Violence against women occurs in all regions, religions and social classes and encompasses physical, sexual, psychological and economic violence, with even larger implications for the economic, health and social progress of societies. Yet data on this topic is hard to come by.
Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women , and I wanted to highlight what’s being done to get better data on the subject, and in general, what’s being done to “close the gender data gap.”
What do we know about violence against women?
First, what do we know about violence against women?
- Over 35% of women have experienced gender-based violence. (WHO )
- Almost 50% of women in low income countries justify violence against them. (DHS )
- The most common perpetrator is an intimate partner. (UN )
- Women in conflict zones are at a higher risk of violence: In the Democratic Republic of Congo, an average of 36 women are raped each day, and as many as 500,000 women were raped during the Rwandan genocide in 1994. (UN )
- Girls married before age 18 are more likely to experience violence, health issues, and maternal mortality, as well as shorten their education. (UN )
- Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting is a common form of gender violence across Africa and some Middle Eastern countries. In the World Bank’s Gender Statistics  database, the latest data from Egypt and Somalia put prevalence at over 90%. (The indicator is “Prevalence of FGM/C”)
Making progress on getting data that’s difficult to collect
Data on violence against women are difficult to collect: it’s a sensitive topic which requires careful methods. And it’s not always given priority in the statistical data collection plans of countries. Even when countries do collect data, survey methodologies are not always comparable across countries.
The international community is making progress in improving these data. This year, new guidelines for producing statistics on violence against women  (PDF – 1.2Mb) were launched by United Nations Statistics Division . These provide national statistical agencies with practical guidance on collecting, processing, disseminating and analyzing data on violence against women.
The forthcoming Minimum set of gender indicators , selected by the Inter-agency and Expert Group on Gender Statistics (IAEG-GS), also includes specific indicators on violence against women , providing countries a clearer idea of what data need to be collected.
Accessing current gender related data
If you’re looking for open data on gender related issues, The World Bank’s Gender Data Portal  and the Gender Statistics  database have more numbers on women’s health, education, age at first marriage, labor participation and more. The United Nations has also published a fact sheet  and a brochure, A Promise is a Promise  (PDF – 7.1Mb) and they’ve launched the site saynotoviolence.org  which I’d encourage you to check out.