Sexual and reproductive health

Sexual violence

Sexual violence is a serious public health and human rights problem with both short- and long-term consequences on women's physical, mental, and sexual and reproductive health. Whether sexual violence occurs in the context of an intimate partnership, within the larger family or community structure, or during times of conflict, it is a deeply violating and painful experience for the survivor.


Sexual violence in conflict

In armed conflicts, the breakdown of social infrastructures, the disintegration of families and communities and the disruption of responses leave women and girls vulnerable to sexual and other forms of gender-based violence, including rape by combatants and intimate partners or acquaintances and, at times, sexual exploitation by humanitarian actors.

The sexual and gender-based violence perpetrated against women in conflict and humanitarian settings is increasingly being reported and documented. This human rights and peace and security problem has begun to be the focus of international attention, with efforts being made to prevent its occurrence, to respond to the survivors' needs and to address impunity for those responsible.

United Nations action against sexual violence in conflict

WHO is a member of UN Action. UN Action unites the work of 12 UN entities with the goal of ending sexual violence in conflict.

UN Action activities include:

  • Country-level action: working within country teams and peacekeeping operations to build capacity at the country level.
  • Advocating for action: raising public awareness and engendering political will to address sexual violence.
  • Knowledge hub: creating knowledge and evidence to promote an effective response by the UN and its partners.

Guidelines and tools

Combating sexual and gender-based violence in Liberia

Monrovia’s Star of the Sea Health Centre is the first health facility in Liberia to offer women psychosocial and legal support alongside health services.