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Health Implication of Violence against Women

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“For over 40 years that he is married to her, he has consistently with delight abusing her. She has experienced and still experiencing physical torture, public insult, harassment and disgrace. It has now become an addiction to him to engage in what he loves doing even before her kids, visitors and domestic servants, to such an extent that no one respects her anymore or sees value in her. He needed just a small reason to indulge in slapping or insulting her no matter who is around at that instance. The worst part of it, is that he sees nothing wrong in what he is doing to her and always justifies his actions. Not  even when she has giving birth to many respected and successful children that have never raise a voice to what he is doing and always ready to support any member of the family in need. Gradually the poor woman’s psyche is affected as she is becoming aloof and exhibiting signs of mental trauma and human degradation. Who will come to her rescue?”

The foregoing is a true life story that came to my knowledge as a health counsellor from her son. Similar experience could be happening to many women in Nigeria. Majority are suffering in silence because the society many at times is unable to have solution to these perpetual violence against women. This article is to provide information not only about the social but the health implication of violence against women to help us in thinking through how to marshal out strategic interventions.

United Nations defines violence against women 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.” Intimate partner violence refers to behaviour by an intimate partner or ex-partner that causes physical, sexual or psychological harm, including physical aggression, sexual coercion, and psychological abuse and controlling behaviours.

An analysis of WHO with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Medical Research Council, based on existing data from over 80 countries, found that globally 35% of women have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence. Most of this violence is intimate partner violence.

It is important for us to understand the risk factors associated with intimate partner and sexual violence as that is the 1st step in chattering a way forward to address the problem. Some factors are associated with being a perpetrator of violence, some are associated with experiencing violence and some are associated with both.

Risk factors for both intimate partner and sexual violence according to W.H.O include the following;

  1. Lower levels of education.
  2. Exposure to child maltreatment (perpetration and experience)
  3. Witnessing family violence (perpetration and experience)
  4. Antisocial personality disorder (perpetration)
  5. Harmful use of alcohol (perpetration and experience)
  6. Having multiple partners.
  7. Attitudes that are accepting of violence and gender inequality (perpetration and experience).
  8. Past history of violence
  9. Marital discord and dissatisfaction
  10. Difficulties in communicating between partners.
  11. Beliefs in family honour and sexual purity
  12. Ideologies of male sexual entitlement
  13. Weak legal sanctions for sexual violence.

What are the Health Implications?

  1. Intimate partner and sexual violence have serious short- and long-term physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health problems for survivors and for their children, and lead to high social and economic costs. W.H.O has highlighted some of them below.
  2. Violence against women can have fatal results like homicide or suicide.
  3. It can lead to injuries, with 42% of women who experience intimate partner violence reporting an injury as a consequence of a violence.
  4. Violence can lead to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep difficulties, eating disorders, and emotional distress and suicide attempts. A study has revealed that women who have experienced intimate partner violence were almost twice as likely to experience depression and problem drinking.
  5. Health effects can also include headaches, back pain, abdominal pain, fibromyalgia, gastrointestinal disorders, limited mobility and poor overall health.

While husbands are battering their wives, it is important to know about potential consequences on children. They will grow up in families where there is violence and may suffer a range of behavioral and emotional disturbances. The social and economic costs of intimate partner and sexual violence are enormous and have ripple effects throughout society. Women may suffer isolation, inability to work, loss of wages, lack of participation in regular activities and limited ability to care for themselves and their children.

This social menace require collective survival strategies.

All comments to Dr Aminu Magashi Publisher Health Reporters (healthweekly@yahoo.com)  


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