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Violence against world's women 'pervasive': UN report

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Violence against women is "severe and pervasive" worldwide with one in three women subjected to intimate partner abuse during her lifetime, according to a UN report released Tuesday.

"There is compelling evidence that violence against women is severe and pervasive throughout the world," said UN chief Kofi Annan's report, titled "Ending Violence Against Women: from Words to Action."

The study cited surveys on violence against women conducted in at least 71 countries showing "a significant proportion of women suffer physical, sexual or psychological violence...On average, at least one in three women is subjected to intimate partner violence in the course of her lifetime."

A World Health Organization study in 11 countries found that the percentage of women subjected to sexual violence by an intimate partner ranged between six percent in Japan and Serbia and Montenegro, and 59 percent in Ethiopia.

Murders of women often involve sexual violence, with between 40 and 70 percent of female murder victims killed by husbands or boyfriends in Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the United States, Annan's report said.

It noted that more than 130 million girls are victims of female genital mutilation, a practice most prevalent in Africa and some Middle Eastern countries but also found in immigrant communities in Europe, North America and Australia.

Female infanticide, prenatal sex selection and systematic neglect of girls were said to be widespread in South Asia, Southeast Asia, North Africa and the Middle East.

The study also highlighted the fact that women experience sexual harassment throughout their lives, with between 40 and 50 percent of women in the European Union reporting some form of sexual harassment.

"The majority of the hundreds of thousands of women trafficked each year are women and children and many are trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation," it added.

It also focused on the phenomenon, including sexual violence, in armed conflicts, noting that between 250,000 and 500,000 women were raped during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda while between 20,000 and 50,000 suffered the same fate during the conflict in Bosnia in the early 1990s.

In Europe, North America and Australia, more than half of women with disabilities have experienced physical abuse, compared with one third of non-disabled women, it said.

The study noted that women subjected to violence were more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs and to report sexual dysfunction, suicide attempts, post-traumatic stress and central nervous system disorders.

And it concluded that despite progress in recent decades, "violence against women has not yet received the priority required to enable significant change."

"A more cohesive and strategic approach is needed from all actors, including governments, the international community and civil society," the report said.



AFP 102119 GMT 10 06

COPYRIGHT 2006 Agence France-Presse. All rights reserved.

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