30% of women worldwide victim of violence and abuses
An overly underestimated threat
According to a 2018 study by the World Health Organization, one in three women has been a victim of gender-based violence at least once, it’s about 30% of women worldwide. Considering that violence against women very often goes unreported to the authorities, the actual numbers might be even scarier. In fact, less than 40% of women who have suffered violence seek any kind of help, and less than 10% contact law enforcement. When we speak of gender-based violence, we include a wide range of behaviors and abuses, of which femicide is the ultimate pinnacle. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) 2019 Global Report on Homicide, 87,000 women were intentionally killed worldwide in 2017 – more than half of them (50,000) by intimate partners or family members. In 2012 they were only 48,000.
Moreover, violence against women is not a phenomenon tied to a particular culture or country, but one that occurs systematically in all parts of the world, albeit at different percentages. In the UK, there was a female homicide every three days between 2009 and 2018, according to a study published in 2020. In Germany, a man tries to kill his partner or ex every day, and in one in three cases he succeeds. In South Africa, 13,815 women over the age of 18 were killed between 2015 and 2020, one woman a day. Just like Covid-19, violence against women appears to be an international virus that is very often underestimated or ignored, and that requires a global response.
The recent global pandemic has also helped to worsen an already precarious situation. Curfews imposed in various countries have led to an exponential increase in domestic violence, putting thousands of women in danger. And that’s not all. The pandemic has also led to the closure of many women’s shelters. So, at a time when the entire world was in danger due to the virus, women were faced with not only a global pandemic but also an abusive partner, all locked up in their homes with no outside support or help to count on. While everyone was focused on the rise in Covid infections and deaths, the numbers of abuses and murders of women quietly began to rise. According to a 2021 study conducted by Ipsos and UN Women in 13 countries, one in two women (45%) admit to having been a victim of violence during Covid-19 or knowing someone to whom it has happened. For seven in 10 women, physical and verbal assaults on their partners have become more common during the pandemic, and 56% of women feel less safe in their homes since the lockdown began.
In these past months recent developments have led to the creation of virtuous initiatives that have actually helped many women. As mentioned earlier, on average only one in 10 women turn to the authorities after being a victim of violence, and this is often because they fear violent consequences. The main aim of these initiatives is therefore to help women overcome this obstacle by enabling them to approach the law enforcement authorities in safety. For example, in France if a woman goes to the pharmacist and asks for a mask19, the pharmacist will call the police for her. In the UK, they can dial 999 and press 55 without saying a word and they will receive help as soon as possible. In Poland, a teenager, Krystyna Paszko, working with a non-governmental organization, has set up a fake e-commerce where victims can ask for help by pretending to buy a product. In addition, lately a video of a hand gesture you can use to ask for help if you are a victim of domestic violence or something similar went viral on Tik Tok, thanks to the Canadian Women Foundation. The video was able to actually save a 16-year-old girl in the United States.
On the other hand, however, it is a problem that is still too much in the shadows, because society is still firmly rooted in retrograde ideas that lead to women being seen as something inferior, like an object to be disposed of. Italy is an example of this, here 89 women are victims of gender-based crimes every day and in 2020 the calls at 1522 increased by 79.5% compared to 2019. President Mattarella stressed in one of his speeches that violence against women is the result of a failure of society as a whole and that it results from a distorted and stereotypical view of the relationship between men and women. Even Prime Minister Mario Draghi has included the fight against gender violence as one of the priorities on the Italian political agenda. But in reality, the problem remains in the background or is not perceived as such. Suffice it to say that, according to a survey by IPSOS, 15% of young people (21% of men and 9% of girls) still believe that victims of sexual violence can help provoke it through their clothing and/or behaviour.
The only way to combat gender violence is to prevent it through projects aimed at changing the mentality of society. It is the stereotypes and the asymmetrical relations between the two sexes that must be changed, and even eliminated. Only when women are seen in the same way as men, only when they are seen as equals, will they be accorded the same respect.