting of violence against women
- Less than 40 per cent of the women who experience violence seek help of any sort. In the majority of countries with available data on this issue, among women who do seek help, most look to family and friends and very few look to formal institutions, such as police and health services. Less than 10 per cent of those seeking help appealed to the police.
Laws on violence against women and girls
- At least 158 countries have passed laws on domestic violence, and 141 have laws on sexual harassment in employment. However, even when laws exist, this does not mean they are always compliant with international standards and recommendations or are implemented and enforced. In 2020, Kuwait and Madagascar introduced specific and comprehensive legislation on domestic violence for the first time.
Risk factors of violence against women and girls
- A regional analysis of Women’s Health Surveys conducted in five CARICOM Member States – Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago – from 2016 to 2019 found that ever-partnered women aged 15-64 who were in relationships with men who had attitudes and behaviours that reinforce men’s dominant position over womenand perpetuate gender inequality were more likely to have experienced lifetime and current IPV. Behaviours intended to control women’s bodies, autonomy and contact with others are also strongly correlated with an increased experience of IPV.
Economic costs of violence against women and girls
- Violence against women can result in significant costs to the state, to victims/survivors, and communities. Costs are both direct and indirect, and tangible and intangible. For example, the costs of the salaries of individuals working at shelters are direct tangible costs. Costs are borne by everyone, including individual victims/survivors, perpetrators, the government and society in general.
- In Viet Nam, both out of pocket expenditures and lost earnings represent nearly 1.41% of the GDP. More importantly, regression results for estimating productivity loss due to violence indicate that women experiencing violence earn 35 per cent less than those not abused representing another significant drain on the national economy. In Egypt, it was estimated that 500,00 working days are lost each year due to marital violence and the health sector bears over USD 14 million in costs to serve just one quarter (600,000) of survivors. In Morocco, the total cost of physical and/or sexual violence against women was estimated at 2.85 billion dirhams (around USD 308 millions) a year. In 2021, the cost of gender-based violence across the European Union was estimated around €366 billion a year. Violence against women makes up 79 per cent of this cost, amounting to €289 billion.
Sexual violence against women and girls
- Globally, 6 per cent of women report they have been subjected to sexual violence from someone other than their husband or partner.However, the true prevalence of non-partner sexual violence is likely to be much higher, considering the particular stigma related to this form of violence.
- 15 million adolescent girls worldwide, aged 15–19 years, have experienced forced sex.In the vast majority of countries, adolescent girls are most at risk of forced sex (forced sexual intercourse or other sexual acts) by a current or former husband, partner, or boyfriend. Based on data from 30 countries, only one per cent have ever sought professional help.
- In the Middle East and North Africa, 40–60 per cent of women have experienced street-based sexual harassment.In the multi-country study, women said the harassment was mainly sexual comments, stalking or following, or staring or ogling. Between 31 and 64 per cent of men said they had carried out such acts. Younger men, men with more education, and men who experienced violence as children were more likely to engage in street sexual harassment.
Trafficking in women
- In 2018, for every 10 victims of human trafficking detected globally, about five were adult women and two were girls. Most of the detected victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation (92 per cent) are females. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, women have been affected disproportionately and have been recruited, often locally or online, for sexual exploitation, particularly for exploitation in private apartments.
Violence against girls
- During the past decade, the global rate of child marriage has declined, with the global proportion of young women aged 20-24 years who were married before the age of 18 decreasing by 15 per cent, from nearly one in four in 2010 to one in five in 2020. As a result of this progress, the child marriages of some 25 million girls have been averted. However, the profound effects of the pandemic are threatening this progress, with up to 10 million additional girls at risk of child marriage in the next decade as a result of the pandemic.
- School-related gender-based violence is a major obstacle to universal schooling and the right to education for girls.Globally, one in three students, aged 11–15, have been bullied by their peers at school at least once in the past month, with girls and boys equally likely to experience bullying. While boys are more likely to experience physical bullying than girls, girls are more likely to experience psychological bullying, and they report being made fun of because of how their face or body looks more frequently than boys.
