Sexual and reproductive health

WHO Multi-country study on women's health and domestic violence against women


The WHO Multi-country Study on Women's Health and Domestic Violence against Women was a groundbreaking effort to document the prevalence of intimate partner violence and other forms of violence against women using population-based sampling. It was initially carried out in 15 sites in 10 countries:

  • Bangladesh
  • Brazil
  • Ethiopia
  • Japan
  • Peru
  • Namibia
  • Samoa
  • Serbia and Montenegro
  • Thailand
  • United Republic of Tanzania

The study was implemented by WHO, in collaboration with: the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM); PATH, USA; and research institutions and women's organizations in the participating countries.

Since the initial study was carried out, other countries (Kiribati, Maldives, New Zealand, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vietnam) have replicated the WHO study methodology and conducted population-based studies in their countries.

The protocol, questionnaire, ethical guidelines and training manuals (interviewer, supervisor, data entry, etc.) are available free-of-charge. Click here to order.

The report presents initial results based on interviews with more than 24 000 women by carefully trained interviewers. Report findings document the prevalence of intimate partner violence and its association with women's physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health. Data are included also on non-partner violence, sexual abuse during childhood and forced first sexual experience. Information is also provided on risk and protective factors and women’s responses to and coping strategies for intimate partner violence.

Data from the report show that violence against women is widespread and demands a public health response. Key findings show that:

  • between 15% and 71% of women ever in a relationship experienced physical or sexual violence by their intimate partner.
  • in 11 sites, more than 5% of women experienced physical violence during pregnancy
  • women abused by their partners were significantly more likely to experience emotional distress, suicide attempts, physical health limitations, unintended pregnancy, abortion and miscarriage.

The report concludes with recommendations that countries can take to reduce violence against women, monitor its occurrence, and diminish its adverse consequences. These recommendations can be achieved by promoting:

  • improved national commitment and action through a gender equality and human rights framework
  • primary prevention activities
  • greater involvement of the education sector
  • strengthening the health sector response
  • greater support to women living with violence
  • sensitization of the criminal justice systems
  • support for further research and collaboration
  • increased donor support.

Participating countries have successfully used the findings from their research to advocate for and achieve policy and programmatic efforts related to violence against women.

Materials to replicate the WHO study methodology

Materials are available for public use and compiled on a CD-ROM (free-of-charge).
Click here to order. The CD-ROM includes:

  • protocol, ethical guidelines, questionnaire
  • field manuals and other supporting materials
  • data processing and analysis materials.