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WHO Calls for Urgent Action on Hidden Crisis of Abuse against Older, Disabled Women

By April 3, 2024No Comments
UKZN suspends lectures to show 'zero tolerance' to gender-based violence (c) SowetanLIVE

The World Health Organization (WHO) has highlighted the heightened vulnerability of older women and those with disabilities to abuse, noting a significant gap in violence-related data for these demographics. The WHO urges for more comprehensive research to ensure these women are recognized and their unique needs are met.

Evidence indicates that gender-based violence is prevalent among these populations, with women with disabilities facing a higher risk of intimate partner violence and sexual violence than those without disabilities.

Dr. Lynnmarie Sardinha of WHO emphasizes the need for research to reflect the experiences of all women, as current data does not adequately represent older women and those with disabilities. This lack of representation hinders the effectiveness of programs designed to address their needs.

Dr. Lynnmarie Sardinha, Technical Officer at the World Health Organization continues to be vocal on the need for research in fighting sexual violence against elderly and vulnerable women (c) ResearchGate

Globally, intimate partner and sexual violence are widespread, affecting approximately one-third of all women. Older women and those with disabilities not only endure these forms of violence but also face additional threats, including exploitation and manipulation by caregivers or medical personnel.

WHO’s findings reveal that women over 60 frequently experience physical or sexual violence from intimate partners. However, there is a tendency for the nature of abuse to evolve into psychological forms as both the victim and the perpetrator age, with increased incidents of emotional manipulation and threats.

Violence against older women and those with disabilities often goes unnoticed, as these individuals may face barriers in seeking help or having their experiences taken seriously due to societal stigma.

Dr. Avni Amin from WHO points out that gender-based violence stems from power imbalances and that the vulnerabilities of older women and women with disabilities are exploited, increasing their risk of harm. She emphasizes the importance of tailoring services to their needs for compassionate, supportive care.

Dr. Avni Amin takes a total dig at policies that do not address the inequalities that foster such violence on elderly and handicapped women (c) YouTube

To improve data on violence against women, WHO suggests broadening research to include a wider age range and more diverse types of violence, particularly affecting those with disabilities.

The publications titled “Measuring violence against older women” and “Measuring violence against women with disability” advocate the involvement of these women and their organizations in research efforts to ensure surveys are accessible and relevant. The use of formats like Braille and EasyRead is recommended to enhance accessibility.

These briefs, funded by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office, are part of a series aimed at shedding light on overlooked violence issues. They serve as resources for data collectors on violence against women. Additionally, WHO is preparing a survey module for gathering data on violence against older women and will soon provide resources to include disability measures in such surveys.

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