Where’s the most dangerous place to be a woman?


At home, according to new research from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, which shows almost 6 in 10 women intentionally killed are murdered by an intimate partner or a family member. That equates to 137 killed every day, by people they know. And the number is increasing.


Women in Africa and the Americas are most at risk of being killed by intimate partners or family members, the report shows. In Africa, the rate is 3.1 victims per 100,000, while in the Americas it was 1.6. The lowest rate is found in Europe. Most worryingly, the study highlighted how little tangible progress has been made in recent years.


Image: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime


“Gender-related killings of women and girls remain a grave problem across regions, in countries rich and poor,” Yury Fedotov, executive director at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime writes in the report. “While the vast majority of homicide victims are men, killed by strangers, women are far more likely to die at the hands of someone they know.”


The findings are underpinned by figures from the World Economic Forum’s wide-reaching Global Gender Gap Report, which looks at the status of women in society and seeks to quantify the differences between men and women in four key areas: health, economics, politics and education.


Image: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime


In the Forum’s report, the Health and Survival sub-index reflects violence against women. One part looks at the sex ratio at birth, to capture the phenomenon of “missing women” prevalent in many countries where families prefer sons. Another part looks at differences in male and female life expectancy, to capture years lost to factors including violence, disease and malnutrition.


Many countries score well, when assessed using this index and 34 out of 144 have reached parity, suggesting little difference exists. Azerbaijan, Armenia and China are the lowest ranked countries, the data shows, with some of the lowest female-to-male sex ratios at birth in the world.


Image: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime


Violence against women – particularly intimate-partner violence and sexual violence – is a major public health problem, according to the World Health Organisation. It estimates that 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.


So why are so many women being killed? As well as domestic violence, the UNODC report cites honour-related killings, dowry-related killings and deaths resulting from armed conflict as some of the reasons. It notes that violence against women is often under-reported to the police and that a large share of it remains hidden.


Image: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime


The UNODC findings, which are part of a larger report on homicide due for release in 2019, have implications for policymakers around the world. The agency says women need access to specific resources that enable them to leave a violent relationship. Women also need specialized support services, including shelter, protection orders, counselling and legal aid, which are effective in helping women to leave abusive relationships.


“Across the world, in rich and poor countries, in developed and developing regions, a total of 50,000 women per year are killed by their current and former partners, fathers, brothers, mothers, sisters and other family members because of their role and status as women,” the report concludes. “Women need access to a comprehensive range of services provided by the police and justice system, health and social services, which need to be coordinated to be effective.”