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1 in 3 Murdered Women Are Killed By an Intimate Partner, WHO

Update Date: Jun 20, 2013 03:06 PM EDT

More than a third of all women murdered worldwide are killed by an intimate partner, according to a new study.

The latest findings, which are included in a report released today by the World Health Organization, revealed that at least one in seven homicides worldwide are committed by an intimate partner, with partners responsible for 38.6 percent of all female murders compared with just 6.3 percent of male homicides.

Lead researcher Dr. Heidi Stöckl from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in the UK and colleagues contacted national statistics offices from 169 countries and looked at data from studies published in the past 20 years containing data on the global prevalence of intimate partner homicide.

Stöckl and her team found that countries with the highest rates of murder of women by intimate partners are those in Southeast Asia (58.8%), high-income countries (41.2%), the Americas (40.5%) and the Africa region (40.1%). Countries in the low and middle-income western Pacific region (19.1%), the low-income and middle-income European region (20%), and the eastern Mediterranean region (14.4%) reported the lowest rates.

By contrast, countries with the highest rates of murder of men by intimate partners were high-income countries (6.3%), the Africa region (4.1%), and the low-income and middle-income European region (3.6%).  Researchers noted that prevalence was less than 2 percent in all other regions.

Researchers note that the latest estimates are conservative because the true magnitude of homicides by intimate partners is hampered by a lack of data and the large amount of missing information about the perpetrator-victim status.  Researchers said that at least 20 percent of all homicides in the study did not report the victim-offender relationship and were recorded as non-partner murders.

"Our results underscore that women are disproportionately vulnerable to violence and murder by an intimate partner, and their needs have been neglected for far too long. Such homicides are often the ultimate outcome of a failed societal, health, and criminal justice response to intimate partner violence," Stöckl said in a news release.

"More needs to be done, particularly to increase investment in intimate partner violence prevention, to support women experiencing intimate partner violence (most women killed by a partner have been in long-term abusive relationships), and to control gun ownership for people with a history of violence," she added.

Experts said the latest findings have important implications for efforts to prevent intimate partner homicides.

"Prevention of homicide of women and men by intimate partners is important. Research into the complex issues related to intimate relationships can only be undertaken if improved data are collected in a systematic fashion," Dr. Rosana Norman of the Queensland Children's Medical Research Institute at the University of Queensland, Australia, who was not involved with the study, wrote in an editorial commentary.

The latest findings are published in the The Lancet.

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