WHO: Alcohol Major Factor in Violence against Women

WHO and partners release new package to prevent violence against women. Intimate partner violence is the highest at 37.7% in the WHO South-East Asia region. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports alcohol use is a major factor behind domestic violence.

Global estimates published by the World Health Organization (WHO) indicate that about 1 in 3 (35%) women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.


Violence against women is a major public health problem rooted in gender inequality, and is a gross violation of women’s human rights affecting the lives and health of millions of women and girls. Aiming to end violence against women, a package and framework with infographics on prevention of violence against women was developed, based on the UN framework for action to prevent violence against women from 2015 and updated with new evidence. The new package is called: “RESPECT – Preventing violence against women: A framework for policymakers”.

RESPECT women outlines steps for a public health and human rights approach to scaling up prevention of violence against women programming. It builds on the evidence compiled in the UN Prevention of Violence Against Women Framework (2015) and in additional systematic reviews.

Globally 1 in 3 women or over 800 million worldwide experience physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner or sexual violence by any perpetrator. Many more also experience psychological abuse. Eleven UN, bilateral and multilateral agencies joined forces to launch RESPECT, a framework to facilitate scaling up of evidence-informed strategies to prevent violence against women.

RESPECT is an acronym highlighting key areas of interventions to prevent and reduce violence against women:

R –elationship skills strengthened

E –mpowerment of women

S –ervices ensured

P –overty reduced

E –nvironments made safe

C –hild and adolescent abuse prevented

T –ransformed attitudes, beliefs, and norms

Pervasive problem

Worldwide as many as 38% of murders of women are committed by a male intimate partner. As per figures released by WHO, the violence ranges from 23.2% in high-income countries and 24.6% in the WHO Western Pacific region to 37% in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean region. Intimate partner violence is the highest at 37.7% in the WHO South-East Asia region.

Intimate partner violence causes serious short-and long-term problems for women and adversely affects their children besides leading to high social and economic costs for women.

Alcohol is part of the problem, alcohol policy is part of the solutions

Explaining how gender-based violence is perpetrated, WHO said that men are more likely to perpetrate violence if they use alcohol along with other factors such as low education, a history of child maltreatment, exposure to domestic violence against their mothers, unequal gender norms, including attitudes accepting of violence, and a sense of entitlement over women.

WHO and the other 10 agencies, including UN Women, the Human Rights Council and UNODC, list alcohol a major risk factor both regarding community risk factors and interpersonal risk factors. Concerning alcohol as community risk factor, alcohol availability is a determinant of violence against women. Concerning interpersonal risk factors, men’s use of alcohol is fueling violence against women.

But violence against women is preventable and policymakers have an important role to play in this regard. It is critical to invest across prevention strategies and in changing the structures and systems that perpetuate gender inequality and discrimination, as the root cause.

The new resource and package RESPECT Women fails to clearly highlight the efficacy of alcohol policy solutions in reducing and preventing violence against women. This is particularly surprising and puzzling because evidence is very clear.

Reducing alcohol availability, regulating alcohol prices, as well as treatment of alcohol use disorders have all been shown to reduce violence against women.

Download the material and fact sheets:

RESPECT women: Preventing violence against women (PDF)

  • Key messages (PDF)

WHO Fact sheet: Intimate Partner Violence and Alcohol (2006)

WHO Briefing on Violence Prevention: Preventing violence by reducing the availability and harmful use of alcohol (2009)

WHO/Europe Policy briefing: Alcohol and Interpersonal Violence (2005)

For further reading:

India: Magnitude of Alcohol Problems

Source Website: The Hindu