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World: Violence Against Women Emerging As Major Social Issue

Women praying at a mosque in Baku (file photo) (AFP) Domestic violence claims the life of one woman every four days in France. The situation is worse in many Asian and African countries. In 1999, the UN declared 25 November the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and invited governments, international organizations, and NGOs to organize activities to raise public awareness of the problem on that day.

Prague, 24 November 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Women around the world are facing daily beatings and humiliation at home.

Saria Roberts, a spokesperson for Amnesty International, told RFE/RL her organization has done research on the problem and found violence against women is spread all over the world.

"The research we have done so far shows that violence against women is pretty widely spread across all countries in all parts of the world, and it is a very commonplace abuse of human rights in all societies," Roberts said.

AFP news agency reports that according to a recent French study, a total of 164 women and 47 men were killed in domestic-violence incidents in 2003 and 2004. All but one of the women were killed by a man, and all but one of the men by a woman. The information comes from questionnaires sent to police around France.

Most Common Form Of Violence

The first-ever World Health Organization (WHO) study on domestic violence, released on 23 November reveals that intimate-partner violence is the most common form of violence in women's lives -- much more so than assault or rape by strangers or acquaintances.

The WHO study is based on interviews with more than 24,000 women from rural and urban areas in 10 countries: Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia, Japan, Namibia, Peru, Samoa, Serbia and Montenegro, Thailand, and the United Republic of Tanzania.

Lee Jong-wook, director-general of the Geneva-based WHO, said the study shows that domestic violence is a major public issue.

Violence In China

China was not included in this study, but domestic violence is widespread in that country. Chinese rights activists try to offer some advice and comfort for victims. The women who manage to get in touch pour out their pain to psychologists at Maple Women's Center in Beijing.

A woman seeking psychological help at the center, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters about what she has suffered.

"When I was divorcing my husband, I was beaten black and blue all over," the woman said. "It's not just flesh wounds. I'm talking about broken bones and wounds thatwere authenticated by a legal medical expert. I might look like a normal healthy person now, but I have a lot of health issues."

Young, cosmopolitan women are increasingly falling victim to domestic violence as they bear the brunt of unprecedented social upheaval spurred by an economic growth rate of more than nine percent a year.

Wang Xingjuan is the founder of the Maple Women's Center. She told Reuters she is really moved by the plight of Chinese women trying to adjust to changing world.

"[These women] face fierce competition in finding a job," Wang said. "Some women are completely lost. They don't know how to deal with the situation. So our job is to give them instructions. We teach them about the development of society and explain that history is not reversible, so they never should look back to the time that everyone was able to find a job without difficulty. They need to continue to learn new things, and change their way of thinking in order to catch up to this new era."

Experts agree that domestic violence has become more common as China moves toward a market economy, throwing millions of people out of their jobs. However the real situation is still difficult to gauge as in traditional Chinese society, family strife is considered best kept from public. Probably only the most desperate or the bravest contact the Maple Center.