Close

Gender-based violence must be at the heart of global health agenda - expert comment

Caption: 1 in 3 women infographic. Credit: STRIVE

Countries around the world must embrace a broader definition of sexual and reproductive health and rights that moves beyond disease prevention and contraception, and encompasses sexuality education, fertility services and counselling for gender-based violence as part of an essential package of health interventions, according to a new Lancet Commission on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.

The Commission brings together the best available evidence and calls on governments around the world to tackle barriers embedded in laws, policies, the economy, and in social norms and values that perpetuate gender inequality and prevent people from achieving sexual and reproductive health and fulfilling their related rights.

How important is this Commission and what can we learn from it? Dr Heidi Stöckl, Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine’s Gender Violence and Health Centre, said:

“This Commission comes at a crucial time. Despite vast gains, women’s and sexual and reproductive health rights are experiencing severe setbacks across the globe. The Lancet series highlights the intersectionality of issues that have long been looked at in silos – gender-based violence, reproductive and sexual health rights and gender inequality. This is key, as research in LSHTM’s Gender Violence & Health Centre consistently shows that interventions in family planning, HIV prevention, parenting or violence against children do not work among women or in families with high levels of intimate partner violence.

“Another important contribution of this Series is its focus on prevention to ensure that future generations are more likely to see their right to healthy relationships and families, and that they are able to make informed choices about them.  These include scaling-up programmes we know that work – combining microfinance interventions with gender training, changing social norms in communities, and engaging men and boys into efforts to prevent gender-based violence. However these interventions must be carefully monitored and evaluated to ensure they are delivered cost effectively.”

The Gender Violence and Health Centre (GVHC) works with partners around the world to conduct action-oriented research to better understand the extent, causes and consequences of interpersonal violence, and to identify how prevention and health-service programmes can reduce violence, in order to improve public health and well-being.

The first systematic study of the global prevalence of violence against women was conducted by GVHC, the World Health Organisation and the South African Medical Research Council. Released in July 2013, the study found that intimate partner violence affects 30% of women worldwide, or one in three. Current GVHC projects include innovative qualitative and quantitative research on:

  • trafficking and labour exploitation in the Mekong, South Asia, South America and Central Asia
  • health-service responses to domestic violence in Europe and Asia
  • the impacts of community empowerment, economic and social interventions in Tanzania, Uganda, Côte d’Ivoire and on the Ecuador–Colombia border