Sexual and reproductive health

Violence against women

WHO launches new manual to strengthen health systems to better respond to women survivors of violence

24 November 2017 | Health care providers have an important role to play in identifying women who experience violence, and responding to them with empathy. In order for health care providers to be able to respond appropriately, health systems need to be strengthened so that women receive high-quality and respectful care. In recognition of this, WHO has launched a new manual to help health managers and policy-makers to strengthen health systems to deliver better quality of care to women who are subjected to violence.

Responding to children and adolescents who have been sexually abused

Image of the guide front cover
Photo: UNICEF/Asselin

19 October 2017: For the first time, WHO has published guidelines to help (primarily) front-line healthcare providers give high-quality, compassionate, and respectful care to children and adolescents (up to age 18) who have or may have experienced sexual abuse, including sexual assault or rape.

Strengthening the health system response to violence against women

25 November 2016: Every year on this date, people from across the world come together to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. This day of global importance is followed by 16 days of activism, culminating in Human Rights Day on the 10th December. During these days people wear orange to take a positive stand against violence.

The World Health Assembly endorses the global plan of action on violence against women and girls, and also against children

May 27, 2016: Member States of the WHO adopt the “Global plan of action to strengthen the role of the health system within a national multisectoral response to address interpersonal violence, in particular against women and girls and against children” at the 69th World Health Assembly.

Implementing the WHO clinical and policy guidelines for responding to violence against women in countries

Globally, 1 in 3 women have experienced intimate partner violence and/or sexual violence. Such violence has damaging and long-lasting effects on women’s physical including sexual and reproductive health, and mental health. Health care providers are ideally placed to identify and respond to women who disclose violence, and yet, they often do not know how to respond. An increasing number of countries are using WHO clinical and policy guidelines for developing or updating their national protocols and training health care providers to respond to violence against women.

New toolkit to strengthen the medico-legal response to sexual violence

A victim of gender-based violence talk to a counsellor, Zambia.
Counselling for victim of gender-based violence, Zambia

25 November 2015 -- Although anyone can be a victim of violence, including children and women and men of all ages, figures indicate that one in three women globally have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner or sexual violence by someone other than a partner in their lifetime. Situations of conflict, post conflict and displacement may exacerbate existing forms of violence and present additional forms of violence against women. In the past 20 years, increasing attention has been paid to ending impunity for perpetrators of sexual violence in conflict-affected settings and to achieving assistance and justice for victims. Strengthening the medico-legal response is an important contribution to this.


Definition of violence against women

The 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."

Global Plan of Action



Prevention and response

To help ensure better care and support for those who have experienced partner violence or sexual violence, WHO works, among other things, to strengthen the health sector response to violence against women.


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