The World Health Organization

The problem of violence against women is one that has gained the attention of the international community in the recent years. The World Health Organization has recently called Violence against Women as a major human rights concern. One of the reasons cited for this concern is that there is no discrimination as to age or social class when it comes to Violence against Women (Koyama 2006).

A number of women have reported physical and even mental abuse throughout their lives including infancy, childhood, adolescence and even during more mature ages (Bergen 1995). This social problem has prompted organizations throughout the world to take coordinated measures in order to address this problem. In trying to understand whether or not Violence against is caused by just specific or certain men or society in general, it is important to first discuss what the exact definition of Violence against Women is.

The United Nations General Assembly has been adopted by many organizations around the world. According to the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993), Violence against Women has been defined as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life (Koyama 2006). ”

These acts include all “physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family and in the general community, including battering, sexual abuse of children, dowry-related violence, rape, female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, non-spousal violence and violence related to exploitation, sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere, trafficking in women, forced prostitution, and violence perpetrated or condoned by the state (Koyama 2006). ”

As can be seen from this, the definition of what constitutes Violence against Women is a very broad definition that encompasses a variety of offenses that degrade and dehumanize women. It is important to note that under this definition not only men are capable of committing acts of violence against women but women can also be offenders of crimes of Violence against Women (Koyama 2006). For the purposes of this discourse, however, the topic will be limited to whether or not male offenders belong to a certain class or type of men or are acts of Violence against Women an offshoot of societal misconducts.

According to a recent report released by the World Health Organization in a large-scale study which it conducted, the incidence of Violence against Women is higher in households or among couples (Bergen 2005). It was reported that between 10% and 50% of women have been abused physically and mentally by their intimate partners during the course of the relationship and in certain cases even after the cessation of the relationship (U. S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice 2005).

Most of the acts that have been committed by intimate partners have been caused primarily by sex related incidents. 12% to 25% of abused women have been reported to have been subjected to attempted or consummated forced sex by their partners or even ex-partners (U. S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice 2005). From these figures, it seems that males who are in intimate relationships with women are more inclined to commit acts of violence against women.

The fact that a great percentage of the acts of violence against women are in relation to sex reveals that these acts occur mostly in patriarchal societies where the societal role of women is not as liberated as it is in most countries (Bergen 1995). While it may not be entirely accurate to argue that only men of patriarchal societal structures who are in intimate relationships are committing crimes of violence against women, the majority of figures and data gathered shows that there is indeed a higher tendency among these types of men.

It must be pointed out, however, that such a conclusion is but a small part of the whole problem. It has certainly been shown that these types of men have greater tendencies to commit acts of violence against women. This does not address the problem of identifying the real cause, however. As the definition adopted by the World Health Organization reveals, Violence against Women can also be committed by women. Though a great majority of the offenders are male, there are still a number of women who have committed acts of violence against women (Koyama 2006).

The real cause must therefore lie with the second hypothesis and that is that Violence against Women is an offshoot of certain societal behaviors. According to certain studies, the greatest problem in addressing the issue on Violence against Women is that the social institutions that have been formed to protect the local populace have adopted an apathetic attitude towards these battered women, oftentimes ignoring these women by claiming that they are to blame for the abuse that they are suffering (Harvey 1994).

This gross misunderstanding of the problem has actually caused the ongoing offenses of violence against women. Violence against Women has often been misunderstood as being merely limited to physical abuse. This is not necessarily true as most of the physical abuse cases against women have been reported to show that Violence against Women also causes psychological trauma which severely incapacitates the offended party from taking any action against the perpetrator (Koyama 2006).

While the inaction has been perceived by a number of social institutions as being a sign of acquiescence or consent, it is but a result of being subjected to abuse. This misinterpretation has led to the growing problem of Violence against Women. To leave the identification of the real cause of Violence against Women as being caused by society is to ignore the fact that Violence against Women occurs in every society even those countries who have set up responsible and effective Violence against Women organizations (Harvey 1994).

The World Health Organization has created a chart to show just exactly how Violence against Women occurs in different societies and also shows how this is actually caused by a combination of many different factors ranging from personal characteristics of the offenders to other greater factors such as economic, social and even political factors. SOURCE: WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION Clearly, the use of this chart reveals that the cause of the problem of Violence against Women is more complex than it may seem.

The root of all of this cannot be left to a single cause but that there are other factors at work. Similar to the problem of child abuse and domestic violence, there is not a single type of perpetrator and neither is there a specific society in which these offenses occur (White 2002). The only way to properly and effectively address this problem lies in proper implementation of programs designed to eliminate the problem. The problem, however, is that the same factors that may attributed to the cause of the problem are the same barriers that are preventing organizations from implementing these plans.

The design of preventive interventions has been hampered by certain social and cultural norms that exist in different societies. Until these barriers are removed, there can never be an accurate identification of the real cause of the problem which necessarily means that this problem will never be fully solved.


Bergen, R. K. (1995) Surviving wife rape: How women define and cope with the violence. Violence Against Women 1(2):117-138. Koyama, Emi “Disloyal to feminism: Abuse of survivors within the domestic violence shelter system. ” in Smith A, Richie BE, Sudbury J, eds.The Color of Violence: INCITE! Anthology. Cambridge, Mass. : South End Press, 2006. ISBN 0-89608-762-X Harvey, Penelope & Peter Gow Sex and violence : issues in representation and experience (1994) pg 36 Routledge ISBN 0-415-05734-5 U. S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice. (1995) A Report of the Violence Against Women Research Strategic Planning Workshop. Available from the U. S. Department of Justice Response Center, Washington, D. C. White, J. W. , and S. B. Sorenson. (1992) A sociocultural view of sexual assault: From discrepancy to diversity. Journal of Social Issues 48(1):187-195

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