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Domestic Violence


The Global Persecution of Women

Human Rights


Article 3.

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 5.

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.


Article 5

States Parties shall take all appropriate measures:

(a) To modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women.


”Belarus: Domestic Violence - More than a private scandal,” Amnesty International, 9 November 2006.

The World Health Organization has defined partner violence as any behaviour within an intimate relationship that causes physical, psychological or sexual harm, including:

  • acts of physical aggression, such as slapping, hitting, kicking and beating;
  • psychological abuse such as intimidation, constant belittling and humiliation;
  • forced intercourse and other forms of sexual coercion;
  • various controlling behaviours such as isolating a person from their family and friends, monitoring their movements, and restricting their access to information or assistance.(8)
  • (8) World Health Organization, World Report on Violence and Health, Geneva, 2002.


    ”Domestic Violence” from UNIFEM, Violence Against Women – Facts and Figures. Downloaded from, 16 Feb. 2007.

    Domestic and intimate partner violence involves physical and sexual attacks against women in the home, within the family or within an intimate relationship. Women are more at risk of experiencing violence in intimate relationships than anywhere else.

    In no country in the world are women safe from this type of violence. Out of ten counties surveyed in a 2005 study by the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 50 per cent of women in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Peru and Tanzania reported having been subjected to physical or sexual violence by intimate partners, with figures reaching staggering 71 per cent in rural Ethiopia. Only in one country (Japan) did less than 20 per cent of women report incidents of domestic violence [6]. An earlier WHO study puts the number of women physically abused by their partners or ex-partners at 30 per cent in the United Kingdom, and 22 per cent in the United States [7].

    Based on several surveys from around the world, half of the women who die from homicides are killed by their current or former husbands or partners. Women are killed by people they know and die from guns violence, beatings and burns, among numerous other forms of abuse [8]. A study conducted in São Paulo, Brazil, reported that 13 per cent of deaths of women of reproductive age were homicides, of which 60 per cent were committed by the victims' partners [9]. According to a UNIFEM report on violence against women in Afghanistan, out of 1,327 incidents of violence against women collected between January 2003 and June 2005, 36 women had been killed — in 16 cases (44.4 per cent) by their intimate partners [10].

    (6) García-Moreno et al. 2005. WHO Multi-country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence against Women. Initial results on prevalence, health outcomes and women’s responses, Geneva: WHO.
    (7) Krug et al. 2002. World Report on Violence and Health. Geneva: WHO. 90-91. (8) Krug et al. 2002. World Report on Violence and Health. Geneva: WHO. 93.
    (9) Referred to by S.G. Diniz, A F. d'Oliveira. International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics. 63 Suppl. 1 (1998). 34.
    (10) UNIFEM Afghanistan, Julie Lafreniere. Uncounted and Discounted. A Secondary Data Research Project on Violence against Women in Afghanistan. 2006. 31.

    ”Domestic violence occurs in every Council of Europe member state: Let’s take action together!” Amnesty International, 24 November 2006.

    Government officials and many in society do not recognize domestic violence as a human rights violation, but as a private matter, and therefore fail to engage with it as such. There is an acceptance and tolerance of domestic violence within many societies, which directly impact on the ability of women to seek protection and redress.

    In many countries domestic violence is not identified as a gender-based crime. Where laws do exist to address domestic violence they are often not implemented: including because relevant authorities are not sensitized and adequately trained, and because sufficient funding is not provided to fulfil governments’ obligations.

    Ruth Meena, “Wife Battering,” DPMF Workshop and Conference Proceedings, downloaded from, 6 October 2006.

    Wife abuse is the most endemic violence against women. Its frequency and magnitude have never been established because it is often under-reported. And yet, this is one of the secret crimes which do not attract the attention of mainstream academics or human rights activists. Domestic violence is kept invisible because of the existing perceptions that women are minors, who have to be disciplined, punished and forced to accept their social position when they attempt to challenge the patriarchal authority. The absence of national data on crimes against women is in itself telling because many states choose not to acknowledge the existence of such crimes. Wife abuse is an expression of the unequal power relationship between men and women and particularly the expression of male power over women. Through domestic violence, women learn the art of submission to male authority, and this is what makes domestic violence a governance issue.

