According to the United Nations, violence against women is an act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life. It encompasses all forms of violation of women's rights, including threats and reprisals, exploitation, harassment, and other forms of control.
In its Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the UN General Assembly “recognizes that violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, which has led to domination over discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women, and that violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men.” (UN, 1993)
Based on the result of the 2013 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS), one in five women aged 15 – 49 years has experienced physical violence since age 15. The same result was observed in the 2008 NDHS. On the other hand, women aged 15 – 49 years who have experienced physical violence in the past 12 months stood at 5.6% and 7.3% in the 2013 and 2008 NDHS, respectively (Figure 1).
It is alarming to note that pregnant women are among those women aged 15 – 49 years who experienced physical violence. This puts their unborn child at risk. The 2008 and 2013 NDHS results showed that 3.6% and 4.2% of women aged 15 – 49 years, respectively, have ever experienced physical violence during their pregnancy (Table 1).
The percentage of women who have experienced physical violence declines with age for both years – with 13.6% in the 15 – 19 years age group down to 3.5% for women aged 40 – 49 years in the 2013 NDHS, while there are 5.8% of women aged 15 – 19 years to 3.1% for women aged 40 – 49 years in the 2008 NDHS. The large increase in the percentage of women who experienced physical violence during their pregnancy can be observed among the youngest age group, 15 – 19 years. As may be observed, there were teeners who already got pregnant, and at the same time experienced physical violence during their pregnancy.
The percentage of women aged 15 – 49 years who have ever experienced sexual violence since age 15 decreased from 8.7% in 2008 NDHS to 6.3% in 2013 (Table 2). The 2008 and 2013 NDHS reports that the usual perpetrators of sexual violence for the ever married women and the never married women are their current husband/partner and current/former boyfriend, respectively.
Among ever-married women aged 15 – 49 years, one in five, for both 2008 and 2013 NDHS, has experienced emotional violence committed by their husband/partner (Figure 2). Among the three forms of violence – physical, sexual and emotional, emotional violence has the highest percentage of women ever married aged 15 – 49 years reported as a form of spousal violence committed by their husband/partner. Examples of emotional violence are saying or doing something to humiliate her in front of others, threatening to hurt or harm her or himself or someone she cared about, among others.
The 2013 NDHS, unfortunately, shows that only 3 out of 10 women aged 15 – 49 years who have experienced physical, sexual violence or both, have sought help to stop the violence. Four out of 10 never sought help nor told anyone, while 3 out of 10 never sought help but told someone. Among those who sought help to stop violence, for both years, sought help from their own families – 45.1% and 58.7% in 2008 and 2013 NDHS, respectively. It is followed by friend/neighbor at 28.5% in 2008 and other sources at 19.4% in 2013.