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Monday, 20 May, 2002, 00:14 GMT 01:14 UK
Two in three women abused
As many as two out of three women living in some parts of the world have suffered domestic violence.

Preliminary results from a study carried out by the World Health Organisation found that almost half the women living in Peru had been physically assaulted by their partners.

This figure increased to 61% outside the major cities. Similar findings were reported in studies of women living in Brazil and Thailand.

Abuse statistics
Peru 55%
Brazil 31%
Thailand 28%
The results have prompted global health chiefs to launch a campaign to tackle the problem and encourage women to seek help.

The study revealed that few women are prepared to report domestic violence to authorities.

Health problems

It also found that many women are suffering significant health problems because of violent partners.

These included miscarriages as a result of an assault, serious infections as a result of rape culminating in one-third of those who have been abused considering taking their own lives.

Meiko Yoshihama, who is leading the WHO study in Japan, said that generally these women are a lot less healthy than those who have not been attacked.

"Women who have experienced partner abuse reported worse health status than those who have not been abused.

"Abused women were more likely to be smoking, tended to consume larger amounts of alcohol and had more psychosomatic symptoms."

Domestic violence happens and is prevalent and has many negative health outcomes

Meiko Yoshihama
In Thailand, experts believe that domestic violence may be linked with an increase in HIV cases.

The WHO study suggested approximately 30% of Thai women had been physically or sexually abused by their partners.

Experts believe that the abused women are often too afraid to ask their partners, many of whom are unfaithful and risk contracting HIV, to use condoms.

Raise awareness

Wassana Im-Em, who led the WHO study in Thailand, said the findings highlighted the need to raise public awareness of the issue.

"We need to raise awareness that domestic violence against women is a problem in society and that can link into the risk of women getting HIV/Aids.

"If we can also take care of this violence problem that they are facing I would think that we can help the women have lower risk of getting the HIV infection from their partner."

Speaking on the BBC World Service programme Health Matters, Ms Im-Em added that better support services are needed in Thailand.

"I would like to see something that would be able to support the women to be able to empower themselves to negotiate in terms of their sexual relationship with their husband or with their partners."

Ms Yoshihama said the study findings will be used to press governments to address the problems of domestic violence.

"The fact that now we have information based on scientific studies helps us to talk to governments and policy makers and to say that yes domestic violence happens and is prevalent and has many negative health outcomes."

This story is featured in the radio programme Health Matters on the BBC World Service.

Click here for listening times

See also:

30 Apr 02 | Health
Welcome to Health Matters
19 Feb 01 | South Asia
India's violent homes
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