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Around 7 Percent Women Worldwide Sexually Assaulted Other Than A Partner

Update Date: Feb 13, 2014 09:28 AM EST

One in every 14 women worldwide is sexually assaulted by someone apart from their partner, a new report suggests. 

The estimation suggested that the global picture varied widely. Highest rates of sexual violence were found in central sub-Saharan Africa with 21% alone in Democratic Republic of Congo. In parts of south Asian countries, the lowest rates were observed. 

Researchers from South African Medical Research Council in Cape Town and from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine compiled 77 studies that contained 412 cases of violence from 56 countries. 

"We found that sexual violence is a common experience for women worldwide, and in some regions is endemic, reaching more than 15% in four regions. However, regional variations need to be interpreted with caution because of differences in data availability and levels of disclosure", explained Professor Naeemah Abrahams from the South African Medical Research Council in the press release. 

The research highlighted that eight regions had data only from one country and few countries had no data at all pointing to under-reporting of such cases. 

"Our findings highlight the need for countries to have their own population-based data on the levels of sexual violence by different perpetrators to improve understanding of the magnitude of the problem and the main risk factors, and to develop appropriate policies and responses, including primary prevention interventions and comprehensive services to treat victims of sexual assaults" added Abrahams. 

Other experts are terming the findings as "a landmark in its scale and rigor". 

"The major contribution of this study is its comprehensive inclusion of data to derive best estimates for the worldwide prevalence of non-partner sexual violence against women. An estimated prevalence of 5•2•1% is unacceptably high on public health and human rights grounds and, hopefully, will spur timely and systematic discussions about the use of standard definitions and improved research tools and data collection methods to improve disclosure of a highly stigmatised violation," wrote Kathryn Yount from Emory University, Atlanta, USA in a linked comment.  

"The data confirm that non-partner sexual violence is neither rare nor geographically isolated and, thus, that existing laws and systems of accountability remain inadequate. Effective responses will require widespread legal and institutional change."

The article has been published in The Lancet.

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