Dispatch

08 February 2010

Reports Document Epidemic of Gender-based Violence in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

NEW YORK — Nearly all young women in Azerbaijan (99 per cent) say they have experienced physical abuse. Nearly half (45 per cent) of young Turkish women believe that wife beating may be justified for reasons such as going out alone, arguing or refusing sex.

These findings were culled from a recent series of Adolescent Data Guides, which are intended to provide decision makers at all levels with data on the situation of adolescent girls and boys and young women in 48 countries.

The series, which includes reports from five countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, make it possible to explore dimensions of gender-based violence in those countries. While gender-based violence is a pervasive human rights violation globally, it reaches epidemic proportions in the region. The data guides make it possible to examine this phenomenon as it plays out in different countries.

In Azerbaijan, for example, almost two thirds (64 per cent) of 15-24-year-old women believe that beating one’s wife is justified in certain conditions. Burning the family meal justifies physical abuse, according to 19 per cent of these young women. In Armenia and Moldova, almost one quarter of all 15-24-year-old females believe that wife beating can be justified.

As the guides explain, cultural norms often relate to the incidence of gender-based violence. For example, women who agree that there are circumstances under which violence against a wife is justifiable are more likely to report having experienced violence.

Entering into marriage also puts young women in the region at greater risk for abuse in some countries. The percentage of 15-24 year old females who have experienced physical violence since age 15 is slightly lower for Ukrainian women who have never married (7 per cent) than it is for married women (9 per cent). The difference is far more striking in Moldova, where 12 per cent of never-married young women have experienced violence, compared to more than 28 per cent of married women. UNFPA recognizes that violence against women is inextricably linked to gender-based inequalities. When women and girls are expected to be generally subservient, their sexual and reproductive health may be adversely affected at all stages of the life cycle.

UNFPA puts every effort into breaking the silence and ensuring that the voices of women are heard. At the same time, the Fund works to change the paradigm of masculinity that allows for the resolution of conflict through violence. One strategy is to engage men – policymakers, parents and young boys – in discussions about the dynamics and consequences of violence. UNFPA’s Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia works to advance gender equality and end gender-based violence as part of its regional programme and technical cooperation with countries.