One in every three women across the globe have experienced violence mostly by an intimate partner, said the World Health Organization Turkey’s newly appointed representative.

Dr. Batyr Berdyklychev, who was appointed as WHO Turkey head on Nov. 2, told Anadolu Agency that the international organization began its “16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence” campaign on Nov. 25 and it will run through Dec. 10.

During this period, WHO along with other UN agencies will have “communication campaigns to raise awareness on violence against women.”

As we have recently marked Nov. 25th as International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Berdyklychev said: “Unfortunately, women worldwide continue to face violence, which cannot be acceptable. WHO estimates show that 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced physical and/or sexual violence, mostly by an intimate partner.”

Violence could happen to any woman across the globe, regardless of culture, religion or economic status, he said. Referring to a study conducted by WHO on women’s health and domestic violence against women, Berdyklychev said the “study showed that rates of physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner ranged from 15% in Japan, to 70% in Ethiopia and Peru, with most sites reporting rates between 29 and 62%.”

“The prevalence estimates of intimate partner violence range from 23.2% in high-income countries and 24.6% in the WHO Western Pacific region to 37% in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean region, and 37.7% in the WHO South-East Asia region,” he added.

Underlining that women experience violence are more likely to suffer from health problems including depression, self-harm and sexually transmitted infection, Berdyklychev said: “This is a preventable public health issue and it is a fact based on evidence that each health professional has a role to play and so does everyone in WHO.”

He underscored the significance of health sector in responding to violence against women and said: “Strong health systems, including well-trained health personnel, are needed to appropriately respond to women subjected to intimate partner violence or sexual violence.”

‘Violence increases during emergencies’

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic affecting millions across the world, WHO Turkey chief said: “Violence against women tends to increase during every type of emergencies, including epidemics and pandemics.”

“Women who are displaced, refugees, and living in conflict-affected areas are particularly vulnerable,” he added.

Each country introduced a variety of measures to curb the pandemic but he said “but these measures may disrupt the operations of social and protective networks and cause decreased access to services which then can all exacerbate the risk of violence for women.”

“For example, it is noted that, although an effective measure to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, distancing calls such as ‘stay at home’ can be very dangerous for the victims of intimate partner violence who have nowhere to go but stay with their perpetrators,” he said.

Drawing attention to the difficulties working women with children face during the lockdowns caused by the virus measures, he said “burden of working and taking care of the chores creates extra burden and adds more stress which is worsened by an abusive relationship.”

“The pandemic also creates vulnerabilities for the women who had difficulty accessing empowering services to be equipped with necessary job skills for employment by increasing their financial dependency and forcing them to stay in abuse relationships due to the economic hardships.”

Noting that responsive health system must be capable to tackle violence, the WHO Turkey representative praised Turkey’s efforts and said: “I am very happy that Ministry of Health in Turkey is very sensitive on this issue and they have comprehensive training programs targeting all health professionals mainly at the primary health care services and the referrals between the support mechanisms are in place.”

“As WHO Country Office in Turkey, we are pleased to provide our technical support and establishing international partnerships to support all the important work the Ministry of Health has been doing,” he added.

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