Gender-based violence against women, as defined by the United Nations, encompasses acts resulting in physical, sexual, or mental harm. This includes intimate partner violence and sexual violence, involving behaviors causing physical, sexual, or psychological harm. Risk factors range from lower education levels to harmful masculine behavior and societal norms that perpetuate gender inequality.
Risk factors for both intimate partner and sexual violence include:
- lower levels of education (perpetration of sexual violence and experience of sexual violence);
- a history of exposure to child maltreatment (perpetration and experience);
- witnessing family violence (perpetration and experience);
- antisocial personality disorder (perpetration);
- harmful use of alcohol (perpetration and experience);
- harmful masculine behaviour, including having multiple partners or attitudes that condone violence (perpetration);
- community norms that privilege or ascribe higher status to men and lower status to women;
- low levels of women’s access to paid employment; and
- low level of gender equality (discriminatory laws, etc.).
Factors specifically associated with intimate partner violence include:
- past history of exposure to violence;
- marital discord and dissatisfaction;
- difficulties in communicating between partners; and
- male controlling behaviour towards their partners.
Factors specifically associated with sexual violence perpetration include:
- beliefs in family honour and sexual purity;
- ideologies of male sexual entitlement; and
- weak legal sanctions for sexual violence.
Gender inequality and norms on the acceptability of violence against women are a root cause of violence against women.
Intimate partner and sexual violence have profound short- and long-term effects on women’s physical, mental, and reproductive health. These consequences extend to their children and incur high social and economic costs. The impact encompasses fatal outcomes, injuries, unintended pregnancies, gynecological issues, and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Mental health repercussions include depression, post-traumatic stress, anxiety disorders, and suicide attempts. Moreover, violence can result in headaches, pain syndromes, gastrointestinal disorders, limited mobility, and overall poor health.
Role of the Health Sector:
In addressing violence against women, the health sector plays a pivotal role. Advocating against violence, the health sector emphasizes its status as a public health problem. Providing comprehensive services, training healthcare providers, and preventing recurrence through early identification and support are critical. Furthermore, promoting egalitarian gender norms and contributing to evidence generation through surveys and health information systems are integral aspects of the health sector’s involvement.
In summary, this exploration delves into the multifaceted effects of violence against women, emphasizing the importance of a comprehensive and collaborative approach, with the health sector at its core.