At least one in four women in the world has suffered physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner.

At least one in four women in the world – actually a little more than that – have experienced physical or sexual violence from their male partners at least once in their lives. It is the conclusion of a new study, "the largest to date", as published on Thursday by the magazine The Lancet.

The ex-boyfriend of the 17-year-old girl murdered in Totana confesses the crime

The ex-boyfriend of the 17-year-old girl murdered in Totana confesses the crime

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The research, led by the World Health Organization (WHO), estimates that, until 2018, at least 27% of women between the ages of 15 and 49 who have ever had a heterosexual partner have been victims of this type of violence. 13% in the last year. They are 492 million women. The findings "undoubtedly" establish the "high and persistent prevalence" of the problem, which "remains a global public health challenge," the study says.

Statistical analysis has made it possible to calculate the prevalence of intimate partner violence in different age groups and countries, with great differences between them. The researchers have used as a key figure that which affects women between 15 and 49 years of age because it is the age group for which there is more data, but in general, the prevalence for women over 15 years of age stands at 26%. , 10% in the last year. In Spain, 15% of women have suffered violence throughout their lives and 3% in the last 12 months.

According to the study, violence also begins early: the data suggests that 24%, almost one in four girls between the ages of 15 and 19, have experienced gender-based violence at some point in their lives; and 16%, in the last year, several points above the average. Precisely a week ago a 19-year-old boy murdered his ex-partnera young woman of 17, in the Murcian municipality of Totana and this same Wednesday a young man of 22 years has confessed to having killed to a 14-year-old teenager, although it is still unknown if they had any kind of relationship.

The figure is "alarming" and calls on countries to develop public policies "that promote gender equality" and "reduce the risk" of young women of suffering violence from their partners, believes Lynnmarie Sardinha, lead author of the study. The work has been carried out by researchers from the WHO, McGill University in Montreal, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Ludwig Maximilian University within the framework of a special program carried out by the WHO with the participation of other organizations.

An "even higher" real prevalence

Using the organization's global database on the prevalence of violence against women, the researchers have carried out a review of 366 studies and surveys of two million women. They span 161 countries, covering "90% of the world's population." It is the second time that the WHO has carried out this investigation; in 2013 it published the first estimates with data up to 2010 and 81 countries. The studies included in this update were conducted between 2000 and 2018, that is, before the coronavirus pandemicwhich "is likely", the authors believe, that "it has further exacerbated the violence", especially in the first months of confinement and confinement.

The authors also assume as "likely" that the real prevalence "is even higher" because the estimates are based on what women convey in the surveys on a subject marked by silence and given its "stigmatized nature". Furthermore, it covers only physical and sexual violence, not psychological violence. "We know that it is very important, but there is not the same level of agreement on how to measure it. We are working on having a standardized definition to obtain comparable data and we hope to include it in the next round," Claudia García-Moreno, a of the main authors.

This is the first internationally comparable global study, in which there are important variations: the prevalence of physical or sexual violence against women between 15 and 49 years was higher in Oceania (49%) and central sub-Saharan Africa (44% ). The regions with the lowest estimates are Central Asia (18%) and Central Europe (16%). In general, the research concludes, "high-income countries have lower rates" and there are "particularly pronounced differences in this regard." Among the countries with the highest rates are Fiji (52%) or Bangladesh (50%) and on the other side of the table, Georgia and Armenia (10%), Singapore (11%) or Switzerland (12%).

The study highlights 28 countries where the rate is "substantially higher" than the world average, many of them affected by conflict. The researchers believe that the findings "are consistent" with the social, economic and political conditions that exist in the countries and that are associated with gender-based violence, including those that can "limit the ability of women to leave relationships abusive" or produce "economic insecurity", as well as norms that perpetuate gender inequality, stigma, discriminatory laws and "inadequate support services".

"Gender violence is avoidable"

Gender-based violence marks the lives of the women who suffer it and causes "many short- and long-term effects" for both physical and mental health and both for the victims themselves and for their sons and daughters, highlights this new report . García-Molero explains that "advances have been made in the last 20 years", but they are still "extremely insufficient" to achieve the goal established at a global level through the 2030 Agenda to eliminate violence against women. "Gender violence is avoidable," the authors emphasize.

They consider that it is even "more pressing" after the COVID-19 pandemic and reproach governments that, in general, are not meeting the objectives to eradicate this type of violence. "The figures are alarming and research has shown that the pandemic exacerbated the problems that led to intimate partner violence. [...]. Preventing it from happening is vital and urgent. Governments, societies and communities must pay attention, invest more and act urgently to reduce and even address it in post-COVID reconstruction efforts."

To do this, the study highlights the importance of having rigorous figures and estimates and, although it admits several limitations, it ensures that the findings can be key to developing "effective prevention policies and programs." It calls, however, for more and better data and surveys with the aim of delving specifically into the violence experienced by those women who suffer different forms of discrimination: women with disabilities, indigenous, migrant, trans or women in same-sex couples. sex, "for which there is currently little data," they conclude.

Graphics made by Anna Ordaz.

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