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Global / violence against women and girls: International Human Rights Day Statement

09 Dec, 2011

On International Human Rights Day 2011, the Global Coalition on Women and AIDS (GCWA), a broad based coalition of civil society and United Nations partners committed to addressing HIV and women’s rights, calls on all stakeholders to join the movement for Zero Tolerance to Violence against Women and Girls. Violence against women and girls is both a cause and a consequence of HIV not only impeding effective HIV responses, but also constituting a gross human rights violation, thus further undermining the social fabric of communities.

As noted in the updated GCWA issue brief on violence against women and girls – available here – violence is one of the most pervasive and harmful manifestations of gender inequality. According to WHO, between 15% and 71% of women experience physical or sexual violence or both from their intimate partners in their lifetime.[i]Moreover, the prevalence of forced first sexual encounters among adolescent girls younger than 15 years ranges between 11% and 45% globally.[ii] Research shows that women who have experienced intimate partner violence are more likely to have poorer health than women who have never been abused.[iii] A landmark study from South Africa calculated that if gender inequalities were improved so that no women were in relationships with low power, 13.9% of new HIV infections could be prevented. Additionally, 11.9% of new HIV infections could be avoided if women were not subjected to more than episode of physical or sexual abuse by their partner.[iv]

The GCWA issue brief underscores that women also experience violence as a consequence of their HIV diagnosis, undermining access to HIV services.[v][vi][vii] Women living with HIV may also be subjected to institutional violence, including violations of their sexual and reproductive rights.

Putting a stop to the HIV epidemic requires putting a stop to violence against women and girls. It requires recognition that zero HIV infections, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS related deaths, will only be possible if we also achieve zero tolerance for violence against women and girls, as called for by the UNAIDS Strategy: Getting to Zero[viii]. This is possible – indeed, as the GCWA briefing paper notes, we know what works. These interventions need to be scaled-up and invested in.

On the International Human Rights Day, and beyond, the Global Coalition on Women and AIDS, a broad based coalition of civil society and United Nations partners committed to addressing HIV and women’s rights, calls on countries, development and civil society partners to make laws work for women and girls, and scale-up in programmes and initiatives to end violence against women and girls.



[i]García-Moreno C, Jansen HA, Watts, CH, Ellsberg M, Heise L, WHO Multi-country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence against Women Study Team. WHO multi-country study on women’s health and domestic violence against women: initial results on prevalence, health outcomes and women’s responses. Geneva: WHO; 2005.
[iii]Colombini M, Mayhew S, Watts C, Health-sector responses to intimate partner violence in low- and middle-income settings: a review of current models, challenges and opportunities, Bulletin of the World Health Organization , Volume 86: 2008, V 577-656
[iv]Jewkes R et al. Intimate partner violence, relationship power inequity, and incidence of HIV infection in young women in South Africa: a cohort study. The Lancet - 3 July 2010 ( Vol. 376, Issue 9734, Pages 41-48 )
[v] Campbell, J. C., Baty, M. L., Ghandour, R. M., Stockman, J. K., Francisco, L., & Wagman, J. (2008). The
intersection of intimate partner violence against women and HIV/AIDS: a review. PAHO, International Journal of
Injury Control and Safety Promotion, 13(4), 221-231;
[vi]Dunkle, K.L, Jewkes, R.K., Brown, H.C, Gray, G.E.,McIntyre, J.A., & Harlow, S.D. (2004). Gender-based violence,
relationship power, and risk of HIV infection in women attending antenatal clinics in South Africa. The Lancet, 363(9419), 1415, 1421.
[vii]Gielen, A.C., McDonnellK. A., Burke J. G., O’Campo, P. (2000). Women’s lives after an HIV-positive diagnosis: disclosure
and violence.Maternal and Child Health Journal, 4, 111-120.