WHO finds violence against women 'shockingly' common

More than a third of women in the world have been raped or physically abused, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday, calling violence against women a "global health epidemic."

About 80 percent of the time this violence occurs in the home, at the hands of a partner or spouse.

In Southeast Asia, for example, women are almost eight times more likely to experience violence by a current or former partner than someone else.

In the US, half of women in abusive relationships are physically injured by their partners.

Meanwhile, women in Africa were almost twice as likely to experience violence than women in Europe — although The Guardian points out that only statistics from low- and middle-income European countries, such as Albania and Ukraine, are compared, while high-income countries such as the UK and France are left out.

And 38 percent of all murders of women worldwide are committed by intimate partners, the report found.

Among the most common health problems suffered were broken bones, bruises, pregnancy complications, depression and other mental illnesses, the report said.

Karen Devries, an epidemiologist from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told Reuters:

"For me personally, this is a shockingly high figure. The levels of violence are very high everywhere."

It is the first time that the WHO has gathered worldwide data on the problem.

The report's co-author, Claudia Garcia-Moreno, said recent high-profile rape cases in India — including the gang rape of a young American tourist, and the rape of a 5-year-old girl — and in South Africa have put a spotlight on the treatment of women and girls worldwide.

Meanwhile, Watts said pictures this week showing celebrity chef Nigella Lawson being grabbed by the throat by her husband, Charles Saatchi, showed that the problem crossed ethnic and socio-economic borders.

"We don't know the details of what is going there, but it does illustrate this happens to all women — it's not just poor women, or women in a certain country. This really is a global issue."

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