    Family violence which affects women in a more negative manner than men is legitimized by the state through the provision of a legal environment which does not punish perpetrators, some of whom are the policy makers at the national level. Many existing cultures have legal, religious and historical practices which reinforce the legitimacy of wife battering and other forms of violence which affect women in their socially constructed ‘private’ life.

    Elizabeth Rosenthal, “Study Exposes Extent of Abuse of Women,” International Herald Tribune, 6 October 2006.

    An international study has found that violence against women committed by their live-in spouses or partners is widespread, common in both the developed and developing world, as well as in both rural and urban areas.

    In interviews with nearly 25,000 women at 15 sites in 10 countries, researchers from the World Health Organization found that rates of partner violence ranged between 15 percent in Yokohama, Japan, to 71 percent in rural Ethiopia.

    At six of the sites, 50 to 75 percent of women said they had been subjected to moderate or severe violence in the home. At 13 of the sites, more than a quarter of all women said they had suffered such violence in the past year.

    "Violence by an intimate partner is a common experience worldwide," the authors wrote of the findings, which are being published in this week's issue of The Lancet, the British medical journal.

    "In all but one setting, women were at far greater risk of physical or sexual violence by a partner than from violence by other people."

    The report says that rural areas tended to have higher rates of abuse than cities. But no area was immune.

    The study adds an important dimension to a growing body of research on violence toward women, a topic that has been fueled more by emotion than hard data in the past.

    Previous studies had focused mostly on developed countries, mostly on the United States, said Claudia Garcia- Moreno, a researcher with the World Health Organization, the study's coordinator.

    Because of a serious lack of scientific data on the magnitude of such violence, particularly in poorer countries, "there had been a lot of skepticism about whether it was a serious problem" or just a pet peeve of women's groups, Garcia-Moreno said.

    Most partner abuse is hidden, and only a tiny fraction is reported to the authorities.

    "We have always known that violence is part of women's lives," said Adrienne Germain, director of the International Women's Health Coalition in New York.

    "But when we've talked about it before we were mostly dismissed - in the past we've often heard, 'Prove it. Prove that it's happening in our country.'"

    She added, "I cannot emphasize how important this study is, and how crucial it is for the UN to be sponsoring something like this."

    The researchers tried to look at the problem for the first time in a broad range of countries, using meticulously designed surveys and statistical techniques. Their work took root more than a decade ago, after organizers of the 1996 International Women's Conference in Beijing rued the lack of hard data on the issue and asked the World Health Organization for help.

    For the study, 1,500 interviews each were conducted at sites in Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia, Japan, Namibia, Peru, Samoa, Serbia, Thailand and Tanzania. In a few of the countries, researchers selected urban and rural sites for comparison.

    The rate of abuse by partners is estimated to be around 20 to 25 percent in the European Union, studies have found, although the problem is reported to the police in only a tiny fraction of cases.

    In the United States, national surveys by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found that about 25 percent of women said they had been physically or sexually assaulted by a spouse, partner or date. I

    n the World Health Organization survey being issued Friday, one-fifth to two-thirds of women interviewed said it was the first time they had ever spoken of the abuse to anyone, Garcia- Moreno said.

    The next step is to determine what puts women at risk for violence, the researchers said.

    In urban sites like Belgrade or Yokahama, Japan, women were far less likely to have experienced violence from a partner in the previous 12 months - just 4 percent. One explanation, the researchers wrote, was that urban women might be better able to leave an abusive relationship because they often had an independent income and access to shelters for abused women, for example.

    At all sites, from Bangkok to rural Peru, the presence of a controlling partner - a man who tried to restrict a woman's movements or was jealous of her outside contacts - was associated with a higher likelihood of abuse.

    In the coming months, the researchers will be trolling through the huge data set for more answers.

    But in the meantime, Garcia-Moreno said, widespread publicity of the findings in many of the countries has already "really got the ball rolling and made people much more aware of this hidden problem."

    Radhika Coomaraswamy, “Some reflections on violence against women,” Daily News (Colombo), 16 August 2001.

    Levinson studies 90 societies and found wife-beating to be prevalent in 75.


    ALB101495.E, "Albania: Prevalence of domestic abuse of women... (2005 - 2006)," 25 September 2006. Ottawa: IRB, 2006.

