Sexual and reproductive health

Member States pledge to end sexual violence in conflict

A 14-year-old girl stands in the house. She was sexually abused by an older man
UNICEF/Olivier Asselin

WHO welcomes the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict signed by 113 Member States attending the 68th UN General Assembly in New York. By signing the declaration, Member States pledged to end the use of rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war, which terrorizes communities during conflict and has very serious health consequences. The declaration sends an important message to the victims of these crimes that the international community has not forgotten them, and to the perpetrators of rape that they will be held to account.

Violence against women: a problem of epidemic proportions

Counsellor holds the hand of a victim of violence
UNICEF/Christine Nesbitt

20 June 2013 -- Physical or sexual violence is a public health problem that affects more than one third of all women globally, according to a new report. “These findings send a powerful message that violence against women is a global health problem of epidemic proportions,” said Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General, WHO. “We also see that the world’s health systems can and must do more for women who experience violence.”

Seven governments adopt statement on violence against women and girls at 66th World Health Assembly

Photo showing a document being distributed during the event.

21 May 2013 - Ministers of health from the governments of Belgium, India, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, United States of America, and Zambia issued a statement to declare violence against women and girls "a major global public health, gender equality and human rights challenge, touching every country and every part of society" and proposed an agenda item on the topic for the next Assembly. The statement underlines the key role of the health sector in preventing and responding to the problem in an approach that engages governments and civil society from local to international level.

Prevention and response

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

To help ensure better care and support for those who have experienced partner violence or sexual violence, WHO works, among other things, to strengthen the health sector response to violence against women.

Violence against women (VAW)

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.


Image of a red HIV ribbon

Growing evidence shows that violence increases women's vulnerability to HIV. HIV can also be a risk factor for violence, since disclosure can put some women at risk of violence by their partners, family or community members.

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