Leaving no one behind in eliminating violence against women

A quarter of all women in the WHO European Region experience physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner – the most common type of violence against women worldwide. On 25 November, the first day of a 16-day global campaign of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, WHO launches a manual which provides guidance on strengthening health systems’ responses to gender-based violence.

“Violence against women cannot be tolerated in any society,” says Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe. “Eradicating violence requires determined efforts to promote gender equality, challenge gender stereotypes and work with women and girls – not only as victims of violence but as empowered agents of change. This was confirmed and endorsed by all European Member States last year in the Strategy on Women’s Health and Well-being in the WHO European Region.”

While 25.4% of women in the Region will experience physical and/or sexual violence by intimate partners during their lives, 5.2% will experience sexual violence by someone other than a partner, according to the WHO report Global and regional estimates of violence against women.

This year’s global campaign focuses on leaving no one behind in eliminating violence against women. Although intimate partner violence occurs across all social groups, migrant and ethnic minority women are in a more vulnerable situation that demands special attention from health systems. Girls and women on the move to and within Europe face particular risks and challenges due to gender norms and discrimination. These include security risks exposing them to sexual violence and problems in accessing services, as well as legal and protection systems that do not adequately respect, protect and fulfil their rights.

New WHO manual for health systems managers

The newly launched WHO manual Strengthening health systems to respond to women subjected to intimate partner violence or sexual violence provides practical tips for the management of health systems on how to support health-care providers when responding to violence against women, and how to establish, manage and monitor services for victims of violence. The manual complements Health care for women subjected to intimate partner violence or sexual violence: A clinical handbook, which is targeted directly at health-care providers, offering guidance on how to respond to and treat victims of violence. Both publications are based on the WHO clinical and policy guidelines for effective health-sector responses to violence against women.