    Human Rights NGOs have noted that Albanian society is generally patriarchal and follows customary traditions (ibid.; OMCT Apr. 2005, 68). Society generally accepts family violence, viewing it as a private matter (ibid.; AI 30 Mar. 2006, Sec. 4; GADC 13 June 2006). In the April 2006 joint report, GADC and the Albanian Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities state that despite important efforts to raise public awareness of domestic violence since the mid-1990s, these attitudes have changed little over time (Apr. 2006, 5). According to a Professor of History who has written several books on Albania and travels to Albania regularly, Albanian society does not view domestic abuse as an issue of concern (Professor of History 14 June 2006). ...

    Human rights organizations reported that statistics on domestic violence in Albania are limited (AI 19 Apr. 2006, Sec. 2; HRDC 26 June 2006; GADC 13 June 2006). Governmental authorities, the police, the courts and physicians are not obliged by law to document the incidence of domestic violence (ibid.). However, according to two Tirana-based non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working on women's issues, the Ministry of Public Order recorded approximately 100 cases of violence against women in 2005, including verbal abuse, sexual violence, deprivation of freedom, forced interruption of pregnancy, harassment leading to suicide, life threatening injury and murder (ibid.; HRDC 26 June 2006).

    In its 2006 study on domestic violence in Albania, Amnesty International (AI) estimated that at least one-third of Albanian women had experienced physical violence in their families (AI Apr. 2006). The number may be higher in northern areas (ibid.; UK 12 Jan. 2006, para. 3.10.13). The prevalence of intimate partner abuse has increased since 2001 and affects women of all ages and social groups (AI 30 Mar. 2006, Sec. 2).

    In April 2006, the Tirana-based Gender Alliance for Development Center (GADC), in conjunction with the Hungarian Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, published a report entitled Domestic Violence: A Presentation of the Existing Situation in Albania. According to the report, the most common form of domestic abuse reported in Albania is psychological violence, followed by physical violence in rural areas and economic violence in urban areas (GADC/Albania Apr. 2006, 21). The joint report also indicates that sexual domestic violence is less frequently reported, although the authors stressed that this was not necessarily an indication its actual prevalence (GADC/Albania Apr. 2006, 21). ...

    ”Albania,” DOS Report 2005.

    Domestic violence against women, including spousal abuse, remained a serious problem. In traditionally male-dominated Albanian society, social norms and lax police response resulted in much abuse going unreported, and it was difficult to quantify the number of women who were victims of rape, domestic violence, or sexual harassment. According to the Center for Civil Legal Initiative's 2002-2003 media monitoring project, 56 women and girls throughout the country lost their lives as a result of domestic violence and 74 others were seriously injured. Through September the center received 180 complaints of domestic violence. The Women to Women Center, an NGO that operated mainly in the northern part of the country, reported receiving approximately 20 calls per day from women reporting some form of violence.

    Many communities, particularly those from the northeastern part of the country, still followed the traditional code—the kanun—under which, according to some interpretations, women are considered to be, and were treated as, chattel. Some interpretations of the kanun dictate that a woman's duty is to serve her husband and to be subordinate to him in all matters.

    The law does not specifically address violence against women, although it contains provisions aimed at protecting spouses from domestic violence. In practice the courts have not used this legal tool due to lack of understanding in how to apply the law.

    The weakness of legal protections against domestic violence was illustrated by the February 2004 killing of a 21-year-old woman by her father for alleged tardiness and the father's subsequent sentencing to less than two years in prison. The case received much attention from the media and the NGO community, but was not appealed by the prosecutor.

    The government did not have programs to combat domestic violence or assist victims. An NGO maintained a shelter in Tirana for abused women, although the facility had the capacity to house only a few victims at a time. The same NGO also operated a hotline that provided advice and counseling to women and girls.

    World Organization Against Torture, State Violence in Albania. An Alternative Report to the UN Committee Against Torture. Geneva, World Organization Against Torture, April 2005.

    According to research undertaken by a number of such civil society organisations, violence against women occurs mainly within the family. Few cases have been reported in which women have suffered violence by State institutions or organized political groups. Unfortunately, the number of charges laid by women in domestic violence situations is low. There are many reasons why women do not divorce their abusive husbands such as fear from societ