[Trigger warning for violence.]

This piece from alternet.org really doesn't require much additional comment. A report  (link to PDF) from a group called UN Women has revealed some frightening views on violence towards women,  and includes data on, for example, the massive gender pay gap (particularly between white men and women of colour) and sexual violence against women of colour.

On violence against women:

One of the most shocking statistics in the report? The public perception of gender violence as sometimes acceptable, within the context of marriage. This is from the report’s language: “In the USA, 16 percent of women and men agree that it is sometimes justifiable for a man to beat his wife.”

Sure, 16 percent is a fairly standard number for representing the lunatic fringe of American culture, but the fact that these respondents willingly admit they think it’s okay certainly sheds a disturbing light on why violence against women remains widespread: “Prevalence surveys in the USA show that 22 percent of women have experienced physical violence, and 8 percent have been targeted for sexual violence in their lifetimes.”

On the justice system and the justice system and rape cases:

One of the hindrances to women seeking a fair application of the legal system is a lack of women’s representation in that system's hierarchy. While three female Supreme Court justices are certainly a step in the right direction, even that huge stride gives women disproportionately small representation. Women are under-represented as prosecutors, judges and police officers throughout North America. Statistics cited by UN Women indicate that “data from 40 countries where women are present in the police, reporting of sexual assault increases.”


“Evidence shows that jurors in the USA are especially likely to question the credibility of African American and Latina female witnesses in rape cases.”

On sexual violence towards Native American women:

One other element to these statistics that may be lesser-known is the issue of rape against Native American women, which is astoundingly high. Native American women are more than twice as likely as other women to be raped. One of the things compounding the problem was a confusion over judicial jurisdiction: “Crimes committed by non-Native Americans on reservations often went unpunished, due to uncertainty over which jurisdiction applied. This is thought to have contributed to the high levels of rape of Native American women, Progress shows.“ In other words, a culture of impunity existed.

On the gender pay gap:

We passed Lily Ledbetter, right? So why is this still an issue? Well, the gender pay gap remains at 23 percent in the USA, according to the new fact sheet from UN Women. If that number isn’t dismaying enough, for African American and Latina women, that gap swells to huge proportions: “On average 39 and 48 percent less than white men, respectively.”

It's well worth reading the full report if you have time (it’s not long), not least because it includes a variety of other striking statistics (e.g., 127 countries do not explicitly criminalize rape within marriage, 61 countries severely restrict women’s rights to abortion), and it should be commended for including some very positive content on recent improvements in women’s rights worldwide.

I’m still reeling from the 16% statistic, mind you.


  • hoverfrog

    August 10, 2011 at 11:57 am

    I’m surprised that it’s only 16%. Go back a generation and I’m sure it would be much higher.

    • feimineach

      August 11, 2011 at 12:06 pm

      I think 16% is quite terrifying enough but I know what you mean.