Chivalry is dead
Five years after a conference in Beijing that called for global action to end violence against women, UNICEF reports that abuse of women is at epidemic proportions worldwide.
Due to sex-selective abortion, female infanticide and inferior access to food and medicine, there are 60 million fewer women in the world today than would be expected from demographic trends. The bulk of the discrepancy is found in South Asia, North Africa, the Middle East and China. "[Women and girls] are victims of their own families, killed deliberately or through neglect, simply because they are female," the report notes.
Violence against women includes physical beatings, acid throwing, honor killings and lack of access to medical care. The abuse cuts across culture, class, education, income, ethnicity and age in every country, the study says.
The report also notes:
- Between 20 percent and 50 percent of girls and women have experienced physical violence at the hands of a family member or intimate partner;
- Worldwide, between 40 percent and 60 percent of known sexual assaults occur within the family and are committed against girls under age 16;
- Nearly 14 million women are infected with HIV, and the rate of female infection is rising. HIV infection for many women comes from a regular partner and is heightened by an unequal relationship that makes it difficult, if not impossible, to negotiate safe sex;
- In Sri Lanka, the number of suicides among girls and women aged 15–24 is 55 times greater than the number of deaths due to pregnancy and childbirth;
- In Egypt, 35 percent of women surveyed said they were beaten by their husband at some point during their marriage;
- In the United States, 28 percent of women reported at least one incident of physical violence from an intimate partner. UNICEF says civil society, including community and religious leaders, could promote an integrated approach to curb domestic violence by supporting legal literacy, education and employment opportunities.
The report concluded that not enough progress has been made since the Beijing conference in 1995 to end violence against women.