Violence against women also hurts business and development | Suki Beavers & Benjamin Kumpf

29 Mar 2013

 A sexual violence survivor in the Democratic Republic of Congo. After receiving psycho-social support and vocational training at a multifunctional community centre, she is working as a local merchant and can guarantee a livelihood for her family. (Photo: Yves Sambu/UNDP DRC)

Violence against women and girls is a human rights violation – and this should be enough to trigger dedicated action. But this widespread violence also causes economic and development problems that remain invisible in most debates.

Globally, seven in 10 women experience physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lives, and three out of 10 at the hands of an intimate partner.  

This results in huge direct and indirect costs, not only to victims and their families but also to businesses and countries. In addition to the impact on women’s health, education and participation in public life, the economic costs include health care and legal services; lost productivity and potential salaries; and the costs of prosecuting perpetrators.

In Chile, a study found that women’s loss of salary as a result of domestic violence cost US $1.56 billion or more than 2 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.

This is not a problem confined to developing countries: In the United States, the cost of violence against women by an intimate partner exceeds $5.8 billion per year. In Canada, annual costs have been estimated at 684 million Canadian dollars for the criminal justice system, 187 million for police and 294 million for the cost of counseling and training, totaling more than 1 billion a year.

For most countries, it is clear that decisive action to prevent violence against women and girls will reduce state expenditures and increase productivity. Yet, despite the gravity of the issue and the impact on development, gender-based violence remains invisible in strategies to boost economic growth. Together with partners from women’s movements, civil society, government and the private sector, we need to bring this issue to the top of the international development agenda.

“There is one thing that will bring productivity up and costs down, and that is ending violence against women,” UNDP Associate Administrator Rebeca Grynspan said at a high-level side event during the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women. “That’s the development message we have to give.”

Talk to us: How can we convince decision-makers to address gender-based violence as an important issue for economic development? How do you bring violence against women and girls on the development agenda in your country?

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