Sexual and reproductive health

Violence against women

Primary prevention

A female student in Southern Tanzania reads about violence against girls during a youth festival.
Photoshare/Felicity Thompson

Efforts to address violence against women must be multi-faceted and must not only provide appropriate services and response to women experiencing violence, but must also prevent violence from happening in the first place. This type of prevention effort is known as primary prevention and requires innovative efforts to address the root causes of violence against women, such as gender inequality, adverse childhood experiences, as well as factors that foster abuse or tolerance of abuse, such as alcohol use and societal violence.


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WHO with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has developed guidance on primary prevention of intimate partner and sexual violence against women. Preventing intimate partner and sexual violence against women: taking action and generating evidence provides an overview of effective, promising and theoretically feasible prevention strategies. It is built around a life-course perspective that recognizes how infant and early childhood experiences influence the likelihood of later becoming a perpetrator or victim of intimate partner and sexual violence.

It is primarily aimed at policy-makers, programme developers and planners and funding bodies in public health and related sectors. It emphasizes the importance of integrating scientific evaluation procedures into all prevention initiatives to continuously monitor and improve their effectiveness, and to expand the global evidence base in this area.

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