Facts and Figures: Ending Violence against Women and Girls

  • Up to 70 per cent of women face physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime, according to available country data. Most violence takes place in intimate relationships.
  • In Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the United States, intimate partner violence accounts for between 40 and 70 per cent of female murder victims [2].
  • Worldwide, up to 50 per cent of sexual assaults are committed against girls under 15 [3].
  • More than 64 million girls worldwide are child brides, with 46 per cent of women aged 20–24 in South Asia and 41 per cent in West and Central Africa reporting that they married before the age of 18. Child marriage resulting in early and unwanted pregnancies poses life-threatening risks for adolescent girls; worldwide, pregnancy-related complications are the leading cause of death for 15-to-19-year-old girls [4].
  • Approximately 140 million girls and women in the world have suffered female genital mutilation/cutting [5].
  • Trafficking ensnares millions of women and girls in modern-day slavery. Women and girls represent 55 per cent of the estimated 20.9 million victims of forced labour worldwide, and 98 per cent of the estimated 4.5 million forced into sexual exploitation [6].
  • Rape has been a rampant tactic in modern wars. Conservative estimates suggest that 20,000 to 50,000 women were raped during the 1992–1995 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina [7], while approximately 250,000 to 500,000 women and girls were targeted in the 1994 Rwandan genocide [8].
  • Between 40 and 50 per cent of women in European Union countries experience unwanted sexual advances, physical contact or other forms of sexual harassment at work [9].
  • In the United States, 83 per cent of girls aged 12 to 16 have experienced some form of sexual harassment in public schools [10].
Extra vulnerabilities
  • Women in urban areas are twice as likely as men to experience violence, particularly in developing countries [11].
  • In New Delhi, a 2010 study found that 66 per cent of women report experiencing sexual harassment between two and five times during the past year [12].
  • Women are already two to four times more likely than men to become infected with HIV during intercourse. Forced sex or rape increases this risk by limiting condom use and causing physical injuries [13].
  • In the United States, 11.8 per cent of new HIV infections among women more than 20 years old during the previous year were attributed to intimate partner violence [14].
The high cost of violence
  • Annual costs of intimate partner violence have been calculated at USD 5.8 billion in the United States in 2003 [15] and GBP 22.9 billion in England and Wales in 2004 [16].
  • A 2009 study in Australia estimated the cost of violence against women and children at AUD 13.6 billion per year [17].


[1] Figures are based on data from 40 countries obtained through the three leading international surveys on prevalence, with most survey sites reporting that between 20 and 60 per cent of women had experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime. Adapted from World Health Organization, 2005, WHO Multi-Country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence against Women, p. 46, Geneva; H. Johnson, N. Ollus and S. Nevala, 2008, Violence Against Women: An International Perspective, p. 39, New York, Springer Science + Business Media; Demographic and Health Surveys, ORC Macro, Calverton, Maryland; and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “International Reproductive Health Surveys: Reports, Publications, and Datasets.” See full compilation of data in UN Women, 2011, Violence against Women Prevalence Data: Surveys by Country.

[2] E. G. Krug, et al., eds., 2002, World Report on Violence and Health, Geneva, World Health Organization. Cited in United Nations Population Fund, 2005, State of World Population 2005, p. 66, New York.

[3] United Nations Population Fund, 2003, “UNFPA and Young People: Imagine,” p. 3,” New York.

[4] Based on the World’s Women 1990, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, New York, cited in Black, M. 2001. “Early Marriage: Child Spouses”. Innocenti Digest Vol. 7, Florence: 11 and Pinheiro, P. S. and J. Ward. 2008. From Invisible to Indivisible: Promoting and Protecting the Right of the Girl Child to be Free from Violence: 29. United Nations, New York.

[5] World Health Organization, 2012, “Female Genital Mutilation: Fact Sheet No. 241,” Geneva.

[6] Figure derived from data based on a 2002-2011 reference period. International Labour Organization, 2012, “ILO Global Estimate of Forced Labour: Results and Methodology,” p. 14, Geneva.

[7] Based on reports by the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the European Commission. J. Ward on behalf of the Reproductive Health Response in Conflict Consortium, 2002, “Bosnia and Herzegovina”, If Not Now, When?: Addressing Gender-based Violence in Refugee, Internally Displaced, and Post-Conflict Settings, p. 81. Cited in UNIFEM, Facts and Figures on Peace and Security.

[8] United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Rwanda, 1996, Report on the situation of human rights in Rwanda, E/CN.4/1996/68, United Nations, New York.

[9] Directorate-General for Employment, Industrial Relations and Social Affairs, 1998, “Sexual harassment at the workplace in the European Union,” p. iii, Brussels, European Commission. Cited in UN General Assembly, 2006, “In-depth Study on All Forms of Violence against Women: Report of the Secretary-General,” A/61/122/Add.1, p. 42, New York.

[10] Based on a nationally representative study among female and male students in grades 8 through 11. American Association of University Women, 2001, “Hostile Hallways: Bullying, Teasing, and Sexual Harassment in School,” p. 4, Washington, DC. Cited in UN General Assembly, 2006, “In-depth Study on All Forms of Violence against Women: Report of the Secretary-General,” A/61/122/Add.1, p. 42, New York.

[11] F. Vanderschueren, 2000, “The Prevention of Urban Crime.” Paper presented at the Africities 2000 Summit, Windhoek, Namibia. Cited in UN-HABITAT, 2006, State of the World’s Cities 2006/2007, p. 144, Nairobi.

[12] JAGORI and UN WOMEN (2010).  Report on the Baseline Survey. Available at: http://jagori.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Baseline-Survey_layout_for-Print_12_03_2011.pdf.

[13] UNAIDS, 1999, “AIDS: 5 years since ICPD: Emerging issues and challenges for Women, Young People & Infants,” p. 11, Geneva. Cited in D. L. Ferdinand, 2009, “A Manual for Integrating the Programmes and Services of HIV and Violence Against Women,” p. 14, New York, Development Connections and UNIFEM.

[14] Based on a nationally representative study. J. Sareen, J. Pagura and B. Grant, 2009, “Is Intimate Partner Violence Associated with HIV Infection among Women in the United States?” General Hospital Psychiatry, 31(3), p. 277, Manitoba.

[15] Figure includes direct health costs and indirect productivity losses from intimate partner violence based on 1995 annual estimates. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 2003, Costs of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women in the United States, p. 2, Atlanta, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cited in UN General Assembly, 2006, “In-depth Study on All Forms of Violence against Women: Report of the Secretary-General,” A/61/122/Add.1, p. 137, New York.

[16] Figure includes direct and indirect individual, employer and state expenses related to violence. S. Walby, 2004, The Costs of Domestic Violence, p. 12, Leeds, Women and Equality Unit and University of Leeds.

[17] Data calculated for both intimate partner and non-partner violence based on estimated prevalence rates for 2007–2008, including direct and indirect individual and public costs related to suffering, health, legal and employment expenses, among others. The National Council to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children, 2009, The Cost of Violence against Women and their Children, p. 4, Canberra, Commonwealth of Australia.