March 24, 2022. McGill University Newsroom

Worldwide analysis led by researchers from McGill University and the World Health Organization shows that over one in four women (or 27 percent) experience intimate partner violence before the age of 50. The largest of its kind, the analysis covers 366 studies involving more than 2 million women in 161 countries. The results show that intimate partner violence against women, which includes physical and sexual violence by husbands, boyfriends and other partners, is very prevalent around the world.

According to the finding published in The Lancet, one in seven women (or 13 percent) experienced intimate partner violence within the last year of the study period between 2000 and 2018. The analysis also found high levels of violence against young women, estimating that 24 percent of those between the ages of 15 to 19 experienced domestic violence in their lifetime. While the numbers are alarming the true scale of violence is likely even higher, the researchers say, noting that the studies were based on self-reported experiences. Given the stigmatized nature of the issue, women can be hesitant to report their experiences.

The researchers found regional variations, with high-income countries having lower prevalence of both lifetime and past year violence. The lifetime prevalence among women aged 15 to 49 was highest in Africa, South Asia, and parts of South America. The regions with the lowest estimated lifetime domestic violence against women were Central Asia and Central Europe. The proportion of women who experienced intimate partner violence in the last year was around 5 percent for North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific. In regions of Africa, this number was as high as 15 percent to 30 percent.

Globally, the problem is likely to have been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the researchers explain. There’s an urgent need to strengthen the public health response to intimate partner violence, and ensure it’s addressed in post-COVID-19 rebuilding efforts, they conclude. Overall, the research shows that governments are not on track to meet global targets to eliminate violence against women and girls.