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A U.N. study found that violence perpetrated by family members or intimate partners is the leading cause of death for women worldwide. (Photo: CMY Kane/Flickr/cc)

'Mark of Shame on All Our Societies': UN Finds More Women Killed by Domestic Violence Than Any Other Crime

50,000 women around the world were killed by family members or intimate partners in 2017

Julia Conley

In a quarter of the world's countries, no laws exist protecting women and girls from what a new United Nations study says is the crime most likely to kill them: violence perpetrated by their intimate partners and family members.

Marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime on Sunday released a global study on homicide, focusing on gender-related killings, and revealed that out of 87,000 women who were murdered around the world in 2017, 58 percent of them were killed by family members or partners.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called violence against women "a moral affront to all women and girls, a mark of shame on all our societies and a major obstacle to inclusive, equitable, and sustainable development."

"Not until the half of our population represented by women and girls can live free from fear, violence and everyday insecurity, can we truly say we live in a fair and equal world."  —Antonio Guterres, U.N. Secretary-General"At its core, violence against women and girls is the manifestation of a profound lack of respect—a failure by men to recognize the inherent equality and dignity of women," Guterres said. "It is an issue of fundamental human rights."

The study examined cases of women who were killed as a result of intimate partner violence and in "honor killings" and dowry-related killings in countries in the Middle East, East Asian, and South Asian countries, as well as women who were killed in armed conflicts and other situations not related to domestic violence. According to the study, six women around the world are killed by someone they know every hour.

The release of the study marked the beginning of the U.N.'s 16 days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, in which the U.N. has urged governments and communities to help "Orange the World," bringing global attention to violence against women.

U.N. Women gave credit to social justice movements including #MeToo for bringing attention to violence faced by women all over the world and setting the stage for a global campaign.

"For far too long, impunity, silence and stigma have allowed violence against women to escalate to pandemic proportions—one in three women worldwide experience gender-based violence. The time for change is here and now," wrote the office on its website.

"In recent years, the voices of survivors and activists, through campaigns such as #MeToo, #TimesUp, #NiUnaMenos, #NotOneMore, #BalanceTonPorc and others, have reached a crescendo that cannot be silenced any more," the group continued. "Advocates understand that while the names and contexts may differ across geographic locations, women and girls everywhere are experiencing extensive abuse and their stories need to be brought to light."

As the U.N. noted on Twitter, in 49 of the world's 195 countries, no laws prohibiting domestic violence exist.

According to the report, deadly domestic and family-related violence against women appears to have increased over the last five years, with an estimated 48,000 women being killed by partners or family members in 2012, compared with 50,000 in 2017.

"Tangible progress in both protecting and saving the lives of female victims of intimate partner/family-related homicide has not been made in recent years, despite the many programs developed to eradicate violence against women and the amount of legislation adopted," reads the report. "Many women still find themselves alone, not only in the face of violence in their home but also of criminal justice systems that fail to respond adequately or do not have the capacity and knowledge to do so."

"Violence against women is tied to broader issues of power and control in our societies. We live in a male-dominated society. Women are made vulnerable to violence through the multiple ways in which we keep them unequal," said Guterres. "Not until the half of our population represented by women and girls can live free from fear, violence, and everyday insecurity, can we truly say we live in a fair and equal world."


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