Domestic violence and violence against women occur all over the world and in all cultures. It’s now recognised as a global social problem and a violation of human rights.
Domestic violence and men’s violence against women exist everywhere and occur regardless of cultural and religious affiliation, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, social affiliation and age. Violence against women takes place in several places: within the family and the home, or in different parts of society. Violence against women is defined by the UN as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, as well as threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.”
In 2011, the Council of Europe adopted the Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, the Istanbul Convention. This aims to combat all forms of domestic violence. It describes violence against women as an expression of historically unequal power relations between women and men. It establishes that violence against women is gender-based at a structural level.
States that are party to the Convention have a responsibility to maintain relevant legislation and other measures to prevent, investigate, punish and compensate for acts of violence covered by the Convention. In Sweden, the Convention entered into force in 2014.
It’s difficult to obtain a consistent picture of the number of victims of violence and the nature of the violence. Few people report domestic violence to the police, so crime statistics don’t reflect just how widespread it really is. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 35 per cent of women worldwide have been subjected to physical or sexual violence by a partner and/or sexual violence by someone other than a partner.
The population survey entitled “Violence and health – A population survey on women’s and men’s exposure to violence and the link to health” conducted by the National Centre for Knowledge on Men’s Violence against Women was published in 2014. It shows that 14 per cent of women and 5 per cent of men in Sweden have been subjected to physical violence or the threat of physical violence in an ongoing or terminated relationship at some point after the age of 18. 20 per cent of the women and 8 per cent of the men reported repeated and systematic psychological violence by a current or former partner. The study also shows that around 7 per cent of women and 1 per cent of men have been sexually assaulted by a current or former partner at some point after the age of 18.
Domestic violence is characterised by a close relationship and often strong emotional ties between the victim and the perpetrator. This makes it more difficult for the victim to resist and leave the relationship. This violence usually takes place indoors in the victim’s own home. The longer the relationship lasts, the greater the violence; and it becomes more severe.
The most common form of domestic violence is when a man commits violence against a woman he is or has been in a relationship with.
Power and control are a key motivator for perpetrators of violence. The victim’s behaviour and scope for action are controlled through physical, psychological, sexual and economic violence.
The Criminal Code contains provisions on offences and penalties. Domestic violence, sexual violence and honour-related violence are all criminal offences regulated by Chapters 2, 4 and 6 of the Criminal Code.
Legislation has undergone several major changes in recent years to strengthen the protection offered to women who are victims of violence, victims of sexual abuse, human trafficking and honour-based violence, and children who witness violence.
Men’s violence against women is one of the most common causes of ill-health among women, according to WHO and the UN.
NCK’s population survey entitled “Violence and health – A National Prevalence Study on Exposure to Violence among Women and Men and its Association to Health” shows a clear link between exposure to violence and physical and mental ill-health later in life.
In the study, victims of serious violence were significantly more likely than others to report symptoms of depression, high-risk alcohol use and self-harm at some point in their lives.
Physical symptoms such as headaches, shoulder or neck pain, dizziness or stomach problems were also more common among victims of serious violence compared to non-victims.