Orange the World: 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence


The international campaign “16 days of Activism against Gender-based Violence” starts on 25 November 2019, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and will continue until 10 December 2019, Human Rights Day. Under this year’s theme, “Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands against Rape” the campaign focuses on the issue of rape as a specific form of harm committed against women and girls in times of peace or war. WHO is calling for more action to prevent and end violence against women.

Women who experience violence are at an increased risk of death and injuries but also of developing mental health issues, such as depression, self-harm or suicide, and alcohol use disorder, as well as sexual and reproductive health concerns such as unwanted pregnancies, low birth-weight babies and sexually transmitted diseases.

Across the WHO European Region, 1 in 4 women experience sexual and/or physical violence by an intimate partner. Estimates say that about 5% of women have been sexually assaulted by someone other than a partner.

Violence can affect any woman, regardless of their background and can have many forms.

Health professionals and the LIVES approach

Health-care providers are often the first point of professional contact for a woman experiencing violence. Women who are abused are more likely to seek health services even if they do not explicitly seek care for violence.

Often, first-line support is the most important care a health professional can deliver. The LIVES approach is a reminder of five tasks that can protect a woman’s life:

  1. Listen – closely, with empathy and without judgement
  2. Inquire – about their needs and concerns
  3. Validate – their experience by showing understanding and reassurance that they are not to blame
  4. Enhance – their safety
  5. Support – and guide them to additional information, services and social support.

Prenatal care visits are opportunities for trained health workers to be alert to signs of violence, and provide guidance and support. In the European Region, many countries include detection of intimate partner violence as part of prenatal services, but fewer than 50% of these countries have implemented those services at national level.

The WHO essential package of services to be offered to survivors includes women-centred care, first-line support, documentation, treatment and referrals.

Sexuality education

An important way to prevent and end violence against women is to have sexuality education for adolescents at schools that challenges stereotypes and harmful gender norms. Sexuality education should cover a variety of topics that can support young people, such as avoiding negative health consequences, enabling communication about sexuality and sexual health, understanding healthy and unhealthy relationships, recognizing the value of themselves and their bodies, and respecting the bodily integrity of others as well as different sexual orientations or gender identities.

Data gathered by WHO/Europe shows that only 23 out of 42 surveyed countries reported that sexuality education was part of their primary and secondary school curriculum. The “Action Plan for Sexual and Reproductive Health: towards achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Europe – leaving no one behind” calls for the strengthening of evidence-informed comprehensive sexuality education.

Engaging boys and men in violence prevention

To eliminate violence against women everyone needs to work together. Data tells us that in cultures where violence between men is more accepted and prevalent, there is also more violence against women. The Strategy on the Health and Well-being of Men in the WHO European Region calls for the engagement of men and boys in violence prevention, for example with programmes that focus on life skills, parenting and social development. Men also need to be promoted as active agents of change to challenge normalization of violence between men, and they need to be engaged, alongside women’s groups, in programmes geared towards eliminating violence against women.


RESPECT is a framework to support policy-makers by outlining steps for a public health and human rights approach to scaling up programming on prevention of violence against women. Each of the letters of RESPECT stands for 1 of 7 strategies:

  • Relationship skills strengthened
  • Empowerment of women
  • Services ensured
  • Poverty reduced
  • Environments made safe
  • Child and adolescent abuse prevented
  • Transformed attitudes, beliefs and norms.