31% of women in the Eastern Mediterranean Women have faced violence from a partner in their lifetime, says new UN report


[Press release]

Thirty-one percent of ever-married/partnered women aged 15–49 in the Eastern Mediterranean region have been subjected to physical and/or sexual violence from a current or former husband or male partner at least once in their lifetime, according to estimates released today on a webinar hosted by UN Women Regional Office for Arab States (ROAS) and WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean (EMRO).

The event brought together governments, civil society organizations and UN agencies to highlight and discus the new regional estimates on Violence against Women (VAW) in the region. The regional webinar follows the release of the global report “Violence against women estimates, 2018. Global, regional and national estimates for intimate partner violence against women and global and regional estimates for non-partner sexual violence against women” by WHO and UN Women in March 2021. The executive summary of the report can be seen here.

According to the findings of the global report, violence against women starts early: 1 in 4 young women (aged 15-24 years) who have been in a relationship will have already experienced violence by an intimate partner by the time they reach their mid-twenties.

Panelists and participants discussed potential avenues to strengthen regional and country data collection, and to expand communication and collaboration for the prevention of, and response to, VAW.

Dr Hala Sakr, Regional advisor at WHO EMRO, highlighted how these estimates contribute to enhance the availability of data globally, drive political and public awareness, and inform a more evidence-based response to ending violence against women.

Dr. Manal Benkirane, Regional Programme Specialist on Ending VAW at UN Women ROAS, echoed the appeal of the previous speaker and invited everyone to think of the stories behind those statistics.  She referred to stories of women who were subjected to violence because there was not enough investment in prevention programmes, no legal frameworks to protect them from this violence, or not enough social or economic support for them to escape the violence.

According to findings of a recent study by UN Women in the Arab States, during the COVID-19 lockdowns, most participants agreed that violence against women is a real threat in the region and that it needs to be prioritized. However, despite this positive finding nearly one in three respondents at least agreed that women should tolerate violence to keep the family together, especially in those difficult times.

The need to prioritize work on VaW was also underscored by Dr. Lina Abirafeh, Executive Director of the Arab Institute for Women (AiW) in Lebanon, who highlighted the lack of relevant data from the region and how this gap hinders overall progress in this area. Dr. Abirafeh spoke about the importance of, and the efforts undertaken to address this gap. More specifically, she mentioned that most of the studies on VaW are regionally or global and not country specific. This oftentimes hinders researchers from highlighting significant country related issues in the Arab Region and further enabling evidence-based work.

AiW’s Executive Director also spoke about the importance of building the capacities and further training national and local CSOs, CBOS, as well as governmental stakeholders plays pivotal role in advancing women’s rights and gender equality overall.

Speakers at the event underlined the urgency to:

  • Implement policies, laws and regulations that promote gender equality.
  • Invest in autonomous women’s rights organizations to apply their expertise in addressing violence against women and guide decision-making in programming and policymaking.
  • Scale up comprehensive, accessible and quality survivor-centred services for women affected by violence and their children through capacity-building of service providers in all sectors (health, judicial, education, social), including in humanitarian crises. Strengthen joined-up multisectoral responses to better respond to and prevent violence against women.
  • Challenge norms and attitudes that discriminate against women and girls, especially regarding the acceptability of violence against women.
  • Support and scale up nationalized and localized evidence-driven programmes and strategies for prevention. Promote and support community-based and women’s organizations’ efforts to end violence against women.
  • Strengthen data collection, reporting and use. Invest in high-quality surveys on violence against women and improve measurement of the different forms of violence that women are subjected to.