Over one in four women (or 27 per cent) experience intimate partner violence before the age of 50, according to a worldwide analysis published in The Lancet.
The study, involving more than 2 million women from 161 countries, and led by researchers from McGill University in Montreal and the World Health Organization (WHO), showed that one in seven women (or 13 per cent) experienced intimate partner violence.
The analysis also found high levels of violence against young women, estimating that 24 per cent of those between the ages of 15 to 19 experienced domestic violence in their lifetime.
While the numbers are alarming, the true scale of violence is likely even higher, said researchers from McGill University and the WHO, noting that the studies were based on self-reported experiences. Given the stigmatised nature of the issue, women can be hesitant to report their experiences, they explained.
“Intimate partner violence against women – which includes physical and sexual violence by husbands, boyfriends, and other partners – is highly prevalent globally,” said Professor Mathieu Maheu-Giroux, from McGill University.
The researchers found regional variations, with high-income countries having lower prevalence of both lifetime and past year violence.
The lifetime prevalence among women aged 15 to 49 was highest in Africa, South Asia, and parts of South America. The regions with the lowest estimated lifetime domestic violence against women were Central Asia and Central Europe.
The proportion of women who experienced intimate partner violence in the last year was around 5 per cent for North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific. In regions of Africa, this number was as high as 15 per cent to 30 per cent.
“Overall, our research shows that governments are not on track to meet global targets to eliminate violence against women and girls. An important takeaway is that even in some high-income countries the prevalence of intimate partner violence is relatively high, which calls for investment in prevention at local and global levels,” said Maheu-Giroux.
Globally, the problem is likely to have been further exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, the researchers explained. There’s an urgent need to strengthen the public health response to intimate partner violence, and ensure it’s addressed in post-Covid-19 rebuilding efforts, they said.