Female genital mutilation
- At least 200 million women and girls, aged 15-49 years, have undergone female genital mutilation in 31 countries where the practice is concentrated. Half of these countries are in West Africa. There are still countries where female genital mutilation is almost universal; where at least 9 in 10 girls and women, aged 15-49 years, have been cut.
- One in 10 women in the European Union report having experienced cyber-harassment since the age of 15. This included having received unwanted and/or offensive sexually explicit emails or SMS messages, or offensive and/or inappropriate advances on social networking sites. The risk is highest among young women aged 18-29 years. Although this is the best information available so far, the increasing reach of the internet, the rapid spread of mobile information, and the widespread use of social media, especially since the onset of the COVID-19, and coupled with existing prevalence of violence against women and girls, have most likely further impacted the prevalence rates of ICT-facilitated VAWG.
- In the U.S., two out of every ten young women, aged 18-29, have been sexually harassed online and one in two say they were sent unwarranted explicit images. In Pakistan, 40 per cent of women had faced various forms of harassment on the internet. Women and girls are using internet with greater frequency during the pandemic while there is a gender digital divide. And when women and girls do have access to the internet, they face online violence more often than men.
Violence against women in politics
- Across five regions, 82 per cent of women parliamentarians reported having experienced some form of psychological violence while serving their terms.This included remarks, gestures, and images of a sexist or humiliating sexual nature, threats, and mobbing. Women cited social media as the main channel of this type of violence, and nearly half (44 per cent) reported receiving death, rape, assault, or abduction threats towards them or their families. Sixty-five per cent had been subjected to sexist remarks, primarily by male colleagues in parliament.
 World Health Organization, on behalf of the United Nations Inter-Agency Working Group on Violence Against Women Estimation and Data (2021). Violence against women prevalence estimates, 2018. Global, regional and national prevalence estimates for intimate partner violence against women and global and regional prevalence estimates for non-partner sexual violence against women.
 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2019). Global Study on Homicide 2019, p. 10, 19.
 UN Women and UNDP (2021). COVID-19 Global Gender Response Tracker.
 UN Women (2021). COVID-19 and Violence Against Women: The evidence behind the talk.
 United Nations Economic and Social Affairs (2015). The World’s Women 2015, Trends and Statistics, p. 159
 UN Women (2012). Estimating the Cost of Domestic Violence Against Women in Viet Nam
 Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics and the National Council for Women, Republic of Egypt, with UNFPA (2015). The Egypt Economic cost of Gender-Based violence survey
 Haut Commissariat au Pan (2019). Rapport sur les violences faites aux femmes et aux filles. Enquête Nationale sur la Violence à l’Encontre des Femmes et des Hommes
 European Institute for Gender Equality (2021). The costs of gender-based violence in the European Union
 UNICEF (2017). A Familiar Face: Violence in the lives of children and adolescents, p. 73, 82.
 Promundo and UN Women (2017). Understanding Masculinities: Results from the International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES) – Middle East and North Africa, p. 16.
 UNODC (2020). Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2020, p. 31, 36.
 Secretary-General of the United Nations (2021). Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals 2021 Report.
 UNESCO (2019). Behind the numbers: ending school violence and bullying, p.25-26; UNESCO (2018). School violence and bullying: Global status and trends, drivers and consequences, p. 4, 9; Education for All Global Monitoring Report (EFA GMR), UNESCO, United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) (2015). School-related gender-based violence is preventing the achievement of quality education for all, Policy Paper 17; and UNGEI (2014). End School-related gender-based violence (SRGBVB) infographic.
 United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Statistics Division (2020). Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
 European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (2014). Violence against women: an EU-wide survey, p. 104.
 UN Women (2021). Online and ICT-facilitated violence against women and girls during COVID-19.
 Inter-Parliamentary Union (2016). Sexism, harassment and violence against women parliamentarians, p. 3.
[Last updated January 2022]