WHO launches ‘toolkit’ for response to sexual violence
As part of efforts to check sexual violence in conflict-affected settings and achieve justice for victims, the World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday launched a toolkit to help countries respond to the menace.
The toolkit includes recommendations on conducting forensic medical examinations, documenting events and responses, conducting an initial investigation, and ethical standards that must be upheld.
“Strengthening the medico-legal response to sexual violence” is designed to be used by people working in health, social services, forensic medicine and lab services, police, the legal system (including judges and lawyers), and those coordinating these sectors. The toolkit provides practical guidance to people working in and across all of these sectors, so that they can better support the collection of medical and legal evidence. It contains one-page reference cards to enable quick and easy access to basic and key information. The aim is to provide a resource that could be particularly helpful in low-resource settings.
The WHO joined partners, including the Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS), in calling for elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls to guarantee their good health, well-being and human rights.
In a statement, the global health body said one in three women experience physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner or sexual violence by someone other than a partner in their lifetime.
According to the organisation, women who experience partner violence are twice as likely to suffer from depression and 1.5 times more likely to have a sexually transmitted infection, including Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV), compared to those who have never been exposed to such violence. “They are also more likely to have unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions and, when the violence occurs during pregnancy, suffer miscarriages, stillbirths, premature births and low birth weight babies.”
To address the situation, the WHO and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) project on Strengthening Medico-Legal Services for Sexual Violence Cases in Conflict-Affected Settings, supported by United Nations Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict (UN Action), are launching the toolkit to help countries strengthen the medico-legal response to sexual violence.
Also for launch is 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, which will run until 10 December. These days raise public awareness and mobilize people everywhere to prevent and end violence against women and girls, a global health problem affecting the health of millions of women.