Before we go any further, here are two familiar and far from new sayings:
There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.
Figures don't lie, but liars can figure.
Right, so what does the World Health Organization actually say? Well, according to the BBC, its latest pronouncements
on the subject are:
"More than one in three women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence".
And "38% of all women murdered were killed by their partners, and such violence is a major contributor to depression and other health problems."
And "violence by an intimate partner is the most common type of abuse, affecting 30% of women across the globe".
This sounds truly shocking, so perhaps the BBC got it wrong? Here is the original
. This is a summary; the full report can currently be found here
. So no, this is not inaccurate reporting, at least not by the BBC.
These figures are of course estimates based on extrapolations. Are they true? They could be, and probably are true, subject to a very big BUT. No, not that type of butt, that would be deemed sexist
. The but here is IF you use the WHO's definition of violence against women, which according to page 2 of WHO INFORMATION SERIES ON SCHOOL HEALTH (DOCUMENT THREE)
includes: "child abuse, bullying [and] harassment".
What does bullying mean? What does harassment mean? Then there is the qualitative nature of such violence. Has someone ever shoved you in the back, pulled your hair, pushed past you in a queue, shouted at you repeatedly? If so, you too have been a victim of violence. Does it really make sense to classify a one-off slap round the face or or the arm with a methodical beating? Of course not! All the same, this report has already been parroted uncritically all over the Web without any thought for these semantic games, nor for the sizes of the samples or their general reliability.
There are of course serious problems of violence in society worldwide, but this sort of alarmist nonsense is not helpful. There is no epidemic
of violence against women in country after country, although there are several regional conflicts at the moment which are resulting in suffering to all segments of the societies concerned.
So why are claims of this nature being made by an apparently responsible organisation? It should be remembered that the World Health Organization has a large, international bureaucracy, and the greater the perception of the magnitude of its task, the greater will be its budget, even if as here that perception has little or no basis in reality.