World Health Organisation (WHO)'s Regional Director for South East Asia Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh stated, on Tuesday, that 40.2 percent of women experience physical and/or sexual intimate partner or non-partner violence in their lifetime.
In her statement released on the occasion of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, Singh noted that this percentage was higher in the South East Asia region, compared to the global 35.6 percent.
Noting that violence against women can significantly impact mental health, leading to anxiety disorders, depression, substance abuse and suicide, Singh stressed that it is a serious threat to women's health and well-being.
"All forms of violence against women, including rape, can cause adverse sexual and reproductive health outcomes such as sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancy, low birth weight and prematurity".
Singh also listed out WHO's efforts to prevent violence against women, such as working with supporting member states to fully implement WHO’s global plan on addressing interpersonal violence and make full use of the WHO-co-developed RESPECT women framework for preventing violence against women.
Moreover, Singh urged health systems to adopt standard, gender-sensitive guidelines and protocols on the provision of post-violence care and highlighted the necessity of facilities and workers possessing the capacity of implementing them.
"It is imperative that health systems have clear procedures for identifying and documenting cases of violence against women. Surveillance of the problem is key to better understanding its prevalence, especially among different groups of women", Singh further wrote.
"That, in turn, informs cross-sector prevention efforts such as behavioural change campaigns, economic empowerment initiatives or legal and justice reforms. Research and evidence-building is crucial to designing locally appropriate, high-impact preventive interventions".
The Regional Director also emphasised that the health sector must work closely with other sectors to advocate for action at the highest levels as political buy-in will aid in securing resources needed to increase awareness and modify behaviours, in addition to empowering grassroot organisations advocating for the cause.
Reiterating that WHO will continue to support member states to ensure capable and effective health systems well equipped to respond to violence against women, Singh concluded her statement with "women’s rights are human rights. Together we must intensify action to eliminate violence against women and